San Francisco has always been ahead of the curve when it's come to dining options, and vegetarian and vegan eateries are no exception. Innovative, plant-centric restaurants have been part of the city's fabric for decades, and now you can find them in every neighborhood from Mid-Market to the beachside Outer Sunset. Want to know where to go to get your plant-based fix? Here are some of our favorite vegan and vegetarian restaurants SF-wide.
With 38 U.S. locations and two of these in San Francisco — one in Union Square's Westfield San Francisco Centre and the other in the residential Sunset — Loving Hut is making great strides in introducing veganism to the masses. Menus at each of its franchise restaurants vary according to local tastes, even within the same city. For instance, the Sunset neighborhood Loving Hut features an extensive range of soups, noodle dishes, and entrees like Tomato Seaweed Filet, a crispy seaweed bean curd fillet braised with tomatoes and onions; while its Union Square locale caters more to the tourist crowd, with grab-and-go options that include a vegan meatball sandwich and the Grilled Philly Sandwich, made with marinated soy protein and BBQ sauce.
Both a Japanese izakaya and vegan sushi bar, the Mid-Market neighborhood Shizen utilizes classic Buddhist-style and sushi techniques — as well as a bevy of locally-sourced seasonal ingredients like tapioca and mountain yam — to offer an entirely plant-free menu of Californian and Japanese flavors. Don't expect any faux chicken or fish here. Shizen eschews meat imitations for dishes that garner a following all their own: items like ramen noodles mixed with tempura and grilled mushrooms, nori, and green onions, and sushi that runs the gamut from green mango to sweet corn. The same team that created SF's sustainable Sushi and Sake Bar opened Shizen as a thoughtful path toward ocean conservation.
You don't have to be a meat-eater to enjoy a good burger now and then. That's where VeganBurg comes in. This franchisable counter-service business in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. (with locations in both the U.S. and Singapore) serves up 100% plant-based burgers in a clean, bright, garden-inspired setting. Options include vegan patties topped with creamy mushrooms, smoky BBQ, and tangy tartar, as well as side items like sizzlin' broccoli and seaweed fries. It's especially popular with the neighborhood's local.
Greens is one of San Francisco's vegetarian frontrunners — a legendary restaurant that's been dishing out mouthwatering vegetarian cuisine for 40 years in 2019, most of it with acclaimed chef Annie Somerville at the helm. The Fort Mason eatery has recently taken on a new chef, Denise St. Onge, to launch it into its fifth decade, though still works directly with local organic farmers — including those at Marin's Green Gulch Farm, a part of the San Francisco Zen Center from which Greens first stemmed. Along with its floor-to-ceiling windows and stunning mixed-wood décor, Greens is known for its New and Old World wine options and of course, its delicious culinary offerings, which change frequently but feature items like chestnut fettuccine with chanterelle mushrooms, and veggie-filled sweet potato gratin filled served with Carolina Gold rice grits.
Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy gave Ananda Fuara, which means “fountain of delight” in Indian, its name, and the long-running Civic Center eatery has been living up to its moniker since, serving up a menu of vegetarian and vegan cuisine to a bevy of loyal diners and flocks of curious strays who convert easily to the restaurant's plant-based food offerings. These include Ananda Fuara's Neatloaf Dinner, a juicy, baked loaf concocted from grains, eggs, tofu, spices, and ricotta cheese, served with a side of mashed potatoes and a topping of tangy tomato sauce. It's almost-famous.
For plant-based Mexican eats, nothing beats this popular Mission neighborhood eatery. The atmosphere is spacious and bustling, with long communal tables and a front patio for outdoor seating. Gracias Madre's 100% vegan menu — seasonally changing offerings inspired by what's available at the restaurant's 21-acre Pleasant Valley Be Love Farm — includes items like fried plantains topped with mole and pozole, traditional hominy stew in a spicy red ancho broth. The restaurant has a second location in LA.
Located within the Mission District, Udupi Palace specializes in vegetarian southern Indian cuisine — most notably dosas and uttapams, rice and bean pancakes made with a range of tasty ingredients (like pineapple) cooked right inside, then served with coconut chutney and sambar. There saag paneer is also popular. The restaurant's setting is fairy low-key, both the food both spicy and flavorful.
Contemporary Japanese vegan food at its finest, the Mission neighborhood's Cha-Ya restaurant bases its cuisine around the principals of "Shojin Ryori," the traditional dining style of Buddhist monks. Their menu features everything from vegan sushi rolls and noodle soups, and small plates of robata yaki (broiled vegetable skewers) and ten bo (tempura vegetable sticks). Cha-Ya also serves up beer, wine, and variety of sakes, including a house tasting flight. It's a cash-only spot that sports simple décor and is both bright and welcoming.
Located along buzzing Union Street in the city's Marina District, Vegan Picnic is SF's go-to spot for plant-based deli classics. The combined cafe and market offers a range of vegan packaged snacks and hot and cold dishes that harken back to childhood: items like grilled American cheese sandwiches, PB&J sandwiches on challah bread, and egg sandwiches made with tofu. There's even a breakfast menu. Order at the counter and then grab one of the stools to dine, or take your purchase to enjoy outdoors at nearby Fort Mason or the Marina Green.
Since 2015, Nourish Cafe has been feeding San Francisco's insatiable appetite for plant-based cuisine — now with two SF locations. The cafe promotes a healthy, whole foods diet that includes ingredients like whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fruits. Along with a menu of delicious wraps and bowls, Nourish Cafe also serves a selection of smoothies, juices, and sweet and savory toasts, including an almond butter and banana toast on locally baked Tartine Country bread, and avocado toast on Josie Baker Seedfeast. Both its Richmond and Lower Nob Hill neighborhood are open for breakfast and brunch/lunch daily.
Since 2004 Judahlicious Juice has been satisfying hungry patrons in the far reaches of SF's Outer Sunset neighborhood with a menu of artfully prepared raw and vegan foods — all made from scratch. The drinks here — like cups of locally sourced, organic coffee, and fresh juices and smoothies — are also quite popular, perfect for pairing with bowls of the slow-cooked Vegan House Chili (served “Bodi Style,” with a topping of cashew crème and cilantro/cashew pesto, upon request) or the Dark Side of the Shroom, a marinated portobello mushroom stuffed with zucchini, kale, cauliflower, and onion.