San Diego Vegan Restaurant Guide
When I wrote my Vancouver Guide, I touched on how it was harder than I anticipated to find good vegan food in San Diego. People think SoCal and they imagine an endless bounty of avocado toast and goddess bowls and those are great, but I can make them at home. When I go out to eat in the city where I live, I want to try something exciting, that I can't (or don't have the time to) recreate in my kitchen.
It took me a couple of years, but I have a whole cluster of restaurants in the San Diego area that have exciting vegan menus.
I've already dedicated an entire post to Kindred, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that this is the first restaurant on my list. Fried pickles, an endless menu of delicious cocktails, substantial sandwiches and a tiki night every Thursday are just reasons why I love this restaurant. They don't take reservations, but waiting at the bar is part of the fun. If booze isn't your thing, they have a great selection of X beverages just for you.
If you're looking for a special occasion restaurant that can accommodate vegans and omnivores, the following three all have vegan options, and they take reservations.
Il Dandy is a new, Calabrasian (Italian) restaurant located in Bankers Hill. They originally had a separate vegan menu, but have since incorporated the vegan options into their main menu. It's a cute spot that specializes in pasta and pizza, so if you're vegan and gluten-free, this might not be the restaurant for you. If you're not, it's worth a try because their dough is phenomenal.
Born and Raised is a steakhouse that I was dragged to for a birthday last year. I ate before assuming there would be nothing on the menu for me, and I was wrong. They have a vegan tartare, a vegan "steak" and a few vegetable dishes that they can do without butter. The staff was great about accommodating me, so I have been a willing participant in several more meals.
Catania is in La Jolla, about 25 minutes outside of downtown San Diego. They can make pizza, pasta and usually have one or two appetizers (if the cauliflower is on there, do yourself a favour and order it) that are vegan. It's a quieter scene than the other two, but if you're looking for a relaxed dinner with ocean views to watch the sunset and have a negroni, this is the place for you.
There is plenty of good Italian in San Diego, and one of my favourites is Civico1845. They have an incredible vegan menu (including vegan tiramisu), a reasonable corkage fee and it's downtown, so you get more options if you want to explore after. The only issue is that they don't take reservations and there is usually at least a 20-minute wait, so this isn't the place to show up with a large group. They also have plenty of gluten-free options for those of you interested.
Now Sushi is one of my current obsessions. It's a small, plant-based sushi restaurant whose proceeds benefit charities that help end animal cruelty. I have never been here with a non-vegan, so I have no idea how it will go over with one, but I love their rolls. My favourites are the Zane, Sunny fire and Barbosa. It's satisfying to be able to eat a roll that has more than avocado and sweet potato in it, and I love that they're so dedicated to animal welfare. Parking is limited, and their patio is teeny, but you can always get your food to take out and eat it on the beach!
Another new addition to San Diego is the brand new Modern Vegan, which originated in Las Vegas. If you're looking for some hair of the dog with your breakfast, look no further. Chicken and waffles, corndogs, gyros, steak and veggs and about 30 other deep-fried things on their extensive menu are sure to be the cure for what ails you. TMV doesn't have a patio or liquor license (yet), but if you've got a hankering for some greasy spoon, this is your spot.
Donna Jean is an institution best known for their vegan pizza, which I admit is fantastic, but my favourite thing to eat there is brunch. They have a huge (dog-friendly) patio, and inventive brunch dishes that make tofu scrambles seem prehistoric. They take reservations, but usually, brunch is pretty calm — bonus points for their plant-based doggie menu.
If you're in Pacific Beach, Second Nature is a casual pub that has a ton of vegan options (including a beyond meat burger). It's a cheerful spot that's popular with locals, so it can get busy. Be prepared to wait a few minutes for a table if you're showing up at peak hours.
If you're looking for a vegan bakery, Hazel & Jade in Hillcrest is my favourite. I recently hired them for a custom cake which turned out to be as beautiful on the outside as it was delicious. I was worried the guests would complain about it being vegan, but it was so good that no one cared. You're in for a treat if you can get your hands on anything by Unison Baking. They make everything at home (I think) and sell small batches out of Modern Times. Finally, for gelato with a view, check out Bobboi in La Jolla. You won't be disappointed.
There are, of course, plenty of restaurants that I didn't include in this post: Cafe Gratitude, Sipz and Trilogy, to name a few. I felt like those were an easy Google search away, and I wanted to avoid too much repetition. Instead, I tried to make a list that highlighted vegan restaurants alongside places you could bring your omnivore friends and family. This way, you can avoid hearing a speech on how they "shouldn't call it chicken if it's not chicken" for 2.5 hours.