The city of Berkeley, California, is known as a base for youth-based social movements and progressive ideas. With a population of over 100,000 people, this city by the bay sits directly across from its “big sister”, San Francisco.
In the 1960’s, Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue was a major Bay Area hub for the hippie movement, serving as a spillover base from San Francisco. Political and social change through protest has largely been headed by students at UC Berkeley, a university known for radical activism and forward-thinking.
The first curbside recycling program in the United States was born in Berkeley in 1973, and styrofoam was banned in 1988. In 2017, Berkeley became the second city in the United States to ban new fur products! With the community’s affinity for sustainability, it’s no wonder that vegan food has taken off here. While Berkeley’s small size makes it impossible to compete with the vegan market in neighboring cities Oakland and San Francisco, it’s certainly a strong contender.
Here’s our take on the best vegan food in Berkeley!
Tane Vegan Izakaya
Tane Vegan Izakaya has got to be one of the best vegan sushi restaurants on the planet. While skeptics might expect to find underwhelming items such as avocado and cucumber rolls, this is far from the case. Mushrooms, vegetables, fruit and flowers are creatively manipulated here to replicate your fish-based favorites; and blow you out of the water with completely original recipes. Tane also serves ramen and delectable shared plates. We highly recommend ordering the Pacifica and Manila Dune rolls for their complex flavor profile and unique textures!
The Butcher’s Son
Cuisine: Deli, sandwiches, mock meats, desserts
The Butcher’s Son is an order-at-the-counter vegan deli shop located right smack in the middle of downtown Berkeley. Stepping into this restaurant can be downright overwhelming. Melt-in-your-mouth vegan cheesecakes with flavors like blueberry lemon zest and apple spice, fresh-baked breads, and homemade sauces fill the air with an irresistible aroma. It might take you some time to pick from all of the incredible sandwich options The Butcher’s Son has to offer. So take your time, order for dine-in, and make your way out to the lovely back patio surrounded by rose bushes. We strongly recommend the Mozzarella cheese sticks as an appetizer, and the hot chicken pesto sandwich for your entree. These sandwiches go a long way and can easily be split by two people!
Cuisine: Mexican, casual, takeout
Flaco’s is truly a champion of accessible vegan eating. Their most expensive menu item is just $10! Located in an unassuming little building off of Adeline Street, Flaco’s makes some of the best vegan food in town. Mexican classics like pozole, huarache, taquitos, tacos and tamales are made with veggies and savory vegan meats. You’ll get a bang for your buck here, so be prepared to order large! We strongly recommend ordering a glass of horchata to wash down your flavorful and delicious meal.
Cuisine: American, fast-food casual
If you grew up like many Americans- on fast food, greasy burgers, french fries and milkshakes- Stand-up Burger is your place! With a name inspired by standing up for what you believe in, Stand-up Burger makes its social stances clear. Dish names like “Save the animals fries” and shake cups that read “Eat like you give a shake” gives the place an activist hub type-feel. We strongly recommend the Buffalo Chick’n sandwich, Save the Animals fries, and a fresh strawberry milkshake to wash it all down. Stand-up Burger also donates a portion of proceeds to animal-related community charities. We love it!
Cuisine: Pastries, bakery, coffee
Walking into Timeless Coffee for the first time? Be prepared to take an embarrassingly long time staring at the wall of pastries that lies between you and the cash register. With an impressive range of both savories and sweets, you’re left with an impossible decision. And the icing on the cake is the cake itself! That’s right, Timeless also makes beautiful whole cakes and cheesecakes. Our ideal morning order? An iced vanilla latte with oatmilk, accompanied by a warm sausage-potato empanada if you’re feeling savory, or a blueberry cream cheese Danish if you’re feeling sweet. The Pesto cheese roll can really knock your socks off, too. Timeless barely advertises the fact that the company is plant-based, which brings in the vegan skeptics in droves. But rest assured, it truly is a completely vegan wonderland. Enjoy!
Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery
Cuisine: Ice cream
Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery emanates everything you love about order-at-the-counter ice cream shops. From the classic flavors to the highly creative, it’s got just about everything. Plus, toppings and sauces galore! A trip to Mr. Dewie’s will have you nostalgically remembering trips to Baskin Robbins and Rite Aid. There’s nothing quite like a trip for ice cream on a hot day (or a cold one)! Our recommendation? A double scoop of Banana Nut and Caramel Almond Crunch, with hot fudge poured over the top. You’re welcome!
Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Berkeley
While these restaurants are not entirely vegan, we want to give them credit for making a great effort to create vegan-inclusive menus. Here are a few of our favorite restaurants with vegan options in Berkeley!
Gordito Amigos is not a vegan restaurant, but decided to create an entire vegan menu just for their plant-based customers! This casual Mexican eatery has a heavily customizable model. You can choose from a variety of vegan meats, cheeses, beans and rices to build your own tacos, burritos, nachos and more. They even make vegan carne asada and vegan pina colada chicken! Our advice? Get the vegan nachos with plant-based carne asada and a quesadilla with vegan cheese and sour cream. You’ll be glad you did!
Long Life Vegi House
Situated on a quiet stretch of University Avenue, Long Life Vegi is the perfect spot for chinese takeout on a lazy night. Long Life is a pescetarian restaurant, serving fish and a few dishes with egg. Aside from this, everything else is completely vegan. A range of vegan meats include vegan duck, chicken, pork, beef and tofu! We highly recommend the crispy veggie chicken in orange sauce with vegetarian chow mein. Throw in a side of dumplings and you’re set for a great night!
Imm Thai Street Food
Berkeley is a hub for Thai food. In fact, we’ve counted at least seventeen Thai restaurants on Google maps across this relatively small city! After eating our way through at least half, our opinion is that Imm Thai is simply one of the best. Thai food is generally easily veganizable, with tofu or veggies being a widely accepted protein choice for most dishes. Our favorite? The fresh rolls come with some of the most mouthwatering peanut sauce we’ve ever tried, and the green curry with fried tofu and veggies has an unbelievably complex flavor profile. Your mouth will start watering the moment you walk into the restaurant!
Red Tomato Pizza House
Cuisine: Pizza, Italian
Red Tomato Pizza house is a casual dining spot. As a non-vegan restaurant, they’ve made the wise business decision to incorporate a dedicated vegan menu. Red Tomato has its very own specialty vegan pizzas and they are simply delicious! Our top picks are the Thai Curry Eggplant Pizza and the Pesto Pine Nut Pizza.
Chelsea Pinkham is a long-time animal advocate, rescuer, and humane education writer. Chelsea studied Communications & Journalism with a minor in Environmental Science at Sonoma State University. She has been vegan for thirteen years, since she discovered the treatment of animals on farms in middle school. Outside of Vegan Unlocked, she works for a nonprofit farmed animal sanctuary, authors humane education children’s books, and has personally rescued, fostered and transported over 1,000 animals. She enjoys camping, hiking, learning about animal behavior, and traveling the world on a low budget!