Despite being just 7×7 miles, San Francisco is a city of variety, diversity, and endless culture. Arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, San Francisco is known for beautiful Victorian architecture, endless greenspace in the form of public parks and nature preserves, a scenic coastline, and of course, the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge. The city’s numerous districts mean that there is something for just about everyone here, and the sense of community that exists in so many neighborhoods can make this bustling city feel more like a small town. A walk through one district can feel worlds apart from another, despite the true distance being just a few city blocks. San Francisco’s history has always been deeply intertwined with social movements and change. The Haight-Ashbury was the focal point for the 60’s and 70’s hippie movement, a call for peace and rejection of war and traditional values in the United States. The Castro was one of the first established gay neighborhoods in the U.S and remains a central point of queer activism, culture and community in the city. The Mission District is home to countless Latinx immigrants and was a base for the labor movement in the early 1900’s.
Given the city’s relationship to counter culture, progressivism and environmentalism, it’s no surprise that plant-based eating has taken off here. The ethnic diversity in San Francisco provides a unique opportunity for countless cuisines to come together in one place. From traditional American, to sushi and ramen, to Latin fusion, San Francisco has it all when it comes to vegan food. “Californian” cuisine makes up a large portion of these restaurants, and you’ll simply have to go and see for yourself what this genre of food means! San Francisco has its fair share of issues as a city, but the best thing we can do to uplift this one-of-a-kind place is supporting its small businesses and the families who run them. Enjoy our top picks for vegan food in San Francisco!
The Mission district’s Shizen boasts an incredible variety of vegan sushi and ramen. The chefs at Shizen believe that plant-based foods should stand on their own without the need to mimic animal protein. Tapioca, mountain yam, konjac, bean curd and more are used to carefully craft the artisan rolls that make up Shizen’s sushi menu. It’s difficult to pick a favorite, but we tried our best. The Secret Weapon roll is composed of marinated eryngii mushroom, avocado, spicy shredded tofu, pickled jalapeño, pickled pineapple, sweet shoyu, and habanero sauce. Enjoy with a warm bowl of Spicy Garlic Miso ramen, topped with all the goodies you can dream up (mushrooms, veggies, bamboo shoots, tempura).
Cuisine: Mexican fusion
Dhanistha Rivera and partner Luis Alfredo Flores are the masterminds behind Om Sabor. “A touch of our Mexican family roots inspired with other universal cuisines” is the driving force behind this Latin-fusion menu. With only three entrees, the appetizers are the claim to fame for this Hayes Valley eatery. We recommend dining with friends so you can try just about everything! Our favorites? Om Sabor has a unique take on clam chowder. Oyster and King Trumpet mushrooms replace the clam, and are complemented by Crimini Bacon, Celery, Potato, Carrot, Garlic Confit, Cashew Cream Bechamel, Parsley and Lemon, served with Crostini. Enjoy with Hibiscus flower tacos and mushroom escabeche tostadas.
Cuisine: American, fast food style
Located in the Haight-Ashbury, Veganburg is a perfect spot to fuel up for an all-day thrift store run. This fast-food style chain operates two restaurants, one in Singapore, and one in San Francisco. Emphasis here is on big, hearty portions, and unique flavor combinations on each signature burger. Veganburg makes all of their own burger patties. Our advice? Order the Creamy Mushrooms burger, served with flavorful button mushrooms and dripping with creamy, dairy-free sauce. Cool down with a soft serve ice cream if you have room for dessert!
Vegan breakfast menus can be hard to come by. That’s what makes Beach’n so special- this cute little restaurant specializes in all-day breakfast! Located in the Outer Sunset district, Beach’n is a bit out of the way for those in central San Francisco. But this eatery is well worth traveling for! From chorizo burritos to tofu scrambles, you can fulfill all your breakfast cravings here. Our favorite? You can never go wrong with French toast! Beach’n has veganized this classic American breakfast, complete with powdered sugar, maple syrup, fresh fruit, and a generous helping of vegan butter. Order with a Dirty Chai or a Salted Caramel Latte for a warm wakeup on a foggy San Francisco morning. The name isn’t misleading, either. Beach’n is just a single block’s walk from Ocean Beach. We recommend enjoying your hearty breakfast and ordering a piping hot coffee to go to help you brave the ocean breeze on your seaside walk.
Cuisine: Variety, Californian
It’s hard to place Wildseed into a particular genre, as this exquisite upscale restaurant really has it all. It’s rare you find curries, pastas, “chicken” sandwiches, and pizzas on the same menu; and all incredibly well executed! With brunch on the weekends, a wide assortment of creative cocktails, and desserts to die for, this restaurant is not to be missed. While Wildseed is a bit on the pricier side, it’s modest in comparison to many of San Francisco’s expensive restaurants. The average dinner entree will run you around $20. Wildseed also benefits local animal and human-related charities, so it’s a meal you can feel good about. Our personal pick? It’s hard to decide, but we’d have to go with the Neatball Masala, made with warm super grains, lentil and walnut neatballs, coconut masala, kale, pickled carrots, cilantro, and vegan tzatziki. The contrast between savory and tangy will absolutely blow you away. Enjoy!
Cuisine: Vietnamese, Asian
Looking for unpretentious, genuinely delicious vegan food in the city? Look no further! Golden Era, an inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant located in the Tenderloin, offers vegan eats that have stood the test of time. Golden Era has been around since 1999, far before plant-based eating began to trend in the United States. While their specialty lies in Vietnamese cuisine, Golden Era also offers meals derived from Thai, Chinese and Indian cooking. Their menu is expansive, so it’s easy to find a dish that suits everyone’s preferences. Our favorite is the Spicy Noodle Soup. This Central Vietnamese soup comes with tofu, soy protein, lemongrass, chili, bean sprouts, onion, cilantro, & fresh basil. It will warm your entire body- and comes with a kick! An honorary mention goes to the Vermicelli Noodles, complete with lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, cilantro, soy protein, seasoned tofu, fried eggless rolls, & peanuts. There’s something about that crispy “crunch” of egg rolls paired with soft vermicelli noodles! Enjoy this gem of a restaurant.
Cuisine: Californian, whole foods, healthy eating
Located in a humble little cafe in Nob Hill, Nourish is the perfect place to find food that simply makes your body feel good. A menu filled with grains, veggies, fruit, mushrooms, tofu, and delicious homemade sauces, this spot is reminiscent of what most vegan restaurants looked like before big box mock meats took off. Nourish focuses on whole, healthy foods- and does an incredible job of making them taste fantastic. In addition to an expansive food menu, Nourish also serves coffee and pastries. There is no shortage of goodness here! Our favorite? The Savory Brekkie Bowl lives up to the restaurant’s name, leaving your body feeling warm, full and nourished. Flavorful veggies, roasted mushrooms, and jasmine brown rice are brought together with a delicious, creamy red pepper almond dressing. You can opt to order this dish with JUST egg frittata or marinated tofu. In our opinion, the crispy, savory marinated tofu is the icing on the cake. Enjoy!
Located on bustling Valencia Street, Indochine vegan offers healthy eating and hearty portions at a humble price. Many traditional Korean dishes here have been reimagined as vegan versions. The menu is sprawlingly expansive, with salads, smoothies, soups, noodle dishes, traditional Korean entrees, and more. If you’re indecisive, you might be here a while! The cabbage, shiitake mushroom and ginger potstickers are a fantastic start to any meal. Follow with Eggplant Tofu or a delicious yellow curry. Enjoy!
Cuisine: Baked goods, pastries, custom cakes
Sustainable, women-owned Wholesome Bakery is not only a treat for customers, but to the community and the environment. Founder and owner Mandy Harper, who is a descendent of the Cheyenne/Arapaho Nations, says that she always felt a “deep rooted connection to the evolution of food, food sovereignty and how ingredients affect not only our body, but the planet.” She founded Wholesome Bakery with the intention of serving up sustainably sourced baked goods free of animal products, refined sugars, and common allergens. Pastries and cupcakes are easy everyday treats, but Wholesome Bakery also creates custom cakes for weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, and other special events. Our favorite item is the brioche cinnamon roll. Enjoy!
Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in San Francisco
These restaurants aren’t vegan, but they deserve an honorary mention for going out of their way to cater to vegan customers. We include vegan-friendly restaurants where we can in hopes these businesses will learn just how valuable having vegan menu items is. Here are our top picks for vegan-friendly restaurants in San Francisco!
It may be a bold statement, but in our opinion, Yamo just might take the crown for the best food in San Francisco. This hole-in-the-wall spot consists of an order window, a few stools, and an open kitchen in which a mother and daughter pair crank out some of the cheapest food in the city. Located in the heart of the Mission district, Yamo operates on a cash-only basis and has no website. There’s no need for one: everyone already knows that Yamo’s taste and prices have no competition. Even in the heart of an inflation crisis, Yamo has still somehow managed to keep entrees priced at just $6-8. Appetizers are just $4.25. Accessible food in the city isn’t easy to come by! Portion sizes are heaping and the flavor is unbeatable. Yamo is not a vegetarian restaurant, but everything on the menu is veganizeable and the veggie options are excellent. Our menu pick? The Yamo house noodles with tofu is a garlicky, salty, crispy delight. If you’re sharing with friends, start with an appetizer of vegetarian fresh rolls complete with basil, vermicelli noodles, lettuce and crispy tofu. Enjoy!
Thai Idea Vegetarian
Located on Polk Street, Thai Idea is just about entirely vegan- but not quite there. This fully vegetarian restaurant is a meatless establishment, but does serve egg in a few dishes. Just like any other Thai restaurant, you can easily order without it! Thai Idea serves up all your mouthwatering typical Thai dishes, fried rices, noodle plates, soups, and of course, curries. We’re always biased towards a good green curry, so we highly recommend this classic dish. You’re not limited to tofu or veggie as your protein here, either. Feel free to try the veggie lamb, beef, chicken, or even shrimp. Don’t worry, it’s all meat-free!
Need some fuel for a crazy night out in the Castro? Taco Boys is the place to go! This small Mexican eatery has gone out of its way to cater to vegan customers by creating an entire separate vegan menu. An impressive assortment of vegan mock meats make each and every menu item customizable. Our favorite is the vegan Chimichanga, which comes deep fried and topped with vegan sour cream and cheese. Order this with the Beyond Meat sausage, and you are set! Sharing with friends? Start off your meal with a vegan nacho plate. We highly suggest the soyrizo for this. Whatever you order, you can’t go wrong!
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!