15 Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego: Local Edition

San Diego’s food scene is often overlooked and underrated thanks to its neighbor to the north, the glittering vegan food mecca of Los Angeles. However, this SoCal city’s booming food culture is helping California’s second-largest city make a name for itself on the food scene.

From high-end meals to the best cookie you’ve ever had, take off your wetsuit and park your bike at one of these vegan restaurants in San Diego.

Donna John

1 Donna John

Located just two blocks from the tree-lined streets of Balboa Park, diners of all kinds flock to Donna Jean for homemade vegan pizza and pasta. Named after chef Roy Elam’s late mother, the restaurant has a large patio and herb garden that guests can enjoy year-round. Locals love this spot for a date while others regularly order the speckled wood-fired pizza to go. Made with a blend of vegan gouda, ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella, the customer-favorite Four Horsemen pizza has been on offer since the restaurant’s inception.
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What do eclectic cocktail bars, metal tunes and gastropub culture have in common? Nothing, at least not until Kindred opened in 2015. The LED-lit ceiling, vibrant pink walls, and retractable garage door-style window set the scene, but the food and cocktails steal the show in this South Park hotspot. Start the night off with the tangy grilled seitan skewers before grabbing the best vegan BBQ sandwich west of Memphis. Come back for weekend brunch and enjoy pancakes topped with caramelized banana and bourbon caramel or the Benedict served with a succulent cauliflower Hollandaise sauce.
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3 Mothership

A spin-off of Kindred’s themed cocktail parties, Mothership is a hot new concept (as of August 2022) that somehow cohesively combines a tropical bar with space vibes. The food and drink menu is distinct from its parent restaurant, offering inventive cocktail options alongside satisfying apps and entrees. The space offers just enough sensory overload to let you escape the outside world without feeling overwhelmed.
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VegNews.ThePlotThe parcel

The parcel

It’s not often that something lives up to the hype, but The Plot offers an attentive yet approachable menu. Located in the northernmost part of the county, this restaurant focuses on local ingredients, from the on-site produce garden to its secret supplier of fresh San Diego tofu. The velvety pink pepper cream sauce and lentil caviar nod to gastronomy while the salty sweetness of chicken and waffles enliven the menu. The Plot is perfect for a romantic date or any time you want to treat yourself to a hearty and nourishing meal.
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VegNews.MayasCookiesMaya’s cookies

5Maya’s cookies

Not all pop-up food retailers find the success necessary to move to a physical store, but again, not all pop-ups offer bites as decadent or as memorable as Maya’s Cookies. Born from the desire to find vegan cookies that passed the taste, texture and aroma test, owner Maya Madsen set to work creating what would become the largest and most successful female- and black-owned vegan cookie retailer in the country. Flavors range from white chocolate espresso to birthday cake and brown sugar caramel to classic chocolate chips with several gluten-free options. Madsen has developed a foolproof shipping standard so even those outside of the San Diego and San Marcos areas can enjoy its edible delights.
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Sibling co-owners Napatr Chayodom and Katiya Hendricks were inspired by the brewery-centric University Heights and North Park neighborhood when planning their business. Grains’ craft beer selection complements a versatile menu of Asian cuisine with a bar-food influence. Think fried shiitake mushroom appetizers served with plum sauce; sesame balls stuffed with red bean paste; pepper-glazed chicken strips with shallots; and a classic Philly cheesesteak sandwich thrown in for good measure. To taste more than you want at a discounted price, head to happy hour (Monday-Thursday, 3-5pm) for 15% off all food and drink.
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Globetrotting chef Junya Watanabe fuses cuisine and art with a Western take on Japanese classics at his sushi restaurants Convoy and Little Italy. Here, you’ll find Instagrammers charmed by intricate vegan sushi while hungry customers sip silky, handmade ramen noodles floating in creamy dashi. When you dine, don’t sleep on Yasai’s specialty creations. These cut buns with quirky names are some of the best items in the kitchen. For takeout, take advantage of the omakase bento box for a little taste of everything.
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VegNews.SplitBakehouseSplit Bakehouse

8Split Bakehouse

Owner Vanessa Corrales made the leap from direct-to-café sales to open her own storefront at the Grossmont Center in February 2021. The international selection of baked goods includes ube-filled brioche, confetti-dusted scones, pain au chocolat and pastry cream with Thai tea. -infused cruffins, and much more. The menu is constantly changing and fresh pastries are made every three hours to guarantee superb quality fresh from the oven. Can’t make up your mind? Let the baker choose for you by pre-ordering the Chef’s Choice Variety Box. It’s a nice surprise every time!
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VegNews.CafeGratitdueGratitude Coffee

9Gratitude Coffee

Think what you will of this statement-themed restaurant, but there’s no denying that the food is good. Go ahead and roll your eyes when you tell the waiter “I’m humble” (translation: I would like the Indian dahl bowl) and “I’m dazzling” (translation: “with the caesar salad”) – you’ll enjoy this that you order even if you feel a bit chilly asking for it. Keep those affirmations coming to order dessert. The I Am Divine (strawberry shortcake parfait) and I Am Remarkable (raw mocha cheesecake) are truly worthy of their descriptions.
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tenvegan thai

As soon as this plant-based Thai cafe opens, the unmistakable aroma of drunken noodles and multicolored curries floods the streets of Hillcrest and attracts a mixed crowd of plant-based and gluten-free eaters. Unlike many other Southeast Asian vegetarian restaurants in San Diego, this menu omits eggs and dairy altogether, offering wary vegans relief by ensuring that no modifications are necessary. Grab your spring rolls, Tom Kha and sweet mango sticky rice to go or enjoy the outdoor patio.
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VegNews.PeacePiesPeace pies

11Peace pies

The all-raw menu reflects the bohemian Ocean Beach neighborhood of this zero-waste restaurant. Beach dwellers swear by the Mystical Mushroom Quesadilla, the Loving Lasagna and the namesake Peaceful Pizza. Save room for dessert – the little place devotes an entire refrigerated section to its raw pies, brownies, truffles and cheesecakes. Pro Tip: You can find a few Peace Pies takeout items at Jimbo throughout San Diego County.
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VegNews.TrilogyTrilogy Sanctuary

12 Trilogy Sanctuary

With a selection of smoothies as vast as its rooftop view of the Pacific Ocean, this yoga studio meets all day and prides itself on organic, nourishing ingredients. Sit down with a plate of Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos and watch the aerial yoga class, or sign up for a yoga session and refuel with the Nourish Green Bowl afterwards. It’s not just a restaurant, Trilogy is a veritable vegan sanctuary.
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As San Diego’s first vegan fast food restaurant, Evolution has set the bar high. It was one of the first restaurants in town to adopt fully biodegradable packaging – what appear to be plastic utensils and containers are actually wheat and corn by-products that will eventually be reabsorbed into the soil . Familiar fast-food favorites are also exceptional, from street fish tacos to flaky fish to the In-N-Out-style Burger EVO. Like any quality fast food joint, its shakes (both raw and classic) are not to be missed.
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14 Tacotarian

This Las Vegas transplant proves it has what it takes to live up to San Diegan’s lofty taco expectations. The menu offers a solid range of Latin-style plant-based meats, from seitan-based carne asada to mushroom chorizo. Sure, there are tacos, but diners can also be swayed by the Cali Burrito, quesadilla, tortilla soup, or plantain con mole. Basically, one could eat here for lunch and dinner for two weeks straight and still try a new option every night.
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15 Sipz

Notice to the undecided, this pan-Asian micro-chain offers a salty and sweet menu almost as dizzying as The Cheesecake Factory. Pro tip from a local: the sushi is solid and you can’t go wrong with the vegetable and rice dishes. Crab Rangoon is also something you have to try at least once, as it’s the only vegan version of this Americanized dish we’ve ever come across. No matter what you order for dinner, don’t leave without a slice of ube cake. You might be tempted by the brownies, cheesecakes and cookies that line the pie crust, but there’s something about this moist, delicately sweet ube cake that keeps us coming back time after time.
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Jared Cross is a writer, avid traveler, and conservationist based in San Diego, California.

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