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Home »  Articles »  Vegans Welcome: San Francisco Bay Area Dining for Discerning Vegetarians
Vegans Welcome: San Francisco Bay Area Dining for Discerning Vegetarians

Vegans Welcome: San Francisco Bay Area Dining for Discerning Vegetarians

 

With a diverse produce selection year round, weekly farmer’s markets, and overall food-aware culture, the San Francisco Bay Area is an ideal place for vegans. Not only can you find most ingredients you’ll need to sustain a nutritious and balanced diet, your servers aren’t going to blink at your requests. Vegan dishes can be found throughout the South, East, and North Bay, as well as restaurants representing inherently vegetarian global cuisines, such as Indian, African, and Asian cuisines. Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco are home to a selection of restaurants that have elevated the typical vegan dining to gourmet cuisine. In other words, vegans, you’re welcome here.

SAN FRANCISCO

Where to Dine

Judahlicious
3906 Judah St., San Francisco
(415) 665-8423

Located in the outer Sunset, Judahlicious a no-frills, no-nonsense, order-at-the counter restaurant frequented by locals, surfers, and tourists. Diners sit on wood benches at tables a few steps removed from picnic tables. But the chalkboard menus are neatly divided between raw-vegan, vegan, and super thought-out fresh juices and smoothies. Not an animal product near the place. Casual, walk-in, no reservations needed.

Millennium
580 Geary St., San Francisco
(415) 345-3900

Millennium represents the opposite side of the vegan dining experience, aka high-end fusion cuisine to rival any of the other multi-star establishments in town. White tablecloths set the tone at this formal restaurant devoted to gourmet vegetarian food,  where you can choose from changing-with-the-seasons raw tasting, seasonal harvest, and five-course tasting menus. Chef Jeff Tucker even has a couple of cookbooks under his belt. Reservations advised.

Greens
15 Marina Blvd., San Francisco
(415) 771-6222

Set on the Bay at historic Ft. Mason, Greens is one of the city’s first vegetarian restaurants. Not totally vegan, it nonetheless is a must-visit for any discerning vegan who wants to pay homage to Chef Annie Somerville’s groundbreaking cuisine and enjoy one of the city’s best views. Make a reservation.

 

Where to Shop

Rainbow Grocery
1745 Folsom St., San Francisco
(415) 863-0620

Don’t feel like cooking? Go to Rainbow, the vegetarian cooperative to school all co-ops. The extensive array of bulk bins contain every nut, bean, grain, seaweed, and noodle known to humankind; there are also tubs full of multiple kinds of sauerkraut, nut butters, and olives, and an impressive selection of bulk oils, as well as a freezer full of vegan ice cream.  

OAKLAND

Where to Dine

Encuentro Café and Wine Bar
202 2nd St., Oakland
(510) 832-9463

Founded by Millennium’s Eric Tucker along with Lacy Sher and Linda Braz, Encuentro brings cozy wine-bar casual to the warehouse-heavy section of  Oakland’s Jack London Square district. This is a neighborhood place with big city influences. It’s not unusual to see dog-walkers pass by while you’re sitting at the bamboo-topped bar, sipping a fine glass of wine and sharing a plate of vegan cheese. Try the huge and hugely satisfying dark green salad, which is replete with kale and cumin-roasted carrots, or the socca of the day (chickpea flatbread served with a rotating cast of seasonal toppings). Reservations advised, although fairly easy to walk in without a reservation before 7 p.m. most evenings.

Souley Vegan
301 Broadway, Oakland
(510) 922-1615

Healthy soul food? In a word, yes. No lard or ribs will be found here; but you will find mustard greens, black-eyed peas, and southern-fried tofu. Souley Vegan has transcended its vegan moniker and become a favorite of locals who simply enjoy great food. The restaurant was voted “Best Southern Soul Food” by The East Bay Express and “Best Soul of Compassionate Cuisine” by Beautiful Rebels. They also offer popular cooking classes.  

Café Gratitude
1730 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley 
(510) 725-4418

The pioneering raw vegan restaurant is the go-to for diners in search of satisfying grain bowls, decadent desserts, and healthy juice elixirs served with an affirmative twist. What are you grateful for? Try the pad Thai made with kelp noodles and nuts, and hemp-based ice cream.

 

Where to Shop

Berkeley Bowl
2020 Oregon St., Berkeley
(510) 843-6929

Sure there’s Whole Foods, but Berkeley Bowl is to Berkeley what Rainbow Grocery is to San Francisco. You can shop for every ingredient and vegetable known to humankind. Just shop early. The secret has been out for a while.

SOUTH BAY HIGHLIGHTS

Where to Dine

Good Karma Vegan House
37 South 1st St.  San Jose, CA 95113
(408) 294-2694

This casual downtown San Jose eatery serves up the lunch and dinner crowd jonesing for affordable vegan food and a good draught beer. It’s a small nook of a restaurant, and you might have to wait for a seat to open up, but the tofu chocolate pie sweetens any inconvenience.

Royal Green Vegetarian
1071 South De Anza Blvd., San Jose
(408) 863-0707

Good solid Chinese vegetarian that doesn’t stint on flavor and caters to the veggie who misses meat. Like many an Asian vegan restaurant, the menu is full of dishes based on mock meat made from wheat gluten. If you’re among the percentage of vegans who love faux fish and chicken, go here for the three-flavor tofu, hot bean veggie fish, and sweet and sour (fake) chicken.

 

Where to Shop

Palo Alto Farmer’s Market
California Avenue at El Camino Real, Palo Alto

Raw food served in edible cones; house-made kimchee, seasonal produce makes this a go-to for the veggie-minded South Bay resident or visitor.

 

—By Deborah C. Copeland

Deborah C. Copeland is a Bay Area writer and musician. Check out her blog at www.deborahcrooks.blogspot.com.


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