A Vegan's Guide to San Francisco
In line with the city’s vibrant start-up culture, vegan cuisine is taking root in The City by the Bay. With the growing number of vegan options in San Francisco, it may be well on its way to becoming one of the HappyCow Top Vegan Cities. Before you start trekking up those famously steep streets, consult the HappyCow 10 Best Vegan Restaurants in San Francisco, or, for more variety, keep this guide handy for a complete rundown of the city’s best vegan-friendly restaurants, bakeries, and things to do—all HappyCow member-approved!
Top 3 Vegan Restaurants
Vegan sushi can be so much more than avocado and cucumber rolls. The chefs at Shizen are getting creative and redefining this popular cuisine to create rolls and nigiri that are nothing short of show-stopping. Make reservations or arrive early—this restaurant is always packed during dinner service.
First opened in Bend, OR in 2014, Next Level Burger locations are finding fans outside of its home state. It didn’t take long for the San Francisco location to rank among HappyCow’s Top Rated Restaurants. Satisfaction is guaranteed with its thick, juicy plant-based burgers and classic creamy vegan milkshakes.
For a meal that will keep you full for hours but won’t weigh you down while zig-zagging your way up Lombard Street, head to Nourish Cafe. The bowls are unique and substantial, the juices are perfectly balanced and refreshing, and the daily pizza slice is not to be missed. This is healthy vegan food at its finest.
Top 3 Vegan-friendly Restaurants
While much of the menu is rooted in Indian cuisine, this quaint, homey restaurant offers a little of everything, including wraps, salads, and the Impossible Burger. Popular dishes include the Neatloaf Dinner as well as the samosas. The dessert selection is exceptional. Opt for a slice of the seasonal fruit pie or the vegan chocolate cake, which was named “Best Vegan Chocolate Cake” in the Bay Guardian’s Best of the Bay.
Talk about dinner with a view. For an upscale dining experience overlooking the waterfront, make your reservations at Greens Restaurant. The menu is completely vegetarian with a few standout vegan selections, including a not-to-be-missed dessert menu. Can’t get a reservation? Try the Greens To-Go Counter, which offers delicious take-away options at an affordable price.
Every visit to San Francisco should include a trip to Chinatown, both for the cultural experience and the food. Enjoy Vegetarian offers an extensive menu of vegetarian and vegan Chinese specialities featuring both vegetables and plant-based meat. The portions are generous and the prices are hard to beat in this city.
Most Popular Dish to Try in San Francisco
Vegetarian Combination at Tadu Ethiopian
In a city full of tourists, it’s all about the local hidden gems. You might not find Tadu on most vegan city roundups, but this hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian cafe serves one of the best dishes of the Bay. This vegan-friendly platter includes a medley of the kitchen’s best vegan veggie and lentil stews, served on a plate of injera (traditional Ethiopian flatbread). Don’t be surprised if you don’t see any silverware. Use the injera to scoop up the delicious stews and eat with your hands!
Best Place to Bring a Date for a High End Dinner
Sister restaurant to the Gracias Madre of Los Angeles, the San Francisco location offers a fun, celebratory vibe with its communal tables and occasional Mariachi performances. The space also has private tables—if you’re not in the mood to rub elbows with fellow diners. The cocktails are a must, and sharing is highly recommended, as are reservations.
Best Vegan Bakeries
Indulge without the sugar crash. This all-vegan bakery offers a wide selection of gluten, soy, and refined sugar-free sweets, from cupcakes to cookies, brownies and bars. Go ahead, order a baker’s dozen; it’s too hard to choose between all of the decadent options!
While you won’t find brownies and cupcakes here, this Kosher vegan-friendly bakery offers some outstanding traditional Israeli baked goods. On the sweet side, options include a medley of filled donuts (sufganiya) as well as vegan challah. For something more substantial, order a Potato Mushroom Onion Satay Pocket (sambusak) or a bagel to eat on the go.
Things to Do in San Francisco
Dandelion Chocolate Factory Tour
Learn how this independent local chocolatier goes from bean to bar, and taste several dark chocolates along the way. The one-hour tour takes place in the company’s tiny cafe/factory on Mission street, where you’ll be surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of chocolate making. If you’ve ever dreamed of entering Willy Wonka’s factory, this might be the closest you’ll get. No time for a tour (or can’t get reservations)? Enjoy a vegan sipping chocolate at the cafe and watch the chocolate being made before your eyes—there are plenty of vegan samples to nibble on throughout the store.
Vegan Picnic at the Presidio
We mean this quite literally. Stop by Vegan Picnic for a selection of vegan sandwiches and takeaway items, then head to the Presidio to enjoy your lunch as you marvel at the magnificent architecture of the Palace of the Fine Arts. Hunger satisfied, take a stroll or rent a bike to cruise down the wide bike path near Marina Blvd., which is a nice respite from the touristy bustle of Fisherman’s Wharf.
Ferry Building Marketplace
Begin or end your scenic walk down the Embarcadero at the Ferry Building, a local hub for stellar vegan options and shopping. The indoor public market offers a wide variety of vegan eats to choose from, including an afternoon oatmilk pick-me-up at the city’s iconic Blue Bottle Coffee, to Japanese Teahouse Spicy Noodles at The Imperial Tea Court. You can also pick up various sundries and freshly-baked bread at one of the many food-centric boutiques.
City Lights Booksellers & Publishers
For those with a fondness for books and a sense of wanderlust, spend an afternoon getting lost in this independent bookshop. City Lights is teeming with works from local authors as well as a few best-sellers, all housed under two stories of tightly-packed shelves and fellow book enthusiasts. When you’ve picked out your favorite titles and have worked up an intellectual appetite, make your way over a few blocks to Chinatown for dinner at Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant.
*Note: Several vegan restaurants, vegan-friendly restaurants, and bakeries received equal ratings by HappyCow users. Those listed above are only three of these highest-ranked establishments on HappyCow San Francisco. View the Top 10 List of Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants in San Francisco and San Francisco’s vegan-friendly options.