Vegan in San Diego

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San Diego, California is home, and I often get asked “what are your favorite vegan restaurants” or “where do you go out to eat” (yes, some people hear vegan and they immediately think I can’t eat anywhere haha). So I thought I would go ahead and put together a list of some of my favorite vegan restaurants in my home town, and a few other non-vegan restaurants that actually have some great vegan options available on their menus. I must say, it sure is great that San Diego is a very vegan friendly city with lots of vegan restaurants, cafes, smoothie/juice stands, and grocery stores…and it seems the plant based trend is only growing here with new places opening up all over town! So without further ado, and in no particular order, here is my list:

VEGAN RESTAURANTS

1. Cafe Gratitude –  Little Italy – 1980 Kettner Blvd. San Diego, 92101.

This is definitely one of my favorites, and I am sure one of the most popular among vegans and non-vegans (they have multiple locations here in Southern California, and they are a pretty big name in the scene). What I love about this place is that they have such an extensive menu of only vegan options! A variety of cuisines, pressed juices, kombuchas, coffee drinks, and wine/beer/cocktails. It’s so great to be able to finally go into a restaurant and know that you can order anything off the menu, without being limited to one option (like a salad, or just a veggie burger), and not having to modify anything or ask the waiter to leave anything out…ahhhh vegan paradise!

Some of my favorite items:

  • Humble / Indian Curry Bowl
  • Mucho / Mexican Bowl
  • Magical / Double Double Veggie Burger
  • Warm Hearted / Grilled Polenta
  • Brave / Immune Boosting Shot – I always get this, has quite a kick, but really good for ya!
  • Immortal / Ayervedic Latte – so damn yummy; it’s like a sweet, cinnamon, chai like latte, but packed with health!

2. Kindred – South Park – 1503 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102.

This is a great little hip spot in South Park, all vegan food, and craft cocktails…definitely a cool venue to check out!

Some of my favorite items:

  • Snacks (appetizer) / Skewers – Chargrilled Seitan, with Chimichurri, very tasty!
  • Snacks (appetizer)/ Hearts of Palm flatbread – so damn good!!
  • Dine / Seared Cauliflower Steak
  • Dine / Beet Risotto

Plenty of other good stuff on the menu too, and also the extensive cocktail menu…give it a go!

3. Donna Jean – 2949 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103.

This place just recently opened in the Bankers Hill area right by Balboa Park, and it’s actually right next door to Evolution Fast Food – a smaller vegan restaurant that has a drive through (think more casual, quick-service counter style type of place). Donna Jean has a great outdoor patio with a garden of vegetables being grown right there in house; it looks great at night lit up under the garden lights. The cuisine here has a midwest spin to it, with lots of comfort food like options. They also serve kombucha, vegan beers, wine, and sake based cocktails. I saw lots of good options on the menu, and I am looking forward to going back and trying them all!

Some of my favorite items:

  • Starters/ Baked Riccotta – think of this as a cheese plate served with sourdough bread, pretty damn good!
  • Starters/ BBQ Cauliflower – solid kick of smoky BBQ flavor here!
  • Supper/ Ravioli – House Made Ricotta and Tempeh Filled Ravioli, Arrabbiata, Herbs, Spinach. This was absolutely delicious, some of the best ravioli I’ve had!

4. Trilogy Sanctuary – La Jolla – 7650 Girard Ave #400, San Diego, CA 92037.

Not only is this place an awesome yoga studio (multiple levels, and practices), but it also has an amazing roof top all vegan cafe! Great place to come and grab a delicious healthy bite while taking in the open air vibes. This is definitely also one of those places where I walk in and always have a difficult time making decisions on what to order, because everything just looks so good – lots of food options, smoothies, juices, and coffees/teas too! I’ve also had the pleasure of taking a few yoga classes here, and would definitely recommend giving their classes a try!

Some of my favorite items:

  • Perfect Tacos
  • Trilogy Cheeze Burger
  • Love Bowl
  • BLTrilogy Crepe
  • Sweet Potato Wedges

5. Native Foods Cafe – Point Loma – 3369 Rosecrans St., San Diego, CA 92110

This place is more your “fast-casual” type of restaurant; they have multiple locations, an extensive menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, bowls, desserts, and drinks…and yes, all vegan! This chain does a great job of introducing plant based foods to the mainstream population, their menu’s explain what certain plant based foods are, and how they are prepared. They also have a great vegan cook book that makes it very easy for vegans and non-vegans alike to cook a variety of plant based dishes.

Some of my favorite items:

  • Native Classics / Ensalada Azteca
  • Earth Bowls / Thai Meatball
  • Hand Holds / Baja Tacos
  • Burgers / Native Scorpion Burger
  • Sides / Sweet Potato Fries

6. Veggie Grill – La Jolla Westfield Mall – 4353 La Jolla Village Dr. San Diego, CA 92122.

This is another “fast-casual” order at the counter type spot just like Native Foods Cafe; and it’s located right in the Westfield UTC Shopping Mall. This is also a chain, they have multiple locations, and again this type of concept is doing a great job of introducing the mainstream population to plant based foods by kind of taking the alternative healthy [plant based] fast-food approach. Lots of great tasty options here too from salads, power bowls, burgers, and seasonal entrees.

Some of my favorite items:

  • Bowls/ Sonoran Bowl
  • Entree Salads / Quinoa Power Salad (I always add tempeh)
  • Sandwiches / Grilled Quinoa + Veg Burger
  • Sides / Sweetheart Fries

 

VEGAN FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS 

1. Civico 1845 – Little Italy – 1845 India St. San Diego, CA 92101

Home of the best vegan lasagna I have ever had! This is a great Italian restaurant, with a cool looking interior, and good lively vibes. And best of all, they actually have a full vegan menu in addition to their normal non-vegan menu. So this is a great place to go with non plant-based folks, since everyone will have options (vegans and non-vegans alike). This place is pretty much always busy, so make a reservation or arrive with your patience.

Some of my favorite items:

  • Antipasti/ Vegan Caprese Calda
  • Primi Piatti/ Vegan Lasagna Romagnola (like I said, it’s zeeee best!)

2.  Tajima – East Village – 901 E Street, San Diego, CA 92101.

Who doesn’t like a good ramen, and better yet for us plant heads, a vegan ramen! That is the only thing I come here for, just that one single menu item. They obviously have a bunch of other ramen varieties and small dishes for the non-plant based foodie, but this is one place that actually does the vegan ramen justice!

In this case my only favorite item:

  • Ramen/ Vegan Ramen – spinach noodles in a soy based soup with mixed vegetables, asparagus, mixed greens, corn, kaiware, deep fried tofu, sesame seeds, shredded chili and topped with black garlic oil.

3. Sipz – North Park – 3914 30th Street, San Diego, CA

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Now this place is 100% vegetarian, so by nature this restaurant is also very vegan friendly; in fact, they have many vegan options, and can always cater to vegan requests. The cuisine is Thai fusion, so you can find lots of stir frys, curries, spring rolls, noodle dishes, and sushi…and they even have some vegan desserts! Lots of options here, so go nuts!

Some of my favorite items:

  • Appetizer/ Fresh Summer Rolls
  • Appetizer/ Lettuce Wraps
  • Spicy Main Dishes/ Spicy Basil
  • Spicy Main Dishes/ Spicy Ginger
  • Mild Main Dishes/ Broccoli Stir Fry

 

This by no means is a full comprehensive list of all vegan/vegan friendly restaurants in San Diego, CA. I know there are many more out there that are not on this list; but these just happen to be a few of my favorites that I frequent the most. As I continue to explore new vegan restaurants, I will be sure to add them to this post. Feel free to comment below with any of your favorite vegan restaurants around town that I might have left out.

 

 

 

 

Vegan Tacos

It is TACO TIME people! Aren’t tacos just great, I mean seriously?! And yes, there is such a thing as vegan tacos, and no they don’t just consist of air and kale wrapped in a tortilla. I like cooking this type of vegan food because A.) it’s more than just cooking kale, and B.) most people (non-vegans) probably have no idea what a vegan taco could or would consist of, so it’s a great way to showcase more vegan food varieties. So here it is, feast your eyes on the creation of vegan tacos; taking it back to my Mexican roots here on this one, time to fully embrace the culture (yes it actually makes a difference to the flavor – the sabor that is), lets get amongst it!! It’s…MUY BIEN!!

And there you have it, that is what vegan tacos are all about folks; so many healthy ingredients, plant proteins, so much zest, and so much damn sabor (again, that means flavor people), all wrapped up in one tortilla! Damn it’s good!! This is vegan food…that is more than just kale (see what I did there)!

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On the left: black beans, red bell peppers, onions, guacamole, cilantro, and red pepper hot sauce. On the right: black beans, baked sweet potatoes, tomatoes, mango salsa, and cilantro.

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On the left – the a little bit of everything taco: black beans, tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, guacamole, mango salsa, and cilantro. On the right: black beans, baked and seasoned cauliflower, salsa verde [green salsa], guacamole, and cilantro.

Get yourself in the kitchen – free your inner mariachi, make some cruelty free, and good for your health vegan tacos! Treat yo body!!

 

 

Head Over Heels on Plants

Well if you’ve been following my blog or Instagram pics then you already know I’m  a big fan of my Power Bowls; there really is so much variety to them – you could give each dish their own name, but at the end of the day it’s a bunch of healthy ingredients that are eaten out of a bowl…hence the name. Anyway, I already did a lengthy written post with pics about these magical Power Bowls, so here I thought I would just simply do a quick video on me actually putting one of these bad boys together. Again, you could really add in whatever different ingredient you want with these: the base (grain), the veggies, legumes, meat alternatives, seeds/nuts, and of course the jazz! Each ingredient serves a purpose, for taste and health! I let the video explain the rest, so here it is; go get head over heels on plants!

 

Bake That Sparg!

Gotta love baking up some asparagus, it’s healthy, tasty, and adds some great sabor to your meal! Just like my tempeh, I like to bake my asparagus. However, every now and then I do like to just chop it up and throw it in a hot pan to cook it up, or boil it; just go with whatever strikes you at the time…treat yo self!

For me, most of the time I add asparagus to my power bowls for dinner, but you can definitely add the sparg to a nice salad, perhaps a wrap, or whatever the hell else you feel like adding it to. By baking it, you get that delicious taste and texture of crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. It adds a nice crunch to your meals, and it’s a great way to get your greens! So next time you are at the store, and looking to add some greens into your mix – other than just kale, grab some organic asparagus, and bake that shit right up!

 

Here is how I like to eat my baked asparagus…Power Bowl bang!! Mmmmm Yummy!

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Get amongst it! Give it a try! Eat your veggies!!

Tempeh Time!

One of my favorite vegan foods is tempeh; I really enjoy the flavor and texture, and all the different foods I can pair it with. For me, this is one of the better vegan meat alternatives out there because it’s not highly processed like other ‘fake vegan meats’ or veggie burgers, and it’s packed with healthy minerals and protein! I like to bake my tempeh with a little bit of avocado oil, and soy sauce (bake at 400-415 degrees for 20 minutes). Then, I throw it in with salads, sandwiches, burritos, wraps, pastas, and of course my wonderful power bowls! Yes, this is a soy based food, but that doesn’t mean you should run away from it, not all soy is created equal. Because tempeh is fermented, it’s actually a superior form of soy for the body to digest. I always buy the organic tempeh, and I usually just buy the Trader Joe’s brand or the LightLife brand from Whole Foods or Jimbo’s.

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Here’s a little tutorial on how I like to bake my tempeh…get amongst it!

Power Bowls

I’m a big fan of Power Bowls (a term I coined myself thank you very much) for dinner mostly, and I call them that because they really are just a big bowl of super healthy antioxidant rich plant based foods: good carbs, power house veggies, plant based protein, and power spices…tastes great, and easy to make! So if you are thinking of transitioning to a plant based diet, or just need some ideas of what the hell to eat other then kale, tofu, and grass, then follow along these easy to make recipes here. [FYI – I pretty much only shop organic, and so probably 95% of what I make is all organic, and yes of course vegan].

Simply start with a grain as your base (yes, these have protein), here are some of my favorites:

  • Farro (I usually get Bob’s Red Mill)
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Rice (brown or white)
  • Pasta (could be made from rice, wheat, or any other alternative pasta type)
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat

Secret ingredient to cooking/boiling these grains is to use vegetable broth – adds great flavor!

Then, when the grains are almost done cooking, I throw in a variety of what I call power spices (because each spice carries significant health benefits); however, I do recommend getting organic spices! Here are just a few of my favorites:

Next, add in your veggies (yes, believe it or not, these have protein too); here are a few of my favorites, of course this is where you can get creative and add a bunch more:

  • Kale (well of course duh)
  • Tomatoes (also love the heirloom variety)
  • Brocoli or Broccolini
  • Asparagus
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • Bell Peppers
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes

I also like to add in a variety of legumes (these are packed with protein) here are some examples:

  • Black Beans
  • Garbanzo Beans, aka Chickpeas
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lentils

And then sometimes I throw in some vegan meat alternatives (yes, these all have protein as well), here are a few I really like:

Once I have all this stuff done, and cooked, I throw it all in a bowl, and then sometimes I sprinkle on some seeds for added crunch and flavor (you guessed it, these have protein too) – here are a couple of my go-to’s:

And lastly, I like to jazz it up! Here are a couple favorite jazzing ingredients:

I am sure you have noticed my parentheses throughout this post that indicate which food groups contain protein, and as you should have noticed…it’s pretty much every category. Wait, vegan food has protein? I know, mind blowing right?! I did this on purpose to finally inform and dispel that misguided idea that plant based eaters don’t get enough protein, or to finally answer that question every vegetarian or vegans gets asked – “where do you get your protein.” Well, there you have it, this is where I get my protein. Also, keep in mind that this is typically only one meal in my day, this doesn’t count all the other protein I get during the day from what I eat for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

So what do these magical Power Bowls full of plant based goodness actually look like when it’s all said and done, well here are some examples:

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Base: farro. Power Spices: turmeric, cayenne, pink Himalayan salt, black pepper, and garlic. Veggies: diced celery, crimini mushrooms, asparagus, and tomatoes. Meat Alternatives: baked tempeh (baked on a cookie sheet with a little bit of avocado oil, and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos). Jazz: red jalapeño sauce, fresh squeezed lemon juice.

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Base: quinoa. Power Spices: cayenne pepper, pink Himalayan salt, ginger, black pepper, and garlic. Veggies: red bell pepper. Legumes: garbanzo beans. Seeds: pumpkin seeds. Jazz: red pepper hot sauce.

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Base: farro. Power Spices: garlic, turmeric, black pepper, and pink Himalayan salt. Veggies:  chopped red bell pepper, celery, and baked broccolini. Seeds: sunflower seeds. Jazz: organic reduced sodium soy sauce, and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

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Base: farro. Power Spices: turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger, black pepper, and pink Himalayan salt. Veggies: tomatoes, and broccolini. Legumes: black beans. Seeds: pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. Jazz: Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, red jalapeño hot sauce.

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Base: pasta – organic vegetable radiatore. Power Spices: cayenne pepper, pink Himalayan salt, garlic, and black pepper. Veggies: vine tomatoes, and kale. Meat Alternatives: baked tempeh. Jazz: fresh squeezed lemon juice, red pepper hot sauce.

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Base: pasta – organic whole wheat. Power Spices: pink Himalayan salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle. Veggies: vine tomatoes, and kale. Meat Alternatives: Organic quarter pound veggie burger – “Original” from Sunshine.  Jazz: fresh squeezed lemon juice.

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Base: farro. Power Spices: turmeric, pink Himalayan salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Veggies: kale, and vine tomatoes. Meat Alternatives: baked sweet potato, and a cut up veggie burger. Jazz: sunflower seeds, and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

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Base: a mix of quinoa and white rice. Power Spices: pink Himalayan salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Veggies: red bell peppers, and kale. Legumes: black beans. Jazz: red pepper hot sauce, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and topped with avocado.

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Base: organic vegetable pasta. Power Spices: pink Himalayan salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and garlic. Veggies: steamed broccolini, and vine tomatoes. Jazz: fresh squeezed lemon juice, and chopped cilantro.

 

Bang! And that’s my long winded Power Bowl rant! Again, there are so many ways to get creative with this, and so many other ingredients you could use…possibilities are endless! Give it a try, get in the kitchen and power up with a plant based Power Bowl!