Sparkling San Francisco:
A Jewel in the California Crown
by Dan Brook, Exclusive to VegDining.com
San Francisco is a great city to visit and, as I'm still discovering after more than two decades,
a great city to live in.
There is just so much natural beauty with its hills, beaches, parks, bay, and ocean, so much culture with its museums,
theatres, music, art, and cafes, so many fascinating tourist sites with Golden Gate Park, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz,
Angel Island, Coit Tower, the Ferry Building, Pier 39, so many unique neighborhoods with The Mission,
The Castro, North Beach, Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, and others.
And cable cars!
But what would San Francisco be without its diverse and creative people and their progressive values?
Indeed, what would San Francisco be without its restaurants?
It's fairly easy to find vegetarian options at many restaurants, some even having whole separate vegetarian menus
or are willing to make any dish vegetarian (e.g., Andy's, Fleur de Lys, Ha's, Ricos, Roy's, Vanida, Minako), but in a city
hosting about two dozen vegetarian and vegan restaurants, plus more in the surrounding area as well as many veg cafes,
juice bars, bakeries (such as the wonderful worker-owned Arizmendi with two locations), and veg-friendly
ethnic restaurants (especially Italian and the various Asian, but also Middle Eastern, Mexican, and others),
we know we're in a very special place.
And, perhaps no surprise, San Francisco officially encourages and supports Meatless Mondays (since 2010) as well as
other green measures, including composting, reusable shopping bags, and renewable energy.
Isn't it amazing having to decide which Chinese vegetarian restaurant (hmmm...
one of the three branches of
let's go with
which Japanese vegetarian restaurant (I love
which Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant (definitely
which Indian vegetarian restaurant (Udupi Palace
is absolutely wonderful), which American vegan restaurant (with two SF locations,
is my favorite, though
is also quite good and has the best veggie burger in town), or even which raw vegan restaurant in this magical city
of only three-quarters of a million people?
Did I mention veg Thai food?
is more than a great idea; they put it into lovely practice.
The restaurant has very nice classic upscale Thai design, the service is attentive, dishes are presented artistically
and with care, everything is delicious without exception (e.g., tom yum, red curry tofu, pad see-ew, tofu kra-praw),
portion size is good, and prices are reasonable.
It is excellent on all fronts and highly recommended.
part of an international vegan chain of over 120 restaurants following Supreme Master Ching Hai and her green
ideology with three restaurants in San Francisco, has a large selection of very tasty vegan Asian food in bright
and clean environments.
For a great experience, head to
Gracias Madre, owned by the Café Gratitude family,
is an organic vegan taqueria, incorporating local, seasonal, and heirloom veggies as well as other interesting
specialties and delicacies.
The walls are covered with the beautiful works of local muralists and the food, mostly sourced from their nearby organic
Vacaville farm, is quite good and is a very welcome addition to the huge field of mixed Mexican restaurants.
Most Indian restaurants are very veg-friendly, even sympathetic, but (South Indian)
is delightfully all veg and in a lovely setting.
At Udupi Palace, part of a small national chain of south Indian vegetarian restaurants, be sure to try their delicious
dosa or uthapam, southern specialties, though all their food is excellent and their service never falters.
Interestingly, there are two accidental vegetarian pizza places:
which only serves amazing focaccia in the mornings, and
Una Pizza Napoletana,
which serves dinner four nights a week.
Both of them offer a small selection of veggie toppings, both eschew meat (Una Pizza Napoletana unfortunately
introduced meat on one of its pizzas on Saturday night only), and both are superb.
If you're able to splurge for a fancy meal, you'll have to choose between the great
along the bay and mighty
downtown, both of which are excellent.
Greens is a San Francisco Zen Center-inspired vegetarian restaurant, still sourcing its organic produce from the
Zen Center's Green Gulch Farm, with a lovely interior matching the lovely views.
Millennium is an upscale vegan restaurant, with a zinc bar, serving imaginative gourmet dishes.
Both are expensive, but quite a treat.
If you want to get some vegetarian food and see what should be a tourist site at the same time, head downtown to
an all-vegetarian, progressive, altruistic, supermarket-sized, worker-owned cooperative.
It's a taste of utopia!
though small and in the Sunset, is also a vegetarian worker-owned cooperative (a smaller taste of utopia).
Both of these places try to do local sourcing, carry organic and bulk items, and use renewable power.
While you're seeing, doing, and eating your way through San Francisco, you might pass Food Not Bombs giving
away free vegetarian food.
Or you might stumble into one of the many thriving farmers' markets or past veg food trucks or kiosks
(e.g., Donna's Tamales, Hodo Soy Beanery).
Ah, so little time and so much to eat!
You might pass by the headquarters of VegNews or even Twitter, whose co-founder and creative director is vegan!
To find these and many other vegetarian restaurants around the world, just visit VegDining.com.
And if you ever need more information, or want to meet other vegetarians and vegans in San Francisco,
feel free to contact the San Francisco Vegetarian Society, the Bay Area Vegetarians - or me.
Dan Brook, Ph.D., is a VegDining City Ambassador and author of several VegDining city reviews, as well as a writer,
speaker, poet, photographer, activist, and instructor of sociology and political science.
His most recent publication is the community cookbook Justice in the Kitchen.
He also maintains Eco-Eating at
The Vegetarian Mitzvah at
Food for Thought-and Action at
and No Smoking? at
Dan welcomes questions, comments, contributions, and other communication via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated: September 2012. Photos courtesy of Dan Brook.
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