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What's your favorite vegetarian restaurant in San Diego?

I'm going to be in Southern California next week and I'm going to try to get to SD on at least one or two nights. Do you guys have any not-to-be-missed veggie restaurants? N

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  1. My veggie friends rave about the food at Kung Food on 5th (?) in Hillcrest. From what I understand it is not much on ambiance, (they have a drive-thru), but apparently amazing food. I think that the San Diego Reader (local paper) had a review of it recently in its Tin Fork column.

    5 Replies
    1. re: JRSD

      A drive-thru? That's so cool! We don't have them in NYC. Thanks for the rec.

      1. re: Nikki NYC

        I'd actually suggest avoiding Kung Food. I've been there a few times and while it's not terrible, it's certainly nothing I'd recommed to go out of your way for - especially if you're from NYC. The food there is nothing special.

        One of the best bets in San Diego for vegetarian fare is The Linkery in North Park. They offer 3-4 very good vegetarian plates every night, and they also serve vegan-friendly items. For my money, that's one of the best places in town for vegetarians in terms of a flavorful, non-standard vegetarian experience. They have an awesome Mexican-style lasagna with roasted veggies and a creamy tomatillo sauce.


        Another great option is Rancho's Cocina, also in North Park. They serve very good vegetarian/vegan Mexican food. The tempeh fajitas are awesome!


      2. re: JRSD

        The problem with Kung Food is that most of the food is not cooked freshly but kept warm with heating lamps the whole day (at least when I was there the last time). If you don't have a large number of customers (which I think is not the case with Kung Food) you most likely to get overcooked, mushy food.

        1. re: honkman

          Have to agree: Kung Food is to be avoided. Its culinary sensibility is stuck in the 1970s, but its product would have tasted bad even then.

      3. I haven't eaten there yet but I have heard that Jyoti Bihanga serves good vegetarian and vegan food and might be worth a try.


        3 Replies
        1. re: honkman

          Jyoti Bihanga is not bad. They have some offerings that approach comfort food.

            1. re: juliebird

              I moved away from San Diego eight years ago, but I still crave the neatloaf with mushroom gravy at Jyoti Bihanga. Best thing on the menu.

          1. the tempeh reuben at jyoti bihanga is outstanding, and their salads are fresh as can be. the lemon tahini dressing is particularly delicious.

            ki's restaurant in cardiff is great, and you can't beat the view.

            1. Kung Food is awful, awful, awful!

              Try Spread in North Park on University Ave. Very fresh, inventive and funky.

              1. I really like Cafe Zinc - it's really just a cafe, but totally veggie. There's one in Laguna Beach and one in Solana Beach. I have also heard really good things about Jyoti Bihanga, but they keep weird hours, be sure to call before you go. Spread is supposed to be interesting - cool modern decor and an eclectic menu specializing in nut butters, but I haven't been. I also second the recommendation of the Linkery - they have a lot of good veggie options even though they specialize in sausage!

                I also like Gourmet India downtown - they have lots of vegetarian options.


                1. Spread is the most innovative and avant-garde veggie restaurant in San Diego. It's also the most expensive. Everything is made to order with fresh local (mostly organic) ingredients. This means that the meal proceeds slowly, sometimes very slowly. I enjoy the pace; I enjoy the food; I enjoy the atmosphere. But these aren't for everybody.


                  Jyoti Bihanga is wonderful for straight-ahead, veggie home cookin'. You can get filled and happy for less than $10/ person. And though you can spend more, it's difficult to spend much more than $20/. I'm very partial to the mock duck sandwich, as well as the beet-an-coconut soup (both vegan). The neatloaf (in vegan and non-vegan varieties) are also popular.


                  Sipz Fusion Cuisine is also a popular choice with veggies and vegans.


                  Finally, you might try The Linkery. Even though it is a "sausage restaurant," it has an innovative and skillful chef who is very veggie friendly.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: notjustastomach

                    I forgot about Sipz. It's pretty decent. Only things I've had that were duds were the "Italian" dishes.

                    Another place that's good is Le's Vietnamese/Thai/Chinese on Linda Vista Rd. The owner's daughter runs Sipz, but Le's is very good as well. Lots of vegetarian and vegan options to choose from, and the best vegetarian eggrolls I've had.

                    1. re: Josh

                      Those sound so good! I don't think I'll be up for Italian, anyway - I'm a NYC Italian food snob. :)

                  2. Thank you for your suggestions! I can't wait to try out as many as I can.

                    1. I dream that some day there will be a Red Bamboo or Vegetarian Paradise here in San Diego. In the mean time, in addition to a big thumbs-up for Spread and Sipz, here are a couple more I love:

                      Madras Cafe - Southern Indian, all vegetarian, lots of dosas (crepes), and diferent than most of the Indian you'll find.


                      Ranchos Cocina - Vegetarian Mexican, vegan available. If you're going to be in SD, might as well have the Mexican food! Got to have a horchata - a rice milk drink.


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Divamac

                        OMG, the Mexican looks incredible! I don't know of any veggie Mexican restaurant's here, just lots of Asian and south Indian. Sounds like you know your NYC restaurants, but you left out another great one - Candle Cafe - amazing.

                        1. re: Nikki NYC

                          Pokez (pronounced "pokees") downtown is another popular Mexican restaurant for vegetarians - they have vegan chorizo and their rice and beans are vegetarian. (A lot of Mexican restaurants put lard in their beans.)

                      2. Pokes is great for a quick lunch...and being from the city, you need to try some good mexican while you are here...

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: mise in place

                          Pokez is not very good, IMO. Rancho's is a far better option. I've had some truly bad experiences at Pokez, related to cleanliness and food freshness.

                          1. re: Josh

                            I take the opposite view: Pokez is better than Ranchos. But I won't push the point since, unfortunately, neither is any good at all. For veggie mexican, you're much better off going to Mama Testa's or Chilangos and just getting a veggie entree. Most of the mexican restaurants that serve a predominantly non-Mexican clientele are veggie -- and even vegan -- friendly.

                            1. re: notjustastomach

                              the OP request was for veggie restaurants, and for people who choose to abstain from meat, dairy or eggs, most non-veg restaurants are difficult to get a wide range of dishes. For East Coasters wanting Mexican in SD, Ranchos is is pretty darn good Mexican considering what you can easily get at home. I can't comment on Pokez.

                              1. re: Divamac

                                That's a good point. Usually when I go to an omnivore restaurant I don't get much of a choice. But I really do appreciate all of the suggestions!! I definitely have a huge choice in restaurants! And I definitely have to have Mexican. Now I just need to decide where to go...

                              2. re: notjustastomach

                                I've been to Ranchos and as a former east coast vegan (live out west now) it did nothing for me. I second a trip to Mama Testa's! I'd rec the Empapados sans queso :)

                                1. re: peruanitavegetariana

                                  Indeed, I'm from New York originally, and Ranchos is like nothing so much like as an east coast Mexican restaurant that includes tempeh and shiitake mushroom patties on its menu. Even the salsa is watery and bland. Sure, I'll go to Ranchos after visiting the art galleries at Ray at Night; it's so convenient. But much better food can be had, just by going to Mama Testa's or Chilango's or Ortega's, all of which are more than willing to leave off cheese and sour cream.

                                2. re: notjustastomach

                                  During Lent, Super Cocina becomes the best vegetarian Mexican food in San Diego. Unfortunately, that's only for those 40 days.

                                  1. re: Josh

                                    Eggs, cheese and fish, right? Or do they leave off the fish too?

                                    1. re: Joseph

                                      They do serve fish, not just during Lent but every Friday as well. But the non-fish dishes are awesome. They have these fried potato cakes that are excellent.

                            2. Definitely Jyoti Bihanga. I might get kicked off the board for mentioning this next one, but if you go shopping in Fashion Valley then California Pizza Kitchen is a semi-non-disastrous choice. For the screams coming from the foodies here, I am only mentioning it because she might go shopping.

                              1. I'd say Spread is definitely worth the modestly higher prices; they're aiming at a higher level and I think they hit it. Both food and setting are fun, arty and tasty--not your usual vegetarian fare or look. I also really like Sipz--well done pan-Asian fusion cuisine using some pretty tasty, and sometimes surprisingly convincing, tofu-based mock meats. They've recently expanded, and added a vegan sushi bar, which puts out some pretty decent rolls (especially the hand rolls). I've had some good grub at Pokez, and yeah, the punk-rawk vibe does make me nostalgic, but I confess I like their meat-containing dishes better than their veg ones. I find Ranchos Cocina way uneven--sometimes they're fine, sometimes, weeelllllll ... One place that hasn't been mentioned yet in this thread is Cafe India out near the Sports Arena. Not in the same league as the yummy Madras Cafe up on Black Mountain Road, but still a nice place to grab a plateful of vegetarian buffet if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

                                1. I ate at Spread tonight. The room is low-key, but I was impressed by the owner's passion and commitment to quality food. They were gracious and friendly, and the food was excellent.


                                  1. Must try Spread in North Park between 28th & 29th. Outstanding!

                                    1. Its a bit out of the way, but the Madras Cafe, serves Southern Indian food and is entirely vegetarian.

                                      Madras Cafe
                                      9484 Black Mountain Rd, San Diego, CA 92126

                                      1. If there is one vegetarian restaurant you have to visit, it would be Sipz Fusion Cafe. They've won many local San Diego Best of Awards. Try their mongolian beef, vegetarian pho, or my personal favorite vegetarian pad thai.

                                        Sipz Vegetarian Restaurant
                                        5501 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
                                        San Diego, CA 92117
                                        (858) 279-3747

                                        Sipz Cafe
                                        5501 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92117

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: kristenite

                                          Sipz has just opened a second location in North Park, on 30th just north of Ranchos Cocina.

                                          Another noteworthy new contender in the San Diego vegetarian dining scene is Loving Hut. It is admittedly part of a chain -- an international vegan fast-food chain founded by an Asian religious sect, yet -- but the lemongrass-seasoned dish I had there was wonderfully flavored, the interior decor was pleasant, and I saw no signs of overt proselytizing in the restaurant itself, so what's not to like?

                                          3914 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

                                          Loving Hut
                                          1905 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

                                          1. re: mizducky

                                            When I've been there they have TVs showing Supreme Master propaganda. If you do some research about the cult that owns Loving Hut, you'll find that there are serious questions about their labor practices.

                                            1. re: Josh

                                              I would think no more questionable than any other corporate entity that imports items made in east Asia or farm co-ops. Just me though.

                                              At least they treat animals well ;)

                                              1. re: MrKrispy

                                                I would never eat at Sipz. Incredibly bad service. One dish I ordered which I forgot what it is called was supposed to be mixed vegetables and all I got was a plate full of stir fried bok choy in some sauce. I think they have some good ideas but horrible execution.

                                                1. re: pantani

                                                  The service at the original Sipz is hit or miss. It does seem the servers are untrained. The food, though, is almost always excellent. If your complaint centers around the service, you should try out the new Sipz in North Park. I went there a couple weeks ago and it was like night and day compared to the original location. The service is a million times better; the decor is very upscale and not just thrown together. The entire operation is just a few levels above the original location.

                                        2. Muzita Bistro serves excellent vegetarian food, although the restaurant itself is not wholly vegetarian. There are meat options on the menu, which is nice for your carnivore-dining companions. Muzita serves Eritrean, similar to Ethiopian, food that can consist of peppers, lentils, stewed vegetables, and salads. They also have vegan options.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: globocity

                                            I've always really enjoyed myself there, love the food and the experience. Perhaps it is due to the tasty Ethiopian beer they get haha.

                                          2. Wow! I can't believe I'm still getting responses! Thanks, all. I think it's time for me to return to San Diego. :)

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Nikki NYC

                                              We are a small but mighty crew! lol.....I have not looked at this thread in a long time, but when you return to San Diego, you should try Salad Style in downtown. They have an excellent of quality vegetarian fare.

                                              1. re: Nikki NYC

                                                two more places to consider - they're not strictly vegetarian, but they're likely some of the best vegetarian entrees you'll find in SD.

                                                Georges Modern - Foshee always mentions loving to work with the produce from Chino farms, finer dining where your vegetable entree won't end up being a composition of appetizers.

                                                Urban Solace - not sure why they don't have it on the site, but in addition to their normal veg options they offer a special veg menu every Weds - you can choose individual entrees or do all 3 for $30.

                                                1. re: Rodzilla

                                                  Alchemy and Linkery also have special vegetarian menus once a week

                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                    Thanks Honk, have you tried either?

                                                  2. re: Rodzilla

                                                    correction, Urban does it on Thurs, Solace and The Moonlight Lounge does it on Weds.