Food for thought: plant-based restaurants

San Diego is full of diverse restaurant options, and, with the popularity of sustainable, healthy food on the rise, it’s no shock that vegan restaurants have been garnering their fair share of attention.

The University of San Diego has created its own vegan food menu in support of the vegans at school. The vegan station at the Student Life Pavilion is popular among vegans and non-vegans alike. Other dining locations on campus, such as Tu Mercado, La Paloma, and Bert’s Bistro, now all have vegan options in their menus. If you ever find yourself tired of the on-campus restaurants, these local vegan spots are certainly worth a try.

Trilogy Sanctuary ($11-$20)

Trilogy is a vegan café with a rooftop patio in La Jolla. It is one of the best places to get healthy organic fare with the addition of an amazing view. They serve 100 percent organic food, juice, smoothies, and desserts that are healthy and taste good as well. The “Enticing Eggplant” entree is a perfect example of combining fresh vegetables into a hearty, homestyle dish that will leave your stomach full and a smile on your face.

Trilogy also offers both yoga and aerial yoga classes for those who want to squeeze in a refreshing workout before their meal. This stems from the owners’ confidence in achieving balance through mind, body, and spirit. The employees are friendly and helpful, and the entire vibe of the place is soothing and calming.

Veganic Thai Café ($11-$30)

A vegan restaurant that just opened in Hillcrest, Veganic Thai Café offers vegan versions of classic Thai dishes, such as pad thai, sticky rice, and rice wraps. Veganic offers a wide variety of mock meats, which are used in dishes such as pad see ew, red curry, and fried rice. For those who are recently starting a vegan or vegetarian diet, Veganic is a great place to try because of the robust flavor of their food. Senior Kristin Sitarz loves the pumpkin curry from Veganic.

“Everyone needs to try it,” Sitarz said. “It’s insanely flavorful and satisfies every taste bud.”

Café Gratitude ($11-$30)

Perhaps one of the better-known establishments in this list, Café Gratitude is an extension from the Los Angeles chain restaurant. Located in the bustling community of Little Italy, the brightness and coolness of the restaurant makes it an easy-going place to hang out. Apart from the beautiful interior, the restaurant has a great selection of desserts, pastries, and smoothies. With a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and salads to choose from, it’s not easy to decide what to order but you can’t go wrong here.   The restaurant’s focus is on sustainability, and Café Gratitude’s food is responsibly sourced and 100 percent vegan. Café Gratitude makes an amazing mexican bowl with black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, nopales, salsa verde, cashew nacho cheese, and romaine. They also place emphasis on supporting local farmers and integrating with San Diego culture.   

Moncai Vegan ($8-$15)

Located in Normal Heights, Moncai Vegan is a quaint restaurant that you might miss if you are walking by. Small and modest, Moncai is a cozy place that uses local and organic ingredients to create its dishes. The interior of Moncai is eclectic and rustic, filled with artwork and plants that make the place charming. As it is a smaller restaurant, the menu is also more limited. However, the few dishes that they do have on the menu are delicately crafted. Moncai’s donuts are particularly tasty. Although vegan baked goods can sometimes be tough to execute, Moncai’s donuts are on par with regular ones. On Sundays, Moncai serves vegan brunch as well, which is arguably what they are most famous for.

Peace Pies ($11-$30)

The only fully raw ingredient restaurant of this list, Peace Pies is one of the most unique vegan restaurants in San Diego. They use mostly locally-sourced ingredients to make their creative dishes and desserts. They offer a variety of foods from raw pizza to raw wraps and chocolates, and they are constantly on a quest to create new, innovative raw dishes. The raw quesadilla is a popular order, as well as the variety of cakes. Not only is the food insanely good, but it’s insanely good for you as well. The only common complaint with peace pies is that the prices can seem steep for food that is completely raw.

Plant Power (Under $10)

This drive-thru vegan option serves up classic fast food minus the meat. It’s a great place for the plant-based population to indulge on junk food without the guilt. They have a long list of vegan burgers, salads, and childhood classics like mini corn dogs and taco roll-ups. And if you’re thirsty you can choose between almond milk shakes or kombucha on tap.

They open for breakfast at 7 a.m. every day and serve up classic diner food like “chicken” and waffles and maple “sausage.” You can eat inside at their Ocean Beach location or you can get it quickly to go.

Apart from these six restaurants, there are still many other restaurants around San Diego that are fully vegan. Even more restaurants are beginning to offer vegan sections or locally-sourced ingredients. With the gradual rise in popularity of veganism, there are more and more people who are creating a demand for plant-based restaurants.

Written by Casey Huang, Contributor