San Diego's Most Vegan-Friendly Neighborhoods

While most people are drawn to San Diego’s miles of coastline, beautiful beaches, and big-city amenities, vegans can benefit in unique ways.

With year-round sunshine and temperate weather that’s perfect for growing fresh produce, San Diego is an ideal city for anyone on a plant-based diet. Besides fresh, locally sourced fruits and veggies being available all year long, San Diego hosts a long list of vegan restaurants and vegan-friendly establishments. 

Here are four of San Diego’s most vegan-friendly neighborhoods.

Hillcrest

Hillcrest Sign
Sign in Hillcrest

Just north of Downtown San Diego along 5th Avenue, this highly walkable hub is home to restaurants, late-night bars, second-hand shops, independent bookstores, eclectic boutiques, and a handful of well-loved wine bars. The vibrant community is known for its bright optimism and its history of bold activism, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that several vegan businesses have taken root here.

Spots to Check Out:

  • Veganic Thai Cafe: Veganic, a portmanteau of organic and vegan, is a little restaurant that marries Thai flavors with vegan ingredients.
  • Starry Lane Bakery: Starry Lane Bakery focuses on making sweet treats for people who have allergies or follow strict diets. Their baked goods come in vegan, nut-free, and soy-free varieties. With the exception of corn, their cupcakes are free of almost every common allergen.
  • Whole Foods: The chain organic grocer has become a household name, and this huge outpost is one of the few in San Diego.

Ocean Beach

Wall Mural in Ocean Beach
Wall Mural in Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is known as a surfer haven and hippie hangout with a come-as-you-are attitude. This neighborhood hosts dozens of bars, shops, yoga studios, and alternative healing centers. With its funky atmosphere, it’s not surprising that vegan businesses flourish in this not-so-sleepy oceanside community. 

Spots to Check Out:

  • OB Farmers Market: Second only to the Farmer’s Market in Little Italy, the OB Farmers Market shuts down Ocean Beach’s main drag every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Instead of cars, attendees find live music and dozens of vendors selling farm-to-your-table produce and handmade goods.
  • Plant Power: Plant Power is a local chain of fast, plant-based food that doesn’t skimp on flavor or creativity. Don’t miss the Voodoo Fries.
  • Hugo’s Cocina: This Mexican joint is all about mixing authentic flavors with vegan proteins like soyrizo and tempeh.

University Heights

Home in University heights
Home in University Heights

In comparison to the aforementioned vegan-friendly neighborhoods, the lowkey University Heights probably seems like a surprising pick. But don’t underestimate Hillcrest’s quiet, close-knit neighbor. University Heights is filled with taco restaurants, spiritual centers, and several fair trade coffee shops.

Spots to Check Out:

  • Grains: This vegan cafe makes animal-product free versions of foods spanning a variety of international cuisines. The food is flavorful enough that you don’t miss the meat.
  • Plumeria: Plumeria creates vegan versions of primarily Asian dishes. All the dishes they serve are free of non-vegan Asian staples like fish sauce, and they use non-GMO, locally made soy products.
  • The Modern Vegan: Opened in June 2019, The Modern Vegan specializes in comfort classics without the meat and cheese. Fan favorites include mac and cheese balls and a vegan take on chicken and waffles. Their menu is massive, with over 170 items to choose from.

Little Italy

Little Italy Sign
Little Italy Sign

Perched over the San Diego Harbor just north of the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy evokes the scents and scenes of an Italian villa. This part of town is where San Diegans go for pasta sauce that tastes just like Grandma’s. Beyond enough fresh bread to put the average person into a food coma, Little Italy has all the amenities that cater to more modern sensibilities, including home furnishing shops, art galleries, street art, and vegan restaurants.

Spots to Check Out:

  • Little Italy Farmers Market: Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., this neighborhood hosts what’s undoubtedly San Diego’s best farmers market. The Little Italy Mercato features over 200 stalls with a little of everything, and vegans can find dairy-free versions of ice cream and baked treats.
  • Cafe Gratitude: This small SoCal chain has three other locations in the Los Angeles area. Their only San Diego location has a menu featuring plant-based alternatives to classic lunch staples with names that double as positive affirmations.
  • Civico 1845: Going to Little Italy without getting something Italian just seems wrong, but most traditional Italian dishes are loaded with cheese and eggs. Civicia 1845 doesn’t exclusively serve vegan food, but they do have an extensive vegan menu with everything from antipasti to dessert.
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