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The ultimate vegan road trip through California


If the wanderlust runs through your vegan veins, the ultimate California road trip is probably at the top of your bucket list. This itinerary takes you from San Diego to San Francisco, where you’ll nibble on purple taquitos in Costa Mesa, dig into a popcorn-coated mac and cheese in Santa Barbara, and hold on to a grilled Po’Boy shrimp on crispy Dutch bread in Oakland. Don’t be so surprised – the Golden State makes way more than $ 16 avocado toast. Buckle up and set up your Google Maps to drive the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. California is calling.

San Diego

San Diego’s dining scene offers plenty of variety, including sushi, vegan versions of fast-food classics, rustic home-style cooking, and more to get this delightful road trip off the ground.

Donna Jean

Donna Jean

With an extensive menu of risotto, pizzas, breakfast calzones, and handmade pasta, it’s no surprise that Donna Jean is one of the best vegan restaurants in San Diego. Carbohydrates rule this cuisine – from the cast iron mac and cheese to the irresistible house bread and butter – but it’s highly recommended that you leave room for the crispy hot shrooms (fried Nashville-style oyster mushrooms) and the delicious beet tartare. Pro tip: don’t skip dessert.
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VegNews.KindredBar kinship

relationship

If you like your vegan brunch with a punk twist, Kindred is the place for you. The ambience is a tough juxtaposition of unabashed pink walls, which are accentuated with a four-eyed wolf sculpture and a skull decoration. Hearty bánh mì French toast sticks (crusties) and a country-fried sausage sandwich (The Forenoon) are two local favorites that go enticingly with one of the restaurant’s many brunch cocktails.
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Other notable restaurants in San Diego County include The Plot in Oceanside, Civico 1845 (multiple locations), Tribute Pizza in North Park, Split Bakehouse in La Mesa, Maya’s Cookies in San Diego, and The Yesai (multiple locations).

Orange County

Orange County is littered with amazing vegan restaurants and hidden gems. If you need to keep your visit short, The Camp and The LAB Anti-Mall on Costa Mesa has a collection of vegan restaurants and cool shops to keep you entertained between meals.

VegNews.GoodtowndonutsGood city donuts

Good city donuts

Next door to Seabirds Kitchen, Good Town Donuts offers brioche-style donuts (around half are vegan). Tempting flavors include mango coconut, lemon poppy seeds, matcha, chocolate strawberry, and more. If you are undecided, opt for the pre-packaged vegan assortment box, which contains six adorable miniature donuts in the shop’s best-selling flavors.
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VegNews.SeabirdsSeabirds kitchen

Seabirds kitchen

Seabirds Kitchen is a great stop for anyone who craves cool California cuisine. Get a seat on the terrace for brunch and enjoy the sweet and savory Porque Maria – Seabird’s version of a Monte Cristo sandwich – between sips and nibbles, enjoy a fried Birdy Mary with cucumber top (the restaurant’s Bloody Mary). At night, this terrace turns on the twinkling lights while diners eat crispy purple taquitos, beer battered avo tacos, and a controversial but delicious Beets Me burger with almond butter. Local tip: If you have two or two to eat, share the chaffle for dessert – this churro waffle sundae is the perfect meal.
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Other notable stops in Orange County include Kenshō Vegan Sushi (various locations), Munchie’s Diner, Naughty Vegan and Soy Concha in Santa Ana, Vegan by El Zamorano in Costa Mesa, Freesoulcaffe in Tustin, Gracias Madre in Newport Beach and The Stand in Laguna beach .

Los Angeles

In a city as sprawling and progressive as Los Angeles, there are curated vegan restaurant guides for every neighborhood. If LA is just one detour on a long list of California coastal cities, stick to the established venues in Venice and Santa Monica to avoid the inevitable traffic through the city.

VegNews.ErinMckennasInstagram: @Spiralglue

Erin McKenna’s Bakery

Erin McKenna’s groundbreaking bakery on the coast makes something sweet and savory for everyone, regardless of dietary preferences or food sensitivities. Everything on the menu is gluten, dairy, egg and soy free. Locals have been visiting this bright pink shop front for years and still struggling to decide what to buy – it’s all adorable. Topping the list are a slice of Cinnamon Crumb Cake, Coffee Crunch Donut, hearty Veggie Bombs, and the Bakery Sink Dessert Cup – a 16-ounce tumbler filled with pieces of cake and a variety of flavored donuts.
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VegNews.PFWPlant food and wine

Plant food and wine

Three words: cacio e pepe. Celebrity chef Matthew Kenney creates a fabulous vegan reinvention of this classic Italian dish with soft seaweed noodles served in an umami-rich cashew cheese sauce with black pepper and brought to life with fresh spring peas. Every menu item is precisely presented and expertly prepared – budget for a handful of dishes to sample the culinary talents of this haute cuisine. It’s high-end for sure, but well worth spending it.
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Other outstanding positions in Los Angeles include Magpies Soft Serve (various locations), Pura Vita Pizzeria in West Hollywood, Gracias Madre in West Hollywood, Flore in Silver Lake, Ladurée in Beverly Hills, Rahel’s in Little Ethiopia, El Cocinero in Sherman Oaks and Monty’s Good Burger (various locations).

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara’s food scene is heavily reliant on tourism, which means there are more bistros and upscale restaurants than fast-casual eateries. There are only a handful of fully vegan restaurants in Santa Barbara, but the few that do are pretty memorable.

VegNews.MesaVerdeMesa Verde

Mesa Verde

This completely vegan restaurant nails California cool cuisine. The menu favors vegetables over alternative vegan meat options, highlights seasonal produce, and turns mushrooms and jackfruit into meaty chorizo ​​and savory handles. Favorites include the pumpkin blossom quesadillas, picadillo empanadas, and loaded polenta fries.
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VegNews.Satellitesatellite

satellite

The Satellite’s menu is vegetarian and changes regularly, but you can always find plenty of clearly labeled vegan options. Try the Yoga Pants Salad or shred the cast iron garlic focaccia while sipping one of the fabulous wines. Note: the restaurant doubles as a wine shop, so buy a few bottles for on the go (when you get to your next destination, of course).
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Other great stops would be Oliver’s, The Natural Cafe, Fala Bar in Santa Barbara, Bliss Cafe and Ziggy’s in San Luis Obispo, and Shine Cafe in Morro Bay.

Monterey

Monterey may be small in population and size, but it is not to be missed on a coastal tour of the Golden State. It’s not a huge vegan hub like Los Angeles or Orange County, but there are plenty of vegan-friendly places to support your beach and hiking activities. Check out these two next time you’re up north.

VegNews.ElCantaroInstagram: @glitteryotters

El Cantaro

El Cantaro delivers high quality vegan food at a good value for money. For the same price as two Chipotle burritos, you can feed two people with a large combination plate and a few side dishes. This benefits the budget traveler as you will want to try every vegan option on the menu. Start with the vegan taquitos, try the mushroom quesadilla, and top off the meal with fried plantains served with non-dairy ice cream.
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VegNews.JuliasJulias

Julias

For an evening of live music and great vegan food, Julia’s is the place. The menu is vegetarian, but most of the dishes are vegan or can be prepared vegan (more often with substitutes than without omissions). Pro tip: Happy hour starts at 8 p.m. and lasts all night. Take advantage of late night specials and get a free vegan tamale when you order a drink!
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Other stops in Monterey and on the way to the Bay Area are the Saffron Cafe, the Central Coast Juicery in Pacific Grove, Pretty Good Advice in Soquel and Zachary’s and Veg on the Edge in Santa Cruz.

Bay area

You could spend a month in the Bay Area with more to see and eat. However, if you only have a few days to spare, stick to the vegan highlights in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley for a plant-based taste of the bay.

VegNews.ShizenShizen

Shizen vegan sushi bar

Shizen is a very popular vegan sushi and izakaya bar that offers a fusion of vegetarian Japanese and Californian cuisine. Expect flawless vegan nigiri, intricate sushi rolls, and a wide variety of grilled, braised, and fried vegetable dishes.
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VegNews.TimelessCoffeeTimeless coffee roasters

Timeless coffee roaster and bakery

Timeless Coffee is a vegan bakery and coffee roaster that offers everything you need for a good start to the day. Whether you crave a sweet blueberry scone dusted with powdered sugar or a hearty frittata without an egg, Timeless Coffee serves it with an excellent cup of coffee or a non-dairy latte.
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VegNews.ThebutchersonThe butcher’s son

The butcher’s son

The sibling duo who own this vegan deli wanted to offer their community nostalgic comfort food without animal ingredients. The wide range of options includes monstrous meat and cheese sandwiches, a la carte deli side dishes, and homemade sweets. Be sure to arrive early as this place closes at 3:00 p.m. on weekdays and 4:00 p.m. on weekends.
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Other great stops in San Francisco include Wildseed, BAIA, Vegan Picnic, Gracias Madre, and Nourish Cafe. In Oakland, try Souley Vegan, Eternal, Bare Knuckle Pizza, Malibus Burgers, and Millennium. In Berkeley, check out Cha-Ya, Ethiopian cuisine from Kaffa and stand-up burgers. Outside of these cities, check out Retrograde Coffee Roasters in Sebastopol, Amy’s Drive Thru (multiple locations), and Blossom Vegan in Pleasanton.

We hope this ultimate California road trip inspires you to try new dishes, support small businesses, and explore new horizons. Have fun vegan travel!

Brianne Nemiroff is co-founder of a vegan travel website, It’s Bree and Ben, as well as the Product Sourcing Specialist for Children’s beauty.

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