11 California Vegan Restaurants to Add to Your Bucket List

Time to eat your way through California— vegan style.

by Arianna Kotlier

California is progressive, trendy, and also #veganaf. Between major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Berkeley, there are a plethora of vegan-friendly eateries for those of us who like to keep it plant-based. I'm not sure if other vegans have experienced this, but after I went vegan two years ago, I became a MAJOR foodie— hence this California vegan restaurant bucket list. 

As a little disclaimer: I'm only including all of my picks throughout California just to keep this article compact.  

And finally, the moment you probably skipped my introduction for...... a hardcore vegan foodie's restaurant bucket list.  

1. Gracias Madre— San Francisco 

With two locations in California (San Francisco and Los Angeles), Gracias Madre boasts organic, farm fresh, and locally sourced plant-based Mexican cuisine. The price-point is a little higher, but the food quality is impeccable: the cashew crema featured in many of their dishes is priceless. I'm definitely guilty of ordering an extra side and eating it straight off the spoon. This is a great spot for ordering a variety of dishes off the menu and sharing tapas-style with friends and family. 

2. Timeless Coffee— Oakland 

Now, Timeless Coffee is pretty unique in my eyes considering its mission to serve only ethically sourced coffee and its expansive selection of homemade truffles, scones, cheesecakes, and basically anything else you could ever want. It's 100 percent vegan and they serve brunch.

This place is truly one of Oakland's hidden gems, with not only an incredible aesthetic, but some killer menu items including breakfast buns (bagels stuffed with vegan cream cheese), gourmet waffles, soft serve ice cream, and donut sandwiches.

Also, true words from a non-vegan foodie friend: get the breakfast bun. 

3. Trilogy Sanctuary Cafe— La Jolla 

Trilogy Sanctuary, an award-winning La Jolla yoga studio and cafe, has been getting quite a bit of press recently, especially from vegan YouTubers. As an all organic, vegan cafe, Trilogy offers an incredible variety of vibrant, healthy dishes for yogis and foodies alike. Complete with a rooftop offering sweeping San Diego ocean views, Trilogy is the perfect place to enjoy a fresh superfood smoothie and a raw treat.

Apart from snacks and smoothie, this alternative cafe's menu includes whole food, plant-based customer favorites such as nachos, ravioli, pizza, tacos, and even cheesecake. 

4. Saturn Cafe— Berkeley 

Looking for the perfect funky, old-school diner to go to with your friends for brunch on the weekend or to satisfy some late night hunger? Saturn Cafe could be your perfect place. With locations in Santa Cruz and Berkeley, this vegetarian diner has all the classics including burgers, fries, milkshakes, and pancakes.

My favorite part? The massive, shiny glass dessert case that emulates any non-vegan diner. I can attest to saying that their carrot cake loaf was ridiculously good, as well as their fudgy chocolate cupcakes that left me swooning. And yes, their desserts have stamps of approval from my non-vegan friends as well. Done and done.

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5. Mesa Verde— Santa Barbara 

Oh, Mesa Verde. With a sophisticated menu focused on whole, locally sourced ingredients, this Santa Barbara restaurant is the perfect special occasion dinner location. I mean, look at that artisan nut and cheese platter. Does that not scream classy dinner to you?

Its minimalist interior also provides the perfect setting for Instagram photo shoots, and once you're done, you can dig in to a variety of carefully crafted plates loaded with fresh produce. The chefs in Mesa Verde's organic, vegan, and gluten-free kitchen have a keen eye for presentation, making use of edible flowers, sauces, and stunning garnishes. Basically, for brunch, lunch, or dinner, your social media followers will be experiencing some serious food envy. 

6. Yoga-urt— Glendale 

Yoga-urt, an all-vegan frozen yogurt shop located in Glendale California, is dedicated to bringing Namaste into their customers' lives as well as some kick-ass vegan froyo. 

With inventive flavors such as coconut chai, sweet greens, and a lavender blossom, this organic treat shop is clearly on point with the newest foodie trends. For those of you who love the classics, don't despair— I hear they make incredible vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, and tart flavors as well.

They even do Taco Tuesdays, where you can choose any flavor and construct your own choco-taco. If the tacos aren't your speed (I'm not sure why they wouldn't be), Yoga-urt also does Kombucha floats featuring Humm kombucha.

7. Charlie Hong Kong— Santa Cruz 

Located just down the street from my favorite hippie health food store, Charlie Hong Kong has been a family favorite of ours for years. With a sign on the wall that claims "We're organic because we love your body," this casual asian fusion joint strives to serve the Santa Cruz community with healthy, wholesome food (and giant portions to boot). 

If there is any restaurant I crave food from all the time, it would have to be Charlie Hong Kong. Without fail, every time I visit Santa Cruz, I eat lunch or dinner here and I order the same exact thing. Now listen up, because this is THE dish to order: The Gado Gado (stir-fried veggies in a black bean and spicy organic peanut sauce with Jasmine rice) plus the sweet chili garlic tofu is the warm, comforting meal of my dreams. 

In addition, unlike many of the spots on this list, CHK is not fully vegan, so it's a great healthy eatery for vegans and omnivores alike. Honestly, though, how could you resist their sweet chili garlic tofu??

8. Bliss Cafe— San Luis Obispo 

Bliss Cafe holds a special place in my heart, considering it is located in my university's downtown area. With fresh, local, and organic ingredients (sensing a theme here?), Bliss Cafe's whole foods-focused menu has an amazing variety of Buddha bowls, curries, burritos, salads, and wraps. Whenever I walk in to grab a bite to eat, I stand in front of the menu for at least five minutes trying to decide what in the world I want. My go-to? The protein buddha bowl (pictured above) is filled with brown rice, tofu, steamed kale, roasted potatoes, a generous serving of avo, and a pesto sauce. 

With a killer peanut butter chocolate acai bowl and a wide variety of juices, smoothies, and kombucha, Bliss Cafe truly has something for everyone. 

9. Cinnaholic— Berkeley 

First off, if this picture doesn't make you google Cinnaholic right away, you should probably do that. Founded by two Northern CA entrepreneurs, Cinnaholic is home to gourmet vegan cinnamon rolls with nationwide (yes, nationwide) delivery. Each shop has over 15 different frostings and toppings to choose from to customize your perfect roll. And no, it's not as easy as it sounds, trust me. 

My tried-and-true combos? Peanut butter frosting and cookie dough, or macadamia nut frosting with homemade fudge brownie chunks.

10. Cha-Ya Vegetarian— San Francisco 

Cha-Ya is one of those places that is definitely under the radar for most people, but when you love Japanese food as much as I do....that's another story. The menu has all the classics— tempura, udon, sushi, gyoza, curry, miso soup— you name it, they've got it.

By the way, the beautiful array of veggies above is actually Cha-Ya's extremely popular soba noodle salad, arranged to perfection. A plant-filled plate of art, honestly. 

11. By CHLOE— Los Angeles 

By now, I'm sure we've ALL heard of By CHLOE. Guac burger, anyone? Started by Cupcake Wars winner Chloe Coscarelli, By CHLOE is the epitome of an Instagram worthy spot. Like its founder, By CHLOE is all vegan and aesthetic af. I'm talking the food and the physical restaurant locations. 

Now for the food. The Kale Caesar salad and Mac N' Cheese pretty much made me cry tears of joy. To round off your meal, you should probably order some of Chloe's signature buttery desserts or some kale cookies and cream ice cream. Yes, you read that right. KALE. 

Well, that's a wrap. This is my ultimate vegan bucket list of restaurants, bakeries, dessert shops, and cafes across the Golden state that are sure to transport anyone into a plant-based state of bliss (and kill your Instagram #foodporn game).

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