Purple Mint Vegan Restaurant San Diego

I became a vegan in San Diego. My decision was based on a combination health, ethical and environmental concerns and I truly feel that my wellbeing has been greatly enhanced as a result of this choice. I really do feel better in my body and soul sticking to plant products.

However, being vegan or even vegetarian in our meat-eating world can be tricky: veggie restaurants may be few and a far between. I was lucky to have made the switch in San Diego, a relatively veggie friendly city with quite a number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants to choose from.

This is my top 5:

1. Plumeria

Plumeria, located in University Heights, is hands down my favorite restaurant in San Diego. I have been there numerous times and have literally never been disappointed or even underwhelmed- you just cannot go wrong with this place. They serve exquisitely flavorful Thai dishes that are mostly vegan- the only animal products you will find is optional egg on some dishes. Their crispy “duck” is to die for and their Thai ice tea is among the best I’ve ever had- not overwhelmingly sweet, a common pitfall I find, but full of flavor. My favorite dishes have been the Larb and Ka Pow. The service is courteous, the atmosphere friendly and casual and the pricing reasonable. I highly recommend this place for vegans and carnivores alike!

2. Veganic Thai Cafe

Veganic Thai in Hillcrest hasn’t been open for very long but I fell in love with it on my first visit. The decor is lovely with beautiful artwork covering the walls and the food does not disappoint. I find it to be similar to Plumeria, yet with it’s own flavor. Their Pad Thai is yummy and I really enjoyed their flavorful fire pot soups. It’s less buzzing with people than Plumeria so those in favor of a more quiet atmosphere will definitely enjoy it. Their homemade Thai tea ice cream is also delicious.

3. The Purple Mint Vegetarian Bistro

As I am a big fan of Asian food, it may come as no surprise that my top 3 is rounded up by an Asian fusion restaurant: The Purple Mint Vegetarian Bistro in the Grantville/Mission Gorge area. In terms of decor, this place scores a win in the zen category- don’t let the strip mall location fool you! Step in and discover a beautifully decorated space complete with a koi pond that makes you just want to linger and relax. The menu includes not only delicious and ingenious dishes (Black Rice Pasta in Coconut Milk- unique and distinctive!), but also some enticing and beautifully served ice teas: I loved the Chrysanthemum with aloe vera jelly. And they also serve vegan cakes.

4. Evolution Fast Food

Evolution promises delicious vegan fast food and delivers in spades. I thoroughly enjoy their burgers: EVO, Bacon Cheese, Mushroom Swiss and South of the Border. Tempeh and black bean are my favorites in terms of the three burger patties to choose from- both are very tasty. Their fries are good, as is their house-made ketchup. And they have kombucha on tap! You can get your food to go, or enjoy it on their back patio. It’s the perfect vegan fast food experience!

Evolution Vegan Fast Food Patio

5. Jyoti Bihanga/Moncai Vegan

My number 5 is a tie between the spiritually inspired Jyoti Bihanga and the cozy and quaint Moncai Vegan, both located on Adams Avenue. My favorites at Jyoti Bihanga have included the Cali Burger, Zen Avocado and Neatloaf Sandwich, as well as their calming Nirvana tea. The space is lovely and full of light from the beautiful tall arched windows facing Adams Avenue. They have great desert specials as well!

Moncai Vegan, true to its name, is fully vegan. They serve some of the finest BLTA sandwiches in town, which I doubt would disappoint even the pickiest carnivore. Their daily specials tend to be excellent, so I would definitely check with the server before making a decision. Moncai Vegan also boasts a great selection of donuts and other desserts for those with a sweet tooth.

Other Vegan & Vegetarian Options

For the lucky San Diegans and visitors alike, there are many other vegan and vegetarian restaurants to choose from. Some of the ones that I have visited and would recommend include the following, in no particular order:

Cafe Gratitude

Sipz Vegetarian Fuzion Cafe

Loving Hut

Sol Cal Cafe


Native Foods

Peace Pies

Bonus: Where to Shop for Local, Organic Produce in San Diego

As a final bonus for those of us for whom eating out is actually an exception rather than the rule, the following is my favorite place to shop for reasonably priced local organic ingredients for home cooking in San Diego:

Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market

A friendly vegetarian organic coop that offers everything I ever needed for my home cooking. A great selection of bulk items as well as organic vegetables and fruits of every type. What I love about this place is that it’s truly organic: you don’t have to look for the organic section. In fact, the few non-organic items they carry are in a little corner, reminiscent of the organic sections you would normally find in a conventional grocery store- a welcome role reversal if you ask me! The pricing is very reasonable and there is even a cafe upstairs with a hot bar, in case you needed a bite. Membership costs $15/year, which is a small price to pay for member discounts.

Plumeria Vegetarian San Diego

There you have it, my homage to the veggie scene of America’s Finest City which I had the pleasure of being a part of for a few years.

For all the vegans and vegetarians out there: what has been your experience? Are you able to find vegan and/or vegetarian restaurants in your area?

And to all the carnivores: have you been to a vegan/vegetarian restaurant? What did you think?

All images © 2014-2017 Pauliina Parris. // All rights reserved.