A Search for Great Vegan Food in San Diego

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OB People’s Organic Food Market: Vegan Friendly

People's Co-Op Sign
People’s Co-Op Sign


OCEAN BEACH.  Since 1972, People’s Co-Op has been ground zero for vegans.   It is a 6,000 square foot, member-owned vegetarian co-op (anyone can join!) in Ocean Beach.  How important is People’s to me?  I live in Ocean Beach, because I want to be able to walk to there.  It makes being vegan easy.  It makes being vegan fun.

I have wanted to write a review of People’s Co-Op for a long time.  The post has been slow in coming, because the task of highlighting all of People’s great features is daunting.  So my People’s posts will be done in separate parts – and this particular post will focus on breakfast.


People’s Basics:


People’s exists on two levels.  The first floor is a vegetarian grocery store, and the upstairs offers prepared food – strictly vegan!


People's Downstairs
People’s Downstairs


People's Upstairs
People’s Upstairs


Again, ALL of the food on the second level is vegan!  People’s provides ingredient lists for all of its dishes, but folks wary of hidden dairy and eggs can relax and order without worry.

And the variety is abundant.  There are always two home made soups, an extensive “do it yourself” salad bar, a cold case of specialty salads (usually between four and eight options), the hot dishes (yum!), a bakery case (double yum!), and an additional cold case of packaged “to go” items, drinks, and tempting desserts.  Choose a plate for here, or take anything to go.  Keep it simple with rice, beans, and broccoli for $3.99 per pound, or treat yourself to the main fare for $7.29 per pound.  You can order as much, or as little, as your heart desires.  Oh, and the friendly folks behind the counter are incredibly knowledgeable and quick to offer a sample of whatever catches your eye.


People’s Breakfast:


At 8:00 a.m, every day, the doors open to a piping hot breakfast.  The options are fairly consistent:  there is usually (1) a tofu scramble, (2) potatoes, (3) sautéed greens, (4) biscuits and gravy, (5) rice, (6) beans, and (7) breakfast sandwiches.


People's Co-Op Breakfast Entrees
People’s Co-Op Breakfast Entrees


Each option is excellent and beloved by the members.  The tofu scramble has subtle changes day-to-day (I love it when they put in sun dried tomatoes), but the seasoning is always perfect.  The potatoes come out of the oven crispy.  And believe it or not, the greens tend to disappear most quickly.  A popular version – called “Steve’s Greens” (pictured on my plate) – is a sauté of kale, garlic, onion, sunflower oil, and ume vinegar.  I could eat a whole plate full of these greens.  They are an easy way to get in a serving of veggies (or three) before lunch!

For vegans who miss comfort food, People’s offers their biscuits and gravy.  How can they make soft and fluffy biscuits without milk or butter?  Because the second floor is a vegan think tank.  These folks constantly brainstorm new ideas and experiment when the mood moves them.  For example, I walked in one morning to find (and devour) what might have been the best french toast of my life.  And why was it there?  Because, according to one inside source, “somebody felt like making it that day.”  This is the opposite of bureaucracy – this is a nimble organization driven by real people who want to offer healthy, creative food.

And at the same time, unsurprisingly, People’s knows how to do the basics well.  The brown rice is short grain perfection, and the beans (alternating between pinto and black) are firm, simple, and flavorful.  Standing alone, they are a great.  And paired with the other entrees, they provide a powerful foundation for a filling meal.


My People's Breakfast Plate
My People’s Breakfast Plate


Finally, People’s has created its own Breakfast Sandwich made up from spelt English muffins, tempeh sausage, vegenaise, and tomato. The tempeh sausage is spicy and hearty.  The vegenaise provides a rich flavor, and the tomato provides the token produce that makes us feel better about eating the sandwich!  If you arrive at People’s hungry and are looking for something easy to eat on the go, the Breakfast Sandwich is a great choice.


People's Breakfast Sandwich
People’s Breakfast Sandwich


You never know what vegan treasures you will find in the bakery section.  This morning, for example, People’s was featuring (1) Raspberry Chocolate Chip Scones, (2) Blueberry Muffins, and (3) Agave Raspberry Muffins.  The Raspberry Chocolate Chip Scones evoked my lust for chocolate and did not disappoint – I especially enjoyed where the soft raspberry flavor connected with the pockets of rich dark chocolate.


People's Raspberry Chocolate Chip Scone
People’s Raspberry Chocolate Chip Scone


People’s also provides bagels twists from Point Loma Bagels that are free from egg and egg wash.  I confess I have never tried a bagel twist (I am far too devoted to the other breakfast options), but I have noticed that they fly off the shelves.


People's Bagel Twists
People’s Bagel Twists


Finally, how could breakfast be complete without coffee or tea? People’s has set up a self serve station for both!  There are usually 3 coffees brews, one of which is decaf.  The tea rack is stocked with 12 different types of teas ranging from Yerba Mate to Lemon Ginger.  Need to add something to your drink?  No problem.  There is non-dairy creamer, sugar, and agave for your morning beverages.


People's Tea and Coffee
People’s Tea and Coffee


My review of People’s could not possibly be complete if I didn’t mention the employees.  Quite simply, People’s people are the best.  They genuinely seem to enjoy the job, support the mission, and know the members. Their smiles, suggestions, and positive attitudes ensure that every experience at People’s is a bright point in my day.




4765 Voltaire Street

San Diego, CA 92107



Casa de Luz: 100% Vegan

Casa de Luz Sign
Casa de Luz Sign


NORTH PARK.  Casa de Luz is a 100% vegan, 100% macrobiotic, 100% organic, and 100% gluten free restaurant in North Park.  Further, Casa de Luz offers itself as an educational community center.  This is what makes it special.  Casa transcends the common boundaries of a restaurant to focus on events, classes, and bringing the community together.

What is Macrobiotic Food?


For most folks walking into Casa for the first time, the question immediately becomes:  “What is macrobiotic food?”  Turns out, however, that this is a challenging question to answer.

The word “macrobiotic” derives from Greek and means “long life.”  But the diet originated in Japan, then spread across borders of nationality and culture.  Today, many advocates of the macrobiotic diet embrace both principles of East Asian philosophy and the objectives of the western vegan diet.  And for many, it is a lifestyle choice.

Whether a diet or a lifestyle, macrobiotics promotes eating local, seasonal foods that are “balanced.”  Specifically, this targeted balance is a function of (1) each food’s inherent acidity versus alkalinity, and (2) the dueling energies of yin and yang.  First, because most people in modern society consume highly acidic foods – which yield a lower pH level in the blood – macrobiotics recommends more alkaline food and drink.   The list of highly acidic foods is long and surprising.  For example, both milk and sugar are highly acidic.  If you want to see where other foods land on the spectrum of alkalinity and acidity, here is a good website:


Second, and much more mystifying to me, is the pursuit of a balance between the energies of yin (the expanding, outward force) and yang (the contracting inward force).  The good news:  the body seems to crave a balance between the two.  The bad news:  it often craves the extremes, paired together.  Wine (yin) and cheese (yang).  Beer (yin) and burgers (yang).  Unfortunately, each of these foods is highly acidic and – huge surprise – not so good for you.  As a result, macrobiotics relies on foods that are inherently balanced – even on their own – such as certain grains and most of the plant kingdom.  Here is a more robust listing:


Bottom line, with macrobiotics, it feels like you need at least a Masters degree just to put together a single meal.  But this is where Casa de Luz comes in!  Casa has the experts who do all the thinking, all the planning, and all the cooking for us simple folk.  All we have to do is show up!


Meals at Casa de Luz:


The menu at Casa de Luz changes daily.  If you don’t like surprises, simply check Casa’s website for the daily menu!  You can also consult the schedule outlining which cuisines (Asian, Italian, etc.) are served on certain days.  Except for Friday and Saturday, because those days are Chef’s Choice!


Casa Theme Nights Schedule
Casa Theme Nights Schedule


Lunch: 11:00am – 5:00pm

Dinner: 5:00pm – 9:00pm


For both Lunch and Dinner, Casa offers two options: (1) Plate or (2) Seasonal Bowl.


1. Plate:

The Plate consistently offers the same building blocks for a true macrobiotic meal: leafy green + grain + bean + veggie + pickle.  The Plate also comes with soup, salad, AND tea.   In fact, you pick up your soup and salad immediately after ordering and paying at the front desk.  Then, later, a Casa staff member will bring the main Plate to your table.


Sample of Casa Lunch and Dinner Menu
Sample of Casa Lunch and Dinner Menu


On my most recent visit, the soup was Wild Rice and Veggie.   The veggies, celery, zucchini, onions, and carrots, were perfectly tender (but not overly soft).  The flavor, sublime and wonderful, is an excellent example of how macrobiotic food stands apart.  It is not salty, not spicy, and not infused with other flavors seeking to dominate the taste buds.  This soup relies on the quality of its vegetables.  And this soup disappears quickly.


Casas Wild Rice and Veggie Soup
Casas Wild Rice and Veggie Soup


Next up was the salad: mixed greens, carrots, and cabbage with a nutty fig balsamic dressing.  Casa’s salads never disappoint.  The greens and veggies are always fresh, and the salad dressings are unique and home made.  The nutty, fig, balsamic dressing was a special treat.


Casas Salad
Casas Salad


The Plate showcased how simple, sturdy blocks can build something wonderful.  The leafy green was kale with a walnut-dill sauce.  The grain was a blend of coconut quinoa and brown rice.  The bean of the night was the reliable black bean, and the vegetable was lemon-herbed broccoli.  Finally, the pickle was not a single stick of cucumber but, rather, a fun medley of unexpected veggies.

The delight is in the details.  The walnut-dill sauce brings the kale alive, and the grains are cooked to the point of perfection – not beyond.  Also, pickled vegetables inject the plate with acute flavor that somehow ends up on the alkaline end of the spectrum.  It is a weird science, but delicious.


Sample of Casas Entree
Sample of Casas Entree


2. Seasonal Bowls:

Your second option when ordering lunch or dinner is one of two Seasonal Bowls.  These bowls are a recent (and welcome!) addition to Casa’s menu.  They are great for those times when you are not hungry enough to eat a soup, salad, AND entree plate (or when you don’t have a lot of time to eat).


Casas Bowl Sign
Casas Bowl Sign


The two Seasonal Bowls available right now are the: (i) Tempeh Chili with Tofu Crema and Cornbread and (ii) Grilled Pineapple Curry with Brown Rice.  I recently tried the Tempeh Chili.  Wow.  The chili was warm with a hint of spice.  The tofu crema was creamy (move over, sour cream) and the cornbread was soft, moist, and full of actual kernels of corn.  Always real food.  Always amazing.


Casas Tempeh Chili with Tofu Crema and Cornbread
Casas Tempeh Chili with Tofu Crema and Cornbread


Weekend Brunch


Casa de Luz has recently stopped serving breakfast on the weekdays.  However, rumor on the street is that Casa will begin a weekend Champagne/Kombucha brunch in November.  This is one brunch I don’t want to miss.  Stay tuned for a follow up post!



If you have room for dessert after your meal, take a look at Casa’s display case to the left of the cashier.  Cookies, puddings, maple bars, cheesecake, and more!  How are they vegan?  Casa magic.

Most recently, I tried the Mexican Chocolate Mousse.  To say it exceeded my expectations would be a gross understatement.  This was the richest, most intensely chocolate mousse I have tasted.  Ever.   The type of rich where you close your eyes each time you take a bite.


Casas Mexican Chocolate Mousse
Casas Mexican Chocolate Mousse


Smoothies and Juices:


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the special smoothies and juices offered at Casa de Luz.  Casa offers four smoothies or you can create your own juice!  Because the ingredients are of the highest quality, each smoothie and juice is a standout.


Casas Smoothie Board
Casas Smoothie Board


I enjoy the Leafy Green Smoothie.  Made from kale, green, apple, cucumber, Vitamineral Green, almond yogurt, almond milk and dates, it is smooth and creamy.  You would never know by its taste that it’s full of veggies!


Casas Leafy Green Smoothie
Casas Leafy Green Smoothie




Even Casa’s water is special, as it is somehow filtered and transformed to an alkaline friendly pH level of 9.5.  Drink it straight up, or infused with cucumber.


Casas Alkaline Water Dispenser
Casas Alkaline Water Dispensers


Tea and Coffee:

I have mentioned that the lunch and dinner plates come with complimentary tea.  Customers are able to fill (and re-fill!) their glasses with Kukicha Tea.

Before Casa de Luz, I had never heard of Kukicha Tea.  It is made from the twigs of the same plant that produces green tea.  Because they come from the same plant, Kukicha Tea shares the same antioxidant properties as green tea.  It has a smoky flavor and has 90% less caffeine than coffee (green tea has 60% less caffeine than coffee).


If Kukicha tea doesn’t sound appealing, Casa also has a variety of herbal, green, and black teas available by the pot.

I don’t drink coffee but if I did, Casa de Luz would be my first stop.  I often see individuals sitting with a blissful look on their faces as they wrap their hands around their Guatemalan French Press Coffee.  And don’t worry, Casa has non-dairy creamers and sweeteners if you don’t like your coffee black!


Casas Tea and Coffee Board
Casas Tea and Coffee Board




Casa’s space is the product of the owner’s passion for community.  The main floor has beautiful dark wood tables of all shapes and sizes, including large community style seating.  The outdoor patio offers a sunny spot for those with dogs.  And the upstairs features an educational utopia, complete with extensive seating, state-of-the-art kitchen, and vast counter space for demonstrations.  Casa is ground zero for food and cooking enthusiasts.


Casa Interior
Casa Interior


Casa Outdoor Patio Seating
Casa Outdoor Patio Seating


Upstairs Learning Space at Casa
Upstairs Learning Space at Casa




As I mentioned earlier, Casa de Luz is more than a place to eat.  Casa’s online calendar shows the upcoming community events to be hosted in house – check it out at: http://sandiego.casadeluz.org/events–classes.html


Casa de Luz Calendar of Events
Casa de Luz Calendar of Events


I could never list all of the events Casa offers, but I will take the time to highlight a few!


Test Kitchen Tuesdays:

Test Kitchen Tuesdays is a series of vegan cooking classes, taught by Liz Gary, that are held every Tuesday morning from 9:30am – 11:30am.  The class is a donation based, hands on cooking class – attendees break up into groups to make the recipes in Casa’s amazing upstairs educational space.  I attend almost every week.  Our creations range from vegan doughnuts to quiche!


Casa Test KItchen Tuesday  Doughnut
Casa Test KItchen Tuesday Doughnut


Casa de Luna:

Casa de Luz holds its donation based “Casa de Luna” celebration on the first Saturday night of every month beginning at 9:30pm.  The event features activities like partner yoga, meditation, and an art show.  And no event would be complete without delicious food and drink: Casa offers organic wine and sake, juice, tea, and desserts to attendees!


Kale University:

On many Wednesdays at 6:30pm (check the Casa calendar for an detailed list!), Casa de Luz is home to the Kale University Meetup group.  Kale University advocates a whole-food plant-based diet and is open to individuals who are interested in taking health into their own hands.  Kale University uses Wednesday evenings to bring in speakers and to provide classes for its members.  To learn more check out Kale University’s Meetup page at:



In sum, life at Casa de Luz is always evolving.  Although breakfast will be missed, I expect that the upcoming brunch program will be something special.  Hope to see you there!



2920 University Ave

San Diego, CA 92104