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



Ranchos Cocina: Vegan Friendly

Ranchos Sign
Ranchos Sign


NORTH PARK AND OCEAN BEACH.  Long-time San Diego vegans know Ranchos.  Both locations feature a multitude of vegan options, including vegan pancakes, burritos, tortas, soups, salads, enchiladas, tacos, and desserts.  YUM!!

First, no Mexican restaurant would be complete without chips and salsa.   Here, we have a hand-crafted, mild salsa that disappears almost immediately.


Chips and Salsa from Ranchos
Chips and Salsa from Ranchos


Second, I love that Ranchos serves breakfast all day, because sometimes dinner is the perfect time for breakfast.  On my most recent visit, I ordered the Vegan Breakfast Burrito, a mix of tofu scramble, house made tempeh sausage, potatoes, and beans and wrapped in a tortilla.  The tempeh sausage is spicy, which compliments the light scramble and hearty potatoes and beans.  This is a well-rounded burrito, a personal favorite, and something that I would recommend to vegans and non-vegans alike.


Vegan Breakfast Burrito from Ranchos
Vegan Breakfast Burrito from Ranchos


Next up was the Grilled Tofu and Black Bean Torta.  Recently, I learned that a torta is really just a sandwich!  And this particular torta comes stacked with hearty tofu slices, black beans, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and onions.  The tangy guacamole is excellent.  Another great dish.


Grilled Tofu and Black Bean Torta from Ranchos
Grilled Tofu and Black Bean Torta from Ranchos


If you are craving a burrito, but aren’t in the mood for breakfast, the Chipotle Seitan Burrito is a great option.  You might be thinking, “What the heck is seitan?”  Seitan is made from wheat.  It has a firm texture, making it a popular meat substitute.  If you want to know more about seitan, click on the link below!


Back to the burrito in question.  The chipotle seitan in the burrito gives the burrito a smoky flavor.  The guacamole helps to temper the spice of the seitan, resulting in a tempting burrito.   I planned to eat only half, so imagine my surprise when when I looked down and saw a clean plate!


Chipotle Seitan Burrito from Ranchos
Chipotle Seitan Burrito from Ranchos


Even though I don’t drink dairy, I still enjoy creamy beverages.  So I was excited when I saw that Ranchos had a vegan Horchata drink made from soymilk, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla.  This drink can definitely pass as a dessert.  It tastes like a sumptuous, vanilla, cinnamon milkshake.


Vegan Horchata from Ranchos
Vegan Horchata from Ranchos


Things to know about Ranchos.  Although there is some overlap, Ranchos North Park and Ranchos Ocean beach have DIFFERENT menus.  My blog post is based my most recent trip to the North Park location.  However, both locations offer numerous vegan options!

Ranchos Ocean Beach is also known for their salad bar.  Aside from having the usual fresh produce and veggies, the salad bar also boasts a wide variety of raw, vegan options and salad dressings.  (For an explanation on raw food, see my post on Go Raw L.I.F.E. Center: www.thefussyfork.com/go-raw-life-center)

Both locations have a relaxed and inviting interior with wooden tables and chairs.  But, again, the following photo depicts the North Park location.


Interior of Ranchos
Interior Ranchos


North Park

3910 30th Street

San Diego 92104



Ocean Beach

1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

San Diego, CA 92107





The Joint: Vegan Friendly

Joint Sign


OCEAN BEACH.  The Joint sits in the center of downtown Ocean Beach, on Newport.  From the sidewalk, it looks like a typical sushi spot.  The menu, however, reveals that it is more.  It is a sushi spot with excellent vegan options.

 I love seaweed salad.  And the Joint offers the Spicy Wakame Salad, a fun twist on the traditional dish.  Chili oil, serrano peppers, and jalapeño peppers spice up the seaweed.  Even better, the peppers are large enough so you can decide how many peppers to put in our mouth – it’s like having your finger on the temperature gauge.


Spicy Wakame Salad


The Joint offers three vegan rolls (nicely labeled with a “V” on their menu!): (1) Super Tempeh Salad, (2) Hippie Dream, and (3) The Green Machine.

The Super Tempeh Salad is my favorite vegan roll at the Joint.  But first, a quick digression.  I have received requests for definitions of the more obscure ingredients.  Personally, I had never heard of tempeh until I moved to San Diego, so….

Question: What is tempeh?

Answer: A popular meat substitute made from fermented soybeans that has a nutty flavor.

If you want to learn more about tempeh click on this link:  http://www.tempeh.info/

Now back to the Super Tempeh Salad roll!  The inside of the roll is tempeh, avocado, and a salad made from veganaise (vegan mayonnaise), mango, macadamia nuts, cilantro, and lettuce.  This vegan goodness is then rolled in soy paper and topped with a sweet chili lime sauce.  For me, the magic of this roll comes from the macadamia nuts.  The nuts provide a crunch and sweet taste, and in combination with the mango, give the roll a slightly tropical taste.


Super Tempeh Salad Roll


The Hippie Dream rolls up tempeh, enoki mushrooms, asparagus, pickled shallots, avocado, chives, kaiware, and hemp seeds in soy paper.  Kaiware was new to me.  Turns out it is a type of sprout popular in Asian cuisines.

The more “typical” sushi ingredients like the mushrooms, asparagus, avocado, and sprouts provide a satisfying base.  The chives, pickled shallots, and hemp seeds give the roll a more complex and unique flavor.


Hippie Dream Roll


The Green Machine is also a strong choice.  It is made from cucumber, yamagobo, bell pepper, kaiware, chives, enoki mushrooms, and topped with avocado.  I had not heard of yamagobo, either, but learned that it is pickled burdock root.  Who can resist burdock root, I ask?  All in all, the variety of color, texture, and taste makes the Green Machine another home run for the Joint.


Green Machine Roll


Additional Vegan Things of Note:

Lunch Menu: includes a Tempeh Ruben that can be made vegan if ordered without cheese

Starters:  Edamame, Miso Soup, and Shisito Peppers are available

Salads:  Spinach Salad and Sunonomo (Cucumber) Salad are available

Hand Rolls: In addition to the specialty vegan rolls, the Joint also has a Cucumber Roll and a Veggie Roll.

Happy Hour Menu: includes the Veggie Roll

The Joint oozes cool.  It is equal parts trendy bar and sushi bar.  On most nights, it is packed, bustling, and full of happy patrons.  And it has heart.  Every time I have been to the Joint, a manager has come around to check on my table and make sure everything was going well.


4902 Newport Ave

San Diego, CA 92107