A Search for Great Vegan Food in San Diego

Tag Archives: san diego vegan

NaPizza: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2839" align="alignnone" width="640"]NaPizza Sign NaPizza Sign[/caption]

 

LITTLE ITALY, 4S COMMONS, and OPENING SOON IN HILLCREST.

I am always on the look out for places that serve vegan pizza.  After all, is there anything better than biting into warm dough that is covered with tomato sauce and delicious toppings?  Although I always wish there were more vegan pizza options, NaPizza reminds me that it’s not the quantity but quality of those options that matters.  And NaPizza does an excellent job of focusing on quality by offering pizzas, soups, and salads that are made with fresh and local ingredients.

 

Soups:

 

NaPizza offers a vegan soup every day — on my last visit, they had Potato Onion.  The soup exceeded my expectations (after all we’ve all had bland potato based soups before!).  The onion flavor popped on my tongue!  And with a cup of soup (pictured below) costing $2, it’s an economical addition to any meal!

 

[caption id="attachment_2840" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Potato and Onion Soup Vegan Potato and Onion Soup[/caption]

 

Salads:

 

The salads at NaPizza are special.  I thoroughly enjoyed the “Superfood Me Salad” made with an organic spring mix, kale, quinoa, walnuts, avocado, blue lake beans, sprouts, and apples.  It traditionally comes with a basil lemon dressing but upon recommendation from the NaPizza server, I added the tahini dressing instead!

 

[caption id="attachment_2841" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Superfood Me Salad Vegan Superfood Me Salad[/caption]

 

Pizza:

 

NaPizza, of course, also offers delicious pizza.  NaPizza believes that a piece of pizza is only as good as its dough — they source a low-sugar, high protein flour from a small, family-owned mill in Rome.  NaPizza then mixes the flour with yeast and allows it to rest and rise for 72- hours.  This process creates a dough that is light and digestible.

Wondering about the specifics of NaPizza’s vegan offerings?  The restaurant makes a “Veggy Me” pizza — a pizza that is topped with a combination of locally grown veggies (the day I went it was eggplant and peppers!).  This pizza is made without cheese BUT if you prefer, you can ask for Daiya cheese to be added.  Personally, I like adding the Daiya cheese but whatever your choice, you’re sure to end up with a delicious piece of pizza!

 

[caption id="attachment_2842" align="alignnone" width="640"]"Veggie Me" Vegan Pizza “Veggie Me” Vegan Pizza[/caption]

 

NaPizza also offers an array of meal specials.  They can be a great way to try more items on the menu!

 

[caption id="attachment_2845" align="alignnone" width="640"]NaPizza Specials NaPizza Specials[/caption]

 

NaPizza has their mouth-watering pizzas on display when you enter the restaurant.  Customers order at the register and receive a number to take to their table.  A NaPizza server will bring the food to the table when it’s ready.  And because NaPizza cares about the environment, you will be eating in a green certified building under energy efficient LED lighting!

 

[caption id="attachment_2843" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior NaPizza Interior NaPizza[/caption]

 

NaPizza also offers outdoor patio seating — it’s a great place to enjoy a warm San Diego afternoon!

I hope you make it out to NaPizza to enjoy one of their vegan options soon!

 

[caption id="attachment_2844" align="alignnone" width="640"]NaPizza Patio NaPizza Patio[/caption]

 

Little Italy:

1702 India Street

San Diego, CA 92101

619.696.0802

 

4S Commons:

10550 Craftsman Way, Suite #186

San Diego, CA 92127

858.312.1036

OB Noodle House and Bar 1502: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2781" align="alignnone" width="640"]OB Noodle House Restaurant Sign OB Noodle House Restaurant Sign[/caption]

 

OCEAN BEACH.  OB Noodle House is something of an institution in San Diego.  Every time I’ve driven by or eaten there, the restaurant is busy.  Why is it such a hit with locals and tourists alike?  The Asian fusion restaurant serves up delicious appetizers, noodle dishes, and pho (many of them vegan!) at reasonable prices.  So it’s no wonder that the Food Network featured the restaurant on its popular “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” show.  (To read more about their appearance on the show, click here.)

 

After the show aired in 2013, OB Noodle House’s popularity rose to meteoric proportions.  Quite simply OB Noodle House could not keep up with demand.  The only solution?  To open up a second OB Noodle House location!  And so Bar 1502 was born.  Bar 1502 opened in 2014 with the same menu as OB Noodle House and is also located in Ocean Beach.  So now there are two locations to enjoy the same great food!!

 

One of my favorite vegan options on the menu is the Vegetarian Fresh Spring Rolls.  Tofu, lettuce, rice noodle vermicelli, and basil and bean sprouts are wrapped in rice paper and served with peanut plum hoisin sauce.  The rolls are light and fresh — I especially love the pop of flavor the basil provides.  Dunking the roll in the savory peanut sauce rounds out the experience.

 

[caption id="attachment_2743" align="alignnone" width="640"]Fresh Spring Rolls with Tofu Fresh Spring Rolls with Tofu[/caption]

 

Another great vegan appetizer is the Tofu Lettuce Cups.  Chopped tofu is mixed with green onions, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and garlic and served with lettuce pieces so you can make your own wraps.  I was hesitant the first time I ordered this dish, because tofu dishes are so often bland.  I should not have been worried — the herbs and spices ensure that this dish packs a flavorful punch.  Soon after it arrived, I was happily munching away!

 

[caption id="attachment_2774" align="alignnone" width="640"]Tofu Lettuce Wraps Tofu Lettuce Wraps[/caption]

 

This review could not be complete without mentioning the vegan Vegetarian Pho.  The rice noodles, onions, cilantro, lightly fried tofu, and fresh vegetables are served in a vegetable broth base.  Fresh basil leaves, bean sprouts, jalapenos, and a lime are come on the side.  The vegetable broth has a subtle but flavorful composition, and I love that customers are able to personalize the Pho by adding their own herbs and spices!  And of course, half the fun is slurping up your noodles!

 

[caption id="attachment_2744" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegetarian Pho Vegetarian Pho[/caption]

 

And of course there are the noodle dishes.  The Tofu and Veggie Hong Kong Chow Fun is made up of soft wide rice noodles and topped with tofu, veggies, and a savory, brown sauce.  Just remember to order this dish without the egg to make it vegan!

 

[caption id="attachment_2775" align="alignnone" width="640"]Tofu and Veggie Hong Kong Chow Fun Tofu and Veggie Hong Kong Chow Fun[/caption]

 

If you feel like noodles but are looking for something lighter, the Tofu and Veggie Dry Chow Fun is a great option.  The soft wide rice noodles are served with bean sprouts, green onions, and chinese broccoli.  Again, remember to order this dish without egg to make it vegan!

 

[caption id="attachment_2745" align="alignnone" width="640"]Tofu and Veggies Dry Chow Fun Tofu and Veggies Dry Chow Fun[/caption]

 

The interior of both OB Noodle House locations are casual and cozy.  (The picture below is from Bar 1502.)  It’s a great place to relax and catch up with friends.

 

[caption id="attachment_2777" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior Bar 1502 Interior Bar 1502[/caption]

 

If you want to eat outside, OB Noodle House and Bar 1502 have you covered.  Both restaurants have extensive outdoor seating.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy your meal at either OB Noodle house location!

 

[caption id="attachment_2778" align="alignnone" width="640"]Outdoor Patio Bar 1502 Outdoor Patio Bar 1502[/caption]

 

OB Noodle House:

2218 Cable Street

San Diego, CA 92107

619.450.6868

 

Bar 1502:

4993 Niagara Avenue

San Diego, CA 92107

619.255.9858

Wet Stone Wine Bar and Cafe

[caption id="attachment_2721" align="alignnone" width="640"]Wet Stone Sign Wet Stone Sign[/caption]

 

BANKER’S HILL.  I recently made my first trip to Wet Stone Wine Bar and Cafe.  And now I can’t wait to go back again.  It was quiet, peaceful, and the food was simple but delicious.  Wet Stone has an unassuming exterior and is tucked into a quiet part of Banker’s Hill.  It’s the type of place you might walk by without even noticing it.  But that would be a mistake.

We arrived for lunch hungry and decided to start with the Garbanzo and Avocado Sandwich.  A puree of chickpeas, avocado, and basil make up the base of this sandwich.  You then pick your bread: multi-grain, pita, or ciabatta (we picked pita).  The sandwich usually comes with piquillo aioli which is NOT vegan.  However, our very accommodating server brought us a side of home made chimichurri sauce instead.

Sandwiches also come with a mixed green or the grain of the day.  After learning the grain of the day was farro, it wasn’t even a choice!  The grain salad was mixed with greens and topped with a light dressing.  It was light and flavorful and the perfect accompaniment to the sandwich.

 

[caption id="attachment_2722" align="alignnone" width="640"]Garbanzo and Avocado Sandwich Garbanzo and Avocado Sandwich[/caption]

 

I was also excited to try the Hummus plate.  And let me reassure you that this is not your ordinary Hummus plate — the hummus is accompanied by pita, medjool dates, and pomegranate seeds.  The pita was soft and the hummus fresh and smooth.  Add a piece of date and some pomegranate seeds to any bite, and you have a perfect taste combination!

 

[caption id="attachment_2723" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Hummus Plate Vegan Hummus Plate[/caption]

 

We were eating at Wet Stone on a hot day, and I decided to order an iced tea.  My expectation was for a drink that would cool me down.  What arrived was so much more.  The tea was obviously fresh brewed and was infused with a hint of lemon and mint.

 

[caption id="attachment_2724" align="alignnone" width="640"]Iced Tea Iced Tea[/caption]

 

The interior of Wet Stone is peaceful, calm, and inviting.  The perfect place for a quick rejuvenating meal on your own or a a place to settle in with friends to catch up.

 

[caption id="attachment_2725" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior Wet Stone Interior Wet Stone[/caption]

 

If you’re ready to soak up some of the San Diego sun, there are also a row of benches at an outdoor bar.  I hope you enjoy your trip to Wet Stone as much as I did 🙂

 

[caption id="attachment_2726" align="alignnone" width="640"]Wet Stone Outdoor Seating Wet Stone Outdoor Seating[/caption]

 

1927 4th Avenue

San Diego, CA 92101

619.255.2856

sadfsadf

 

 

Mama’s Bakery and Lebanese Deli: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2414" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mama's Bakery Sign Mama’s Bakery Sign[/caption]

 

NORTH PARK.  A friend of mine recently told me about Mama’s Bakery.  I had never been, but when I heard they specialized in Lebanese food, I knew I would be visiting soon.  Mama’s Bakery is quite simply mouth-watering.  Home made flat bread, hummus, baba ganouj, and falafels feature prominently on the menu, making this a spot that should not be missed!  So thank you Andrew for the great suggestion!

 

I arrived hungry.  I decided to order the Fool Mudamas over Hummus.  The Fool Mudamas, a fava and garbanzo bean stew, arrived layered on top of a deep layer of hummus.  Another bonus? The sides of flatbread (I saw them making it in the kitchen!) and pickled vegetables.

 

Mama’s Bakery flatbread is special.  It was soft and still steaming when it arrived.  I began enthusiastically dunking pieces of it into the Fool Mudamas and hummus.  So delicious.  There’s something special about home made hummus.  It has so much more flavor than anything that can be bought in the store.

 

[caption id="attachment_2415" align="alignnone" width="640"]Fool Mudamas Over Hummus Fool Mudamas Over Hummus[/caption]

 

While eating the Fool Mudamas, I intermittently took a few moments to have some pickled vegetables.   I particularly liked adding the olives to my flatbread, hummus, and Fool Mudamas!

 

[caption id="attachment_2416" align="alignnone" width="640"]PIckled Vegetables Pickled Vegetables[/caption]

 

Next up, was the Fried Eggplant Wrap.  A home made wrap encases fried eggplant, baba ghanouj, tomatoes, lettuce, parsley, and pickles.  If only all places made home wraps.   The best part about this wrap? Double eggplant!  Fried eggplant plus baba ghanouj!  Add in some parsley and pickles and you have a filling and tasty lunch or dinner!

 

[caption id="attachment_2417" align="alignnone" width="640"]Fried Eggplant Wrap Fried Eggplant Wrap[/caption]

 

Mama’s Bakery has a cozy indoor seating area.  The walls are painted green and red with plenty of wall hangings and pictures for customers to examine.  I especially liked that the roof allows some of the natural sunlight to shine through.

 

[caption id="attachment_2418" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mama's Bakery Interior Mama’s Bakery Interior[/caption]

 

Mama’s Bakery also understands that San Diegans like to get their time outside.  Patio tables with umbrellas are set up for those to enjoy their food.

 

 

[caption id="attachment_2419" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mama's Bakery Patio Mama’s Bakery Patio [/caption]

 

4237 Alabama Street

San Diego, CA 92104

619.688.0717

 

Enoteca Style Wine Bar: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2359" align="alignnone" width="640"]Enoteca Style Sign Enoteca Style Sign[/caption]

 

LITTLE ITALY.  Are you bored with your lunch and dinner routine?  Perhaps, you are on auto-pilot eating uninteresting sandwiches and salads.  If so, it’s definitely time for you to visit Enoteca Style and Wine Bar.  Their menu offers an array of unique vegan options in a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

Have a hankering for a panini? Enoteca Style piles Portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, caramelized onion, baby spinach, and marinated artichoke spread onto their Hawthorn Panini.  Just remember to order it without goat cheese to make it vegan!  I often substitute avocado for the goat cheese which has yielded delicious results.   The warm bread encasing the flavorful, veggie filled contents will ensure that this sandwich disappears.  Fast.

 

[caption id="attachment_2364" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Hawthorne Panini Vegan Hawthorne Panini[/caption]

 

Or maybe you’re ready to dig into a salad.  Enoteca Style offers the Totally Vegan Salad, made from a base of organic greens topped with paprika spiced quinoa, tofu, vine-ripened tomatoes, carrots, chickpeas, and organic sprouts, that is topped with a miso vinaigrette dressing.  I love the interplay between the spiced quinoa and the miso vinaigrette in this salad.  I usually arrive at Enoteca Style hungry and order the large portion (pictured below).   Enoteca also offers small portions of their salads for those looking for a lighter meal.

 

[caption id="attachment_2363" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Tofu Salad Vegan Tofu Salad[/caption]

 

My favorite item on Enoteca’s menu is the Moroccan Couscous Salad.  The salad is made from organic greens, Moroccan spiced couscous, asparagus, black currants, toasted almonds, mint, scallions, and is topped with a lemon vinaigrette dressing.  Order the salad without feta to make it vegan.  The fluffy couscous mixed with crunchy almond pieces, black currants, and mint make this salad truly special.  You won’t find anything like it on other menus around town.  Definitely worth trying!

 

[caption id="attachment_2362" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Cous Cous Salad Vegan Cous Cous Salad[/caption]

 

Can’t choose between the panini and the salad? You are in luck!  Enoteca Style offers an excellent meal special — half a panini, a house salad, and your choice of a drink.  It’s also possible to upgrade from the house salad to the Totally Vegan or Moroccan Couscous Salad upon request!

 

[caption id="attachment_2366" align="alignnone" width="640"]Enoteca Style Lunch Special Enoteca Style Lunch Special[/caption]

 

Enoteca Style has a quiet interior removed from the noise and bustle of the street.  It’s the perfect place for a relaxing lunch or a quiet dinner.

 

[caption id="attachment_2360" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior Enoteca Style Interior Enoteca Style[/caption]

 

Enoteca Style’s outdoor patio area is a great place to eat when the weather is warm.  It’s also the perfect place for people watching!

 

[caption id="attachment_2361" align="alignnone" width="640"]Outdoor Patio Enoteca Style Outdoor Patio Enoteca Style[/caption]

 

1445 India Street

San Diego, CA 92101

619.546.7138

Amarin Thai: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2191" align="alignnone" width="640"]Amarin Thai Sign Amarin Thai Sign[/caption]

 

HILLCREST.  Amarin Thai offers a wide variety of vegan appetizers, soups, entrees, and curries.  In short, it is a vegan’s paradise.  Amarin Thai is open for both lunch and dinner, but the highlight, for me, is their lunch special (offered Monday through Friday from 11am – 3pm).  The special includes soup, an entrée, an eggroll, and a side salad for $5.99.  The best part? The food is GOOD!  Well worth a special trip.

When I arrived for lunch, I was ready to eat!  We quickly ordered and had a bowl of Miso Soup sitting in front of us within 5 minutes.  I slurped my soup happily and enjoyed munching on the chunks of tofu bobbing in the broth!

 

[caption id="attachment_2185" align="alignnone" width="640"]Miso Soup Miso Soup[/caption]

 

We first tried the Drunken Noodles, an entree made from wide rice noodles that are stir-fried with Thai chilies, bell peppers, basil, and bean sprouts, that is then topped with cilantro leaves.  Amarin Thai lets you pick your spice level.  I went with a conservative 3 and was pleased with the results.  The noodles were soft and tender and had absorbed the flavors from the various spices and peppers.

 

[caption id="attachment_2186" align="alignnone" width="640"]Drunken Noodles Drunken Noodles[/caption]

 

We then moved on to the Rama with Tofu entree, a mix of steamed broccoli and mixed veggies smothered with spiced peanut sauce, that is served with a side of rice.  The peanut sauce in this dish is creamy without being overly sweet.  It makes eating broccoli fun!

Once we had devoured our main dishes, we moved onto the eggrolls (which are somewhat of a misnomer, since I checked and there definitely isn’t egg or any other non-vegan ingredient in them!).   The eggrolls’ crispy exteriors house crystal noodles, cabbage, and carrots.  Mine was gone in two bites!

 

[caption id="attachment_2188" align="alignnone" width="640"]Rama with Tofu Rama with Tofu[/caption]

 

Amarin Thai’s interior is simple but comfortable – beige walls, dark chairs, and white tablecloths welcome customers.  The true highlight has been interacting with the servers.  They welcome you with a smile and patiently answer menu questions.

 

[caption id="attachment_2189" align="alignnone" width="640"]Amarin Thai Interior Amarin Thai Interior[/caption]

 

Amarin Thai also has a covered patio with booths and tables for those who want to eat outside.   The patio is also equipped with space heaters to ensure you have a comfortable dining experience!

 

[caption id="attachment_2190" align="alignnone" width="640"]Amarin Thai Patio Amarin Thai Patio[/caption]

 

Amarin Thai’s unique hours are also worth mentioning.  On Friday and Saturday they are open until 3am!  So whether you are stopping in for lunch or a late dinner, I hope you enjoy Amarin Thai as much as I have 🙂

 

9/22/2014 NOTE: A Fussy Fork reader recently went to eat at Amarin Thai and obtained some information important to vegan customers!!  Amarin Thai uses the same oil to deep fry their tofu and their meat.  Good information to know so you can make an informed choice during your next visit there.  Thanks for the email Sally!!

 

3843 Richmond Street

San Diego, CA 92103

619.296.6056

 

Veg-N-Out: Vegan Friendly

Veg-N-Out Sign

 

NORTH PARK.  I have fond memories of foods like pizza, hotdogs, and hamburgers.  I associate them with the 4th of July, helping my dad grill, and outdoor summer parties.  Luckily for me, Veg-N-Out’s menu provides a huge selection of vegan items that satisfy my nostalgia.

Veg-N-Out has a 100% vegetarian menu and many items are vegan or can be made vegan.  The menu is huge—it is not unusual for customers to take at least ten minutes to read through the descriptions of the appetizers, burgers, hotdogs, desserts, smoothies, and juices available.  A green “V” indicates that a menu item is vegan or can be made vegan.

On my most recent trip to Veg-N-Out, I was fresh off a run and ready to eat.  I scanned the menu for a vegan starter and found Vinny Bread—a pizza bread that could be veganized!  I had my doubts, because vegan cheese can be tricky, but I should not have been worried.  The final product of wheat bread covered in homemade marinara sauce, vegan Mozzarella, garlic, and basil surpassed my expectations.  The bread was soft and chewy, the marinara sauce was fresh and tangy, and the cheese was warm.  The garlic and basil gave the appetizer a delicious and fresh final taste.  A great start to the meal.

 

Vegan Pizza Bread

 

Burgers:

Veg-N-Out is best known for its burgers.  Each veggie burger is served on a wheat bun with a side of potato wedges, a homemade daily side salad, or a green salad.  Customers pick their own patty from the following choices:  (1) homemade veggie burger, (2) soy patty, or (3) Boca burger.  Each patty is vegan.  The homemade burger (my favorite!) is made from veggies, brown rice, rice flour, quinoa, and spices.

My wingman and I decided to split two burgers.  First up was the North Parker, a patty topped with “Swiss” cheese (we asked for the vegan cheese), onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and vegenaise (mayonnaise is not served at Veg-N-Out!).  The caramelized onions bring this burger to life.  They add a deep flavor that complements the Swiss cheese, making a thick and satisfying final product.

 

North Parker Vegan Burger

 

Our second burger was the Ultimate Vegan Burger: a patty topped with vegan Cheddar and Mozzarella cheeses, sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, pickles, onions, and vegenaise.  The mix of vegan cheeses provided a layer of rich, creamy flavor, which paired nicely with the crunch of sprouts, onions, and pickles.  I have a strong suspicion that I will be ordering this burger again.  Perhaps a new obsession.  (Luckily, North Park is out of my way.)  Also, the light and sweet cucumber and mango salad was a great side dish.

 

Ultimate Vegan Burger

 

Although I was full at this point, I dug down deep and ordered one of Veg-N-Out’s Super Food Smoothies.  The Mystic Mayan is a blend of banana, dates, maca, cinnamon, raw cacao, chia seed, and rice milk.  Maca, raw cacao, and chia seeds are all considered “super foods.”  There is no exact definition for a “super food,” but the general idea is that they are nutrient dense and provide health benefits.

 

Maca:

Maca root is part of the cruciferous family (broccoli and radishes are also members).  In commercial form, it is usually ground into a very soft powder.  (Think of the old can of Nesquik powder from your childhood.)  It has an earthy, nutty taste and goes great with oatmeal and nut milk smoothies.  Maca is native to the Andes Mountains and was used by the Incas for energy and . . . um . . . well, it is known as nature’s Viagra.

http://www.healthysmoothiehq.com/what-is-maca-why-put-in-smoothie

 

Raw Cacao:

As a chocolate lover, I know that my chocolate cake and hot chocolate would not be possible without the cocoa bean.  I became confused, however, when I realized cacao existed—the color and the smell (not to mention the spelling!) of the two items were so similar.  So I did some research.  The final answer was simple: a cocoa bean is roasted while a cacao bean is NOT roasted.

Raw cacao tastes like very, very dark chocolate.  It has high levels of antioxidants and may help to improve heart function and to alleviate stress.

http://vegetarian.about.com/od/beverage1/a/raw-chocolate-nutrition.htm

 

Chia Seeds:

Chia seeds are full of nutrients like fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, manganese and protein.  Chia seeds can also help stabilize blood sugar and are being studied as a possible treatment for diabetes. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/03/chia-seed-benefits-_n_3379831.html

 

So back to the smoothie.  The bananas and rice milk provide a smooth base..  The dates dial up the sweetness, and the cinnamon and maca powder add spice and flavor.  The cacao nibs add bursts of chocolate goodness.  And the black chia seeds are along for the ride – no flavor, but add nutrients and an aesthetic appeal.  Overall, the smoothie was satisfying and guilt free!

 

Mystic Mayan Vegan Smoothie

 

The inside of Veg-N-Out is casual with a beach and surf theme.  Bamboo and light toned wood surround the register.  Artwork of waves and other beach scenes adorn the walls. There is also an outdoor patio space available for those who want to soak up some sun or eat with their pet!

 

Veg-N-Out Interior  Veg-N-Out Exterior

 

3442 30th St

San Diego, CA 92104

619.546.8411

Local Habit: Vegan Friendly

Local Habit Sign

 

HILLCREST.  On Wednesday, I ate at the Local Habit for the first time.  On Thursday, I ate at the Local Habit for the second time.  This could be my new addiction.  In a good way.

The menu is clear and instructive, using colorful symbols to highlight which items are vegan (or can be made vegan).  This, I appreciate.  There is no need to annoy the server with a recitation of every ingredient or an interrogation into whether a dish is vegan.  Everybody wins.

I am ALWAYS on the look out for delicious vegan pizza.  Vegan pizza can be hit or miss.  The lackluster versions usually include a lot of bread, tomato sauce, and some sad looking veggies.  A great vegan pizza, however, will rival even the best of the traditional mozzarella vanguard.  Local Habit falls into the “great” vegan pizza category.

I first sampled the Green Pizza, which layers pesto, pickled zucchini, bell pepper, kale, onion, micro greens, and chive on top of the crust.  The sublime pesto, sweet bell pepper, and tart pickled zucchini play in harmony.  And the oven baked kale is crisp, salty, and crunchy.  The chive and micro greens are fresh – they are sourced from local organic farms! – and, more importantly, they ease the guilt of inhaling an entire pizza.

Local Habit offers three thin crust options: (1) traditional, (2) whole wheat, and (3) gluten free.  On this particular day – my maiden voyage – I ordered the traditional crust.  It was soft and delicious.

 

Green Pizza

 

Twenty-four hours later, I was back.  Same table.  First, I selected the Mountain Meadow pizza with crimini mushrooms and fresh herbs.  Even though this pizza is traditionally served with jack cheese, you can sub in a spicy almond ricotta cheese (or leave the cheese off all together).  I tried the almond ricotta.  And loved it.  The “cheese” is thick and has a fun kick, slightly subdued by the light, sweet tomato sauce.  The mushrooms are cooked and seasoned to perfection.

And I walked into the world of the satisfying gluten free crust – bean flour, rice flour, tapioca flour, and salt.  The crust has a personality that evolves throughout the slice.  For the first couple bites – where the ingredients and sauce are most prominent – the crust is gentle and plays a supporting role.  For the last couple bites, the crust becomes the centerpiece, crispy and satisfying like a fine pita chip.  This is the best vegan, gluten free pizza crust that I have ever tried.

 

Mushroom Pizza

 

At some point during my pizza indulgence, I ordered the eggplant sandwich, vegan style, which means (1) grilling the eggplant (instead of frying it in buttermilk) and (2) using house made mustard and hot sauce as condiments (instead of tartar sauce).  The eggplant went well with the mustard, and the bread was thick and soft.  I also tried the side salad of crisp, fresh lettuce served with onion and citrus vinaigrette.

 

Vegan Eggplant Sandwich

 

In the past year, I’ve become obsessed with Brussels sprouts.  Local Habit puts their own twist on the vegetable by not only roasting the sprouts so they are crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside, but also by adding a tangy mustard dressing.  I could have eaten these Brussels sprouts for lunch – and nothing else – and been perfectly happy.

 

Brussels sprouts

 

I couldn’t leave without trying the vegan dessert, a chocolate almond pudding with whipped coconut cream.  The pudding layer was smooth and creamy.  On top, whipped cream was light delivered the blissful taste of . . . not surprisingly . . . coconut.  A good end to the meal, but the spotlight belongs to the pizza.

 

Chocolate Almond Pudding with Coconut Whipped Cream

 

The inside of the Local Habit is warm and inviting.  The tables and chairs are all dark wood, and the walls are painted in a variety of earth tones.  And these walls display large photographs of farms and local produce, representative of the core mission of the restaurant.  I will be back.  Often.

 

Interior Local HabitInterior of Local Habit

 

3827 5th Ave

San Diego, CA 92103

619.795.4770

Saffron Noodles and Sate: Vegan Friendly

Saffron Sign

 

MISSION HILLS.  The Saffron dynasty began in 1985 when Su-Mei Yu opened Saffron Thai Grilled Chicken, a restaurant focusing on . . . you guessed it . . . chicken.  In 2002, Yu opened Saffron Noodles and Sate next door.  A welcome addition, as it offers a plethora of vegan options.

The first time I went to Saffron (thanks to a tip from my aunt and uncle who used to live in San Diego!), the host told me that Saffron can make almost any dish vegan by substituting rice noodles for egg noodles, or tofu for meat.  The power to “veganize” a menu?  Yes, please.

First up, we tried the Salad Roll with tofu.  The rice paper rolls up rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber, daikon, mint, and cilantro.  It is fresh and light.  And when dipped in a side of peanut sauce, delicious.  A great way to start the meal.

 

Tofu Salad Roll

 

Next, I tried the Noodle Soup with Vegetables and added tofu.  I chose the wide rice noodles.  (There is also a thin noodle option.)  The soup has a broth flavored with star anise and features zucchini, broccoli, green beans, carrots, and mushrooms.  I made my soup spicy, which involves a paste of chiles, Lao ginger, lemongrass, salt, and pepper.  Chunks of tofu floated with fresh vegetables in the flavorful broth, above a generous layer of rice noodles.  It was a bowl of warm comfort on a cloudy and cool San Diego day.

 

Vegetable Soup

 

Wingman Pablo ordered the Stir Fried Vegetables and Jasmine Rice and added tofu.  (Yes, we went nuts on tofu that day.)  Through vigorous nodding and raised eyebrows, he gave the dish high marks.  Note: Saffron offers red, organic rice for an additional 80 cents.

 

Stir Fried Vegetables

 

Finally, Saffron offers four desserts, all of which are vegan: (1) Sticky Rice with Banana, (2) Tapioca with Coconut Pumpkin Sauce, (3) Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango, and (4) Banana Sticky Rice.  The last three desserts are seasonal and are not always available.  I tried the Sticky Rice with Banana.  The dessert arrived in a banana leaf, and once I peeled back its protective layer, I was left with what looked like a sticky rice burrito.  Cutting it open revealed a banana filling.  Sweet sticky rice + sweet chewy banana = sweet way to end the meal.

 

Sticky Banana Rice

 

Saffron provides a friendly and casual atmosphere.  Orders are taken at the counter and assigned a number.  Customers are responsible for picking up a tray with their order.

 

Interior Saffron

 

 

The artwork on the wall is eclectic and colorful.  Additionally, customers with a keen eye can enjoy beautiful blown glass creations on the upper shelves of the restaurant.

[caption id="attachment_415" align="alignnone" width="300"]Interior Saffron Interior Saffron[/caption]

 

There are also a variety of outdoor tables for those who want to enjoy the weather or eat with their pet!

 

[caption id="attachment_1755" align="alignnone" width="300"]Saffron Outdoor Tables Saffron Outdoor Tables[/caption]

 

Saffron offers a program aimed at reducing waste.  If you bring in your own dish and utensils or carryout container you will receive a 10% discount off of your purchase.

The restaurant also recognizes that you might be in a rush to pick up food.  So they offer “curbside service” — if you order by phone, then call again when you are in front of the restaurant, they will come outside to swipe your credit card curbside!

 

3731 India St

San Diego, CA 92103

619.574.7737

 

Ritual Tavern: Vegan Friendly

Ritual Tavern Sign

 

NORTH PARK.  Ritual Tavern sits quietly on 30th Street in North Park with an unassuming wooden structure and a beautifully crafted sign.  There is no large awning with its name or neon sign announcing it’s open.  A person could pass by without noticing.  But that would be a mistake.  Ritual Tavern is my “go to” restaurant when I am taking a group out to dinner.  When my family last visited, Ritual Tavern provided chicken, steak, fish, and vegan dishes, with compliments all around.

The two vegan appetizers are onion rings and a scalloped beet salad.  The beet salad offers roasted beets, grilled endive, arugula, and grapefruit.  The beets provide the fresh, sweet centerpiece of this salad.  In contrast, the arugula, grapefruit, and endive inject citrus and slightly bitter flavors.  A light and fun way to kick off dinner.

 

Beet Salad

 

Sometimes, I admit, I miss the traditional meals like turkey at Thanksgiving.  Especially with family gathered around hot, steaming food on a cold day.  Food that warms the belly, warms the room, and makes a nap the top priority of the afternoon.  For me, Shepherd’s Pie fits this category.  And so I am grateful that Ritual Tavern has crafted a most satisfying vegan version.  This is a hearty dish that will warm you from the inside out.  The vegetables in the bottom layer are soft and flavorful, and the toasted mashed potato topping is light, yet filling.  And the vegetables in the dish change with the seasons, strongly suggesting that Ritual Tavern actively seeks the freshest ingredients.

 

Vegan Sheperd's Pie

 

My fiancé picked the other vegan entrée: the lentil burger.  The patty is made from lentils, brown rice, oats, carrots, and shallots.  It is substantial and does not fall apart after one bite (a pet peeve of mine with veggie burgers!).  Ritual Tavern then tops the patty with greens and a spread of tomato and red bell pepper, served on foccacia bread.

On the side, the house cut fries are especially crispy and alluring – I routinely steal them off nearby plates.  The pickles, too.  And be sure to try the house made condiments—ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce—for additional flavor!

 

Vegan Lentil Burger

 

For me, the only thing missing from Ritual Tavern’s menu is a vegan dessert.  On my last visit, however, we learned that the chef is focused on the issue and hopes to add a vegan dessert to the menu.  I wish him swift inspiration!

Ritual Tavern boasts a variety of seating areas.  There are front and back patios, both equipped with space heaters and dog friendly!   The inside seating area feels like an upscale English pub.  Beautiful dark wood floors, chairs and tables are set in soft lighting that provides a relaxing, warm atmosphere for diners.

 

Back PatioInterior

 

4095 30th St

San Diego, CA 92104

(619) 283-1720