A Travel Guide To Eating Vegan Gluten-Free In San Francisco, California.
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* VF stands for Vegan-friendly: businesses that have vegan-friendly options for vegan guests to enjoy.
* GF stands for Gluten-free-friendly: businesses that have gluten-free-friendly options for gluten-free guests to enjoy.
Table of contents
We walked around, a lot. Admiring the hillside scenery and ocean views. We looked for eateries within walking distance. A lot of places are still take out and delivery since San Francisco is still on a mask requirement. So, the full dining experience wasn’t there, but we were somewhat prepared for that and sometimes that meant we needed to drive.
Where We Ate:
Sausalito Equator Coffee Shop (GF) - 1201 Bridgeway Sausalito
A local coffee shop frequented by the local bikes. A large coffee selection and a few gluten-free items.
Must-Drink: Lavender latte with Oat milk
Urban Ritual (VF/GF)- 488 Fell Street San Francisco
We picked up an Earl Grey latte and vegan Thai ice tea on the way to see the Painted Ladies. Because what trip to San Fran would be complete without a little Full House nostalgia?
Must-Drink: Lavender latte with Oat milk
Nourish Cafe (VF/GF) - 1030 Hyde Street
A quick and light breakfast-n-brunch to go eatery. Good portions and pretty decent food.
Nourish was a pretty typical breakfast spot. Shad wasn’t as fond of the multi-grain waffle as I was. He got a savory breakfast bowl it was a bit bland in our opinion.
For drinks Shad got a Mexican mocha that he really liked with light chilli powder and oat milk which was sweet and spicy.
The location was so convenient we gave it another shot the next day. We got a vegan frittata sandwich and almond butter on gluten free toast. The frittata sandwich was delish.
Must-eat: Vegan Frittata sandwich
El Tesoro Taqueria and Grill (VF) - 599 O'Farrell St San Francisco
Oh so delicious. Shad got a massive vegan burrito with homemade guacamole and spicy salsa and a homemade strawberry agua fresca drink. The service was excellent and they went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and comfortable.
Amy’s Drive Thru (VF/GF) - 5839 Paradise Dr, Corte Madera
Did you know that they had dine-in and drive thru restaurants? Yes; Amy's Kitchen, your favorite vegan freezer lunches & dinners, has brick n mortar locations. We didn't, but we do now. It was pretty good. Nija had a salad called the Rachel with a lightly sweet Miso-ginger dressing. Named after her mother.
Shad had a double veggie melt. The gluten free bun was thin, almost like a pretzel, thin and crispy good but couldn't stand up to the weight of the patties, lettuce, cheeze and sauce. Plus he had a side of light and fluffy sweet potato fries and a small bowl of warm tomato bisque.
It sounds like a lot, but California has portion controling at restaurants and so all of our meals have been relatively small outside of the burritos we got on our first day.
Lion Dance Cafe (VF/GF) - 380 17th St, Oakland
After a great day at Muir Woods Forest. We ventured out to Oakland’s Lion Dance Cafe.
We had the weekend special a Singapore styled vegan jackfruit Rendang Nasi dish.
The vegan Rendang Nasi; was a spicy barbequed style jackfruit, over fried rice with a side of lime leaf peanuts.
Something new to us; a rice cube salad. The salad was made with rice flour shaped into cubes (reminded us of chickpea tofu) on a bed of shaved cabbage, radishes, chilies and herbs in fermented kale and topped with vegan fish sauce dressing, crispy mung beans and fried shallots.
Both dishes are mild on heat but big on unforgettable flavors.
Ending with a small but scrumptious ice cream sundae made with a silky smooth cashew based vanilla bean ice cream, topped with a fudgey, makrut lime and peanut butter sauce, and sprinkled with zesty chili-peanut crunchy topping. Each scoop will hit your tongue and move slowly from sweet to tart to caramel and ends with a zing of mellow heat.
It was honestly the best, most curious combination of flavors we've ever tasted. Once you taste it, we guarantee you'll be obsessed.
Must-eat dish: Ice Cream Sundae and rice cube salad
Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar & Izakaya (VF/GF) - 370 14th St San Francisco
We ended our first night with food from Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar
Small portions, but absolutely amazing flavor combinations! We both couldn’t believe how incredible the flavors were.
They believe in creating great taste without recreating or "substituting" for meat. We started with a small batch of toasted brussel sprouts with agave mustard, wasabi aioli, followed by the Open Invitation roll made with pumpkin tempura, spiced burdock, shredded tofu, tapioca, avocado crema and renkon chips. It was creamy with a slight sweetness and a drop of spice to it.
Then the Colonel's Pipe which is smoked beets, cashews, creamy tofu, asparagus, avocado, sweet mustard, orange zest that had a sweet and smokey flavor
And finally green mango pickled, citrus avocado puree nigiri sushi which had a refreshing citrus flavor to it.
Must-eat dish: Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any selection on the menu and trust Shad and I are hard critics. We had to stop ourselves from going back every day.
Baia (VF/GF) Italian cuisine - 300 Grove St, San Francisco
The next day we ended our day at the very lovely Baia vegan Italian restaurant. Where we dined in; social distanced from the other diners. Jazz fusion playing and candle lights glowing. Most of the dishes on the menu can be ordered to be gluten free. It's a win, win dining experience.
We started with creamy rich plant based mozzarella sticks coated with gluten-free herbed breadcrumbs that were well complimented by the homemade marina and the subtle sweetness of the fresh basil.
A beautiful confit potato pizza fired in a brick oven with crispy crust. It was light and airy with a little chew to it, an amazing aroma and a sweet hint of nutmeg in the alfredo white sauce, topped with sweet roasted onions. Can serve 2 to 3 people
We order the pasta dish Radiatore - roasted broccoli with spicy beyond crumbles. Slightly spicy with a little kick. It's rich and hearty but if you don't like heat you might not want it.
For drinks we ordered Fruit Cart, a beautiful blend of passion fruit, delicious and sweet and with salt on the rim it transforms it to the next level bright and refreshing.
Must-eat dish: Everything on the menu, so good
Millennium (VF/GF) - 5912 College Ave, Oakland
We ordered a few appetizers for dinner: asparagus tacos, jerk jackfruit tacos and roasted chioggia beet poke bowl with apple cabbage kimchee, avocado, sea vegetable salad, shaved watermelon radish, sweet & spicy shallot dressing, shungiku greens pesto, crisp shallot, togarashi, shiso
Along with an order of the fried coriander & arborio crusted oyster mushrooms with a lime, cabbage slaw
It was better than mostly anything we would come across in Atlanta but a little underwhelming compared with Lion Dance Cafe, Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar & Izakaya and Baia restaurant. We enjoyed the coriander & arborio crusted oyster mushrooms which had an interesting and delicious remoulade sauce, made from Lovage which tastes like sweet celery and had hints of anise that tasted a bit like cardamom.
Benkyodo Company (VF/GF) - 1747 Buchanan Street San Francisco
Benkyodo has been operating in Japantown for more than a century!
We stood in line in the cool san Francisco air because they're VERY popular and just the day before they sold out of their entire stock before noon. Wow!
Mochi is a great naturally vegan and gluten free treat. It's made from pounding japanese rice down into a paste filled with things such as sweet beans and even fruit. It's soft and chewy but not like a marshmallow or peep. The sweetness is mild and the texture is creamy.
We got an assortment of flavors like peanut filled, which is thier most popular flavor. So much; that they make it in separate larger batches. But honestly, I wasn't a big fan of the flavor combination. The peanut over took the subtle sweet of the rice. The basic and traditional flavor is with a sweet adzuki bean filling and it compliments the japanese rice flavor excellently . It was simple but delicious. Believe it or not they had a white lima bean that was as good as the adzuki. The green tea flavor was refreshing and while they weren't making the seasonal strawberry filled mochi yet, I can imagine they taste amazing too.
Must try: The flavor not to be missed peanut butter mochi. With over 20 flavors; there is plenty to choose from.
Where We Stayed:
StayPineapple Boutique Hotel - 580 Geary St, San Francisco
We stayed in the lower Nob Hill area pretty close to Downtown San Francisco (the Financial District)
Casa Madrona - 801 Bridgeway, Sausalito
Next time we go we’ll definitely be upgrading to stay in a room above the 4th floor to take full advantage of the great San Francisco Bay views. There are also two rooftop sitting levels available to all guests.
Should You Rent A Car:
It depends. If you're staying in San Francisco proper there are a lot of feet friendly ways to see the city. Bikes, Roomy sidewalks and Lyft. But if you plan on going to some of the national parks and beaches; renting is a must. If you do rent a car insist on a car with 4 wheel drive/good horsepower for the famous San Francisco hills.
Another consideration is parking. In Atlanta this is just now becoming a thing but parking fees when shopping & dining (some parking meters only allow for you to pay in 30 minute increments. Someone later informed us you can pay online) but a lot of parking lots are from $20 to $35 dollars.
Lastly, if staying at a downtown hotel make sure that your overnight parking lot allows in & outs. And confirm closing time, some lots close at 8pm and require your car to be parked before closing time.
Things To Do:
This experience was incredible. I’m fairly comfortable on the water but unfortunately Nija had a traumatic water experience in her childhood and can get a lot of anxiety with water activities. This was truly one of the best experience she has ever had on the water. Don’t walk; run and book your sailing experience with Captain Memo. We booked a two hour tour that seemed like a half day but still went by too quickly. The water was so blue and calming. Captain Memo educated us on all things sailing and the San Francisco Bay facts and history. We waved at Alcatraz and saw the beautiful coast line. Really, treat yourself you deserve it.
(if booked try Fine Day For Sailing with Captain Heather)
Driving California State Route 1
We drove the beautiful Pacific Grove drive, 17 mile of the ocean, natural and grandeur.
Hiking in Muir Redwood Forest
We walked the trail admiring the giant redwoods, listening to the subtle creeking of the trees and the breeze running through the tree tops. It definitely a must do to experience this in person.
You will need to purchase tickets before arriving. Go to https://gomuirwoods.com and download parking and individual tickets onto phone because you will lose signal once you’re about 3 miles from the forest.
Things We Wish We Knew Before We Arrived
Thank goodness our travel agent; Pangea Travel Concierge, recommended we rent a car. We zigged & zagged a lot because frankly; we had no idea where things were located.
Honestly, entire vacations could be had in Oakland, Sausalito or San Francisco. On any one day we went to at least two of these cities, not the best when you factor in time, traffic and tolls.
Hence our next heads up. Toll roads and fees are a thing and so are peak times and rates. It can get costly.
We could have spent another week with all the places we wanted to go to; but a few other dining and shopping places that came highly recommended and will be our first stop next visit are:
- Wildseed - seasonal vegan cuisine & cocktails
- Axum - Ethiopian restaurant dishing out East African staples & veggie options
- Greens - inventive & sustainable vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes
- Far West Fungi - Ferry Building Marketplace - Mushrooms, Mushrooms and mushrooms. We did a lot of visiting to the North Beach area a really cute area to stay in too.
- Walt Disney Family Museum
- Have a picnic in front of the Painted Ladies - Steiner Street, San Francisco - quintessential San Francisco charm of the seven Edwardian-style row houses in the opening credits scene in the show Full House
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