Vegetarian Fare in the Foodie Haven

Food, What's New — By Mary Polizzotti on May 24, 2011 at 12:05 am

My upstairs neighbor is a young pup who plopped down into the dark depths of the Tenderloin fresh after his graduation from Harvard. He’s a sweet guy with loads of ambition and lots of muscle – he’s well over six feet tall and just started running marathons and competing in triathlons. This guy swims in Aquatic Park every single day…without a wetsuit! Ever encouraging and supportive, he easily inspired me to tap into my inner athlete again and start racing (one down, two to go). I’m telling you, he’s hardcore, and probably burns thousands of calories daily. The most shocking part? He’s a vegetarian. So I had to share my favorite vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco with my favorite SF newbie.

Golden Era Vegetarian Restaurant

This unassuming spot in the Tenderloin dishes out amazing veggie cuisine at cheap prices. It is, hands down, the best fake meat I’ve ever had in my life. Start off with the tropical papaya salad, the soy jerky tastes just like bacon. The Lemongrass Deluxe entree of soy “chicken” and broccoli is mouth-wateringly incredible. The noodle soups are also hearty and delicious.

Golden Era Vegetarian noodle soupPhoto courtesy of cwatanabe


On the other end of the spectrum, Millennium is truly a gourmet dining experience. Produce is delivered daily and the menu is ever-changing based on the seasonality of ingredients. A variety of tasting menus allow you to sample their creative vegetarian delicacies, or go all out with one of their innovative main courses – how does a Huitlacoche Tamale with annatto seed cashew “cheese” & roasted poblano chile filling sound? Meat lovers will not be disappointed or bored. Leave room for dessert.

Millennium RestaurantPhoto courtesy of


Opened in 1979, Greens was one of the pioneers in the San Francisco veggie movement. The artistic menu is inspired by Mediterranean, Mexican, and Southwestern cuisine. Presentation is important as color and texture play a big part on the plate. The ambiance is special and has an unexpected elegance – request a window seat so you can enjoy the view of the sun setting over the bay.

Greens RestaurantPhoto courtesy of Ken & Kathryn Goldberg

Cha Ya Vegetarian Japanese

Better for lunch than for dinner, a vast menu of Japanese-inspired vegan and vegetarian rolls, salads, and noodles will please even the most fickle omnivore. The miso soup gets rave reviews, as do their other noodle soups, like the mushroom udon noodle. One downside – overpriced tea.

Sunflower Restaurant

Though not necessarily my favorite pho place, Sunflower is a rarity because it actually serves pho with the option of vegetarian broth, making it a clear winner for vegetarians. The Vietnamese-Japanese fusion cuisine really hits the spot on a foggy San Francisco night. Two locations in the Mission and Potrero Hill.

Cha Ya Vegetarian RestaurantPhoto courtesy of vegetablediaries

Tags: best restaurants san francisco, best vegetarian restaurants, Japanese, organic cuisine, Pho, san francisco, vegetarian, veggie