Our Favorite Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Oceanside

By Andrew Bender

Plant-based cuisine is sweeping the world, and Oceanside is right on trend. In just the last few years, a mix of vegan, vegetarian, and veggie-friendly eateries have popped up from Oceanside’s walkable downtown to “South O,” a couple miles away, joining other restaurants that have been at it for years.

Whether you’re a committed vegan or beginning your journey of incorporating more plant-based eating practices, you’re never far from cooking that’s tasty, soul-filling, and good for you and the environment. After all, California is the United States’ largest agricultural producer, making it easy to go green while eating your greens — locally grown and organic, of course!

Many of these kitchens make their own imitation meats and dairy that you’d be hard pressed to distinguish from animal products, while others simply let the produce shine. 


Pretty much every restaurant in California offers some vegetarian options, but these places make sure that vegetarian-friendly dishes are just as delicious as their carnivorous counterparts. 


Start at Piper, right across Mission Pacific at The Seabird. The sunny atmosphere — and sidewalk patio seating for easy people watching just off the beach — will no doubt draw you in, and there’s delectable, organic cooking to match. At breakfast, pair your fresh-pressed juice with a super-satisfying superfood bowl, or avocado toast with beets, pickled cucumber, furikake, and sprouts. Dinner vegetarian offerings, meanwhile, span grilled artichokes, blistered aubergine, vegetable cassoulet, and handmade pastas like vegan, organic torchetti tossed with maitake and oyster mushrooms, truffle oil, and cashew cream. Piper, 105 Mission Ave.


Ask any O’side foodie about Oceanside’s best local restaurants, and it won’t be long before Dija Mara comes up; this groundbreaking, chic yet approachable Indonesian eatery is one of the city’s hottest tables. Sure, Indonesian cooking can be heavy on the meat and seafood, but Dija Mara’s vegetarian dishes will hit the spot for non-meat-eaters too: look for charred veggie plates like broccolini or eggplant, gado gado (warm vegetable salad with delectable peanut sauce), tofu rendang with peanut sauce and coconut rice, or roti with vegan curry. Dija Mara, 232 S. Coast Hwy


Swami’s Cafe is a San Diego County institution for breakfasts and lunches, all 11 locations boasting a “hang ten, dude” vibe. Vegetarian-friendly egg dishes, pancakes and waffles all take center stage, and vegans will be happy with the tofu and soy cheese substitutes in that surfer essential, the breakfast burrito. Pitaya or açai bowls come heaped with fresh fruit, local bee pollen, and housemade granola, or order smoothies with your choice of base: fruit, yogurt, or (hey, you’re on vacation!) ice cream. Swami’s Cafe, 202 N. Coast Hwy


A healthy lifestyle that blends being outdoors,staying active, and eating well — often with worthwhile indulgences sprinkled in — is a cornerstone of life in Oceanside. So, it’s no surprise that the beach town is home to several enticing vegan restaurants where plant-based eating takes center stage. 


South Oceanside’s the plot won San Diego Magazine’s Critic’s Choice award for best new restaurant in 2020, and its following has only grown since. Exposed beams and cool, post-industrial décor form the backdrop for lunchtime sandwiches and other handhelds like “carrotfïsh” tacos and bean-based chörizo burritos (the umlauts subtly indicate “plant-based”). Dinner, meanwhile, offers elevated creations like plant-based sushi, Okinawan sweet potato gnocchi, chickën and waffles “served with some maple love,” and tasty chëësëcake for dessert. Even the drink menu excels, with wines, cocktails, local craft beers on tap, and seasonal housemade sodas. The plot, 1733 S. Coast Hwy


A few blocks from Mission Pacific, The Green House calls itself “Oceanside’s local, family-owned vegan sandwichery.” Head here to stock up on plant-based takes on deli classics for a hike, bike ride, or beach picnic. Popular sandwiches include the Navigator (plant-based chickpea “tuna” salad, topped with onion, pickles, and arugula), the Mediterranean-influenced Mod Lang (hummus, olives, vegan pepperoncini, and a bevy of vegetables on whole grain bread); the meatless Cheezesteak in Paradise; or the 53rd & 3rd, starring vegan corned beef. Gluten-free options are also available. The Green House, 212 N. Coast Hwy


The warm and welcoming Eris Food Co. began a few years ago as Living Tea, San Diego County’s first kombucha brewery. Now, situated on a downtown Oceanside sidestreet, the shop still serves the booch and more recently added Eris’ plant-based riffs on everything from Impossible burgers to tacos (think a vegan version of that San Diego staple, the fish taco), and “sandos” on pretzel buns, like the Buckaroo Banzai, made with fried “chikun,” pepper barbecue sauce, pickles, caramelized onions, and house-made slaw. Eris Food Co., 302 Wisconsin Ave.


Most of Oceanside’s vegetarian-friendly eateries fall into offering either strictly vegan fare or a range of vegetarian dishes along with offerings including animal products, but one does bill itself as specifically “vegetarian.” 


Banana Dang is a popular coffee shop with a (banana-shaped) vegetarian twist. It serves “happy toasts” (savory to sweet – think avocado, cinnamon, or mango), and “semi-sweets” (muffins to scones, Danishes to cinnamon rolls) alongside international coffees (ranging from macchiatos to Vietnamese-style drinks). Smoothies come in a rainbow of colors (from the pale vanilla to the green Radical Dang — kale, hemp, banana, mango, and apple juice — and the açai-based Purple Dang), made with your choice of soy, almond, or oat milk. Banana Dang, 115 S. Coast Hwy.

Of course, there are plenty of other delicious eateries throuhg Oceanside, whether you’re looking for high-end dining complete with wine pairings, craft coffee to perk up your mornings, or sweet treats to fill your days by the beach. Enjoy!

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