The Vegetarian-Friendly Librarian’s Eating Guide to #alaac15 in San Fran

In combination with my earlier #alaac15 post, here is my plan for eating fantastic vegetarian food in San Francisco.

I choose restaurants not only for their fantastic vegetarian options but for having things my non-vegetarian friends are likely to want as well. Also, I am not a healthy vegetarian when I am at conference–that means strange and interesting desserts and fried foods end up on the list along with tasty lighter fare. Except where noted most entrees are in the $10-20 range, with cafes and bakeries being cheaper.

Also a reminder: dining in the downtown area will be difficult because of pride weekend events + conference + Giants home games + normal SF traffic. Making reservations if restaurants allow it and planning to eat in small groups will make life easier.

Restaurants in each section are generally organized by my level or excitement for their offerings (ie., most exciting at the top). Enjoy :)

B = Breakfast, WB = Weekend Brunch, L = Lunch, D = Dinner


Close to Conference (walkable/within a few blocks from the conference center or hotels)

Farmer Brown, 25 Mason St. (@ Turk) – L, D. Creole/Southern with actual vegetarian options! That is an oddity. They also have weekend brunch with more limited veg options. Veggie Jambalaya or Spring Veggies with Grits, and a side of candied yams in lemon syrup or a biscuit? That sounds fantastic. MENU HERE (scroll down)

Colibri, 738 Geary St. (@ Mason) – WB, L, D. Inauthentic Mexican with some good veg choices.  It was the veggie-stuffed Chile Relleno that sold me, but the Ensalada Flor de Verano sounds good too (lettuce, mango, flower petals, jicama & cilantro-basil vinaigrette). I’m a cactus fan so the Nopales Asados (grilled marinated young cactus) also sounds tasty. Vegan options. MENU HERE

Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 4th St. (@ Bryant). L, D. Yes, you have to go under the highway, and yes, it is a bar with a seedy past and live music at night. But the hotel is historic! And more importantly they have what some call the best veggie burger in the city: a deep-fried patty made of 2 kinds of rice, 2 kinds of beans, lentils, 5 different veggies, and roasted garlic. It’s vegan unless you add cheese. Other menu items include their “famous” humus, Chili Cheese Dogs, and Shepherd’s Pie. MENU HERE

Saha, 1075 Sutter (@ Larkin) – WB, D. “Arabic” food with numerous vegetarian and vegan options marked in the menu. A little pricey for the large/full entree plates ($25-30) but smaller plates are available and the weekend brunch is much cheaper. The menu includes Vegan Knaffe, which is very nice since you don’t see many vegan phyllo dishes out & about. I’ll probably get the Falafal & Eggplant or the Vegetarian Bastilla. Reviews mention a salmon baklava that I don’t see on the menu. I don’t eat salmon but if you’re a fan that sounds interesting–I have never seen that anywhere else. Dinner Tu-Sa only, brunch on the weekends. Vegan options. MENU HERE

Fang, 660 Howard St. (@ Hawthorne) – L, D. Modern Chinese eatery with vegetarian entrees clearly marked. I’ll be trying the Sesame Tofu with Sweet Potatoes in Honey Nanking Sauce. Other interesting items include Japanese Pumpkin stir fry, Fried Onion Cake with peanut sauce, and Chili Puffed Rice Salad. Many dishes look vegan but you may have to ask to be sure. LUNCH MENU   DINNER MENU

Creperie Saint Germain, 222 2nd St. (@ Tehama) – B, L. Two words: buckwheat crepes. These sound hearty but tasty. They have both sweet (including the Apple Pie: caramelized apples, Marscapone & graham crackers) or savory (including the Ratatouille: eggplant, bell pepper, onion, spinach, green onion & swiss). MENU HERE

Thirsty Bear Brewing Company, 661 Howard St. (@ 3rd) – L, D, drink or snack. Expect this place to be packed, but there is apparently a good reason for that: it is highly recommended by locals and visitors and it basically right next to the convention center. The focus is on the beer and Spanish tapas: small plates that are easily shared. For a larger meal they have sandwiches and other daily specials. Most of the vegetarian options are smaller portions, although there is a roasted vegetable sandwich with eggplant and herb aioli that looks tasty. Not as many vegan options here. But you can buy dates stuffed with spiced goat cheese individually for $1 each? Weird. I will probably be trying the stuffed dates, housemade pickles & “little gem wedges” (figs, candied walnuts, shaved onion & blue cheese dressing).  MENU HERE

Kuleto’s in the Villa Florence Hotel, 221 Powell St. (@ O’Farrell) – B, L, D. I’m mainly interested in the Italian breakfast. Italian with breakfast options? Yes! And while there are quite a few meaty items on the menu there are also a handful of veggie options: most notably the Eggs Fra Diavlo: 2 eggs with polenta and spicy marinara sauce. Also: Cinnamon Brioche French Toast with warm berry compote. A little on the pricey side for breakfast but it gets good reviews so I expect the food to be tasty and the coffee to be perfect. Limited veg options for L&D–I’m considering this a breakfast choice. BREAKFAST MENU    LUNCH MENU    DINNER MENU

Johnny Foley’s Irish House, 243 O’Farrell St. (@ Cyril Magnin) – L, D. Irish pubs are not normally home to many vegetarian options. So, I was pleasantly surprised that this choice on the American Libraries eating list has a Vegetarian Irish Stew, Wild Mushroom Ravioli, and a Housemade Veggie Burger. While others order the Bangers ‘n Mash, Traditional Lamb Stew, or Mussels in Irish Whiskey, I’ll have plenty to choose from, including housemade pickled onions. MENU HERE

Zero Zero, 826 Folsom St. (@ 4th) – L, D. Italian food with a few options beyond the normal pizza & pasta choices. For example, Hen of the Woods mushrooms on the Filmore Pizza or grilled corn & cranberry beans in the Little Shells Pasta. Also, Roasted Cauliflower in Rosemary Oil as an appitizer. Full range of traditional pizza & pasta offerings as well, and very close to the conference.  LUNCH MENU   DINNER MENU

Bio French Organic Cafe,  75 O’Farrell St. (@Market). B,L.  If you’ve ever woken up and said, “Gee I wish I could get a green bean, egg & Gruyere sandwich for breakfast” then this French cafe is for you. Lots of meat and clearly-marked veg options, including multiple quiches and vegetarian soups. MENU HERE

Cafe Mason, 320 Mason St. (@ O’Farrell) – B, L, D. This is a 24/7 cafe and it is close to my hotel. They have a Portabella Benedict (no meat), Pumpkin Crepes, and blintzes. And the dinner menu has 2 kinds of gnocchi, among a number of other vegetarian items. Not all items are available 24/7 but it still posts a pretty good menu for an all-night place. MENU HERE

La Boulange, 781 Mission St. (@ 4th) – B, WB, L. French bakery/cafe (a SF chain) with pastries and organic breads. It’s right next to the conference for a quick pastry, housemade granola, kale salads, and other relatively healthy & light options. Vegan options. MENU HERE


Farther But Notable (less than 2 miles but still close enough that you could technically walk)

The Plant Organic Cafe, 101 California St. (@ Front & Pine). B&L. This “Californian Eatery” focuses on fresh, local, and organic–and most of it is on the healthy side. Lots of vegetarian and vegan options abound, and there doesn’t appear to be any red meat on the menu at all. What sets it apart? SFoodie voted the Plant Burger the #1 veggie burger in the city based on craveability, heartiness, and “superior mouth feel.” It’s made of beets, lentils, mushrooms, cashews and bulgur wheat. I read multiple reviews of this burger’s incredible tastiness and I have decided that I will need to try it whether or not anyone in my group is willing to go with me. For breakfast I might try a breakfast burrito with eggs or basil tofu, but there are so many options for vegetarians here it would be hard to choose. There are multiple locations in the city but this location (Downtown) is closest unless you try the SFO Airport location on your way into/out of town.  Vegan options. MENU HERE

20th Century Cafe, 198 Gough St. (@ Oak) – B, L. I’m a sucker for Eastern European food. Voted one of the best bagels in the city, 20thC has some fantastic-sounding items on their menu including pierogi with damson plum preserve, or a kale sandwich with Hungarian pepper relish and goat cheese. Also knishes & babkas. It’s not super close to the conference center but I will gladly walk there for good pierogi. Closed Mondays. MENU HERE (scroll down)

Bender’s Bar & Grill, 806 South Van Ness Ave. (@ 19th) – D. This is a dive punk bar that is out of the way. There is one reason this is on my list and it is the Bender’s Octopussy’s Garden Burger: a burger patty made from grilled broccoli, sautéed onions, shredded carrots, black beans, Cajun seasoning, and oats. You can get it with white cheddar, chiles, and vegan aioli and that sounds awfully good. You non-vegetarians can have the Trailer Trash Mac n’ Cheese (it’s got hotdog pieces in it). Vegan options. MENU HERE


Other/Non-Meal Food Venues/Hang Outs

  • Dying for a beer and a good game of Skeeball? Try the Golden Gate Bar & Grill at 525 Sutter St. (@ Powell). Over 100 beers on tap. And Skeeball! Bar food also available.
  • As I mention in my previous blog under “things to do” I plan to try out the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (56 Ross Alley @  Jackson). You could make a meal of this by buying a whole bag of the fresh cookies.
  • Need chocolate more than a cookie? Of course you can wander up to touristy Ghirardelli Square but Dandelion Chocolate (740 Valencia St @ 18th) should appeal more to the purists in the group. This is REAL chocolate: only 2 ingredients (cocoa beans & cane sugar) and the reviews for the cafe’s hot chocolate are enticing. You can visit the factory & cafe to see how it comes together. If you go you may as well also stop by the Tartine Bakery a block away–a bit of a trek by itself but worth checking out you are in the neighborhood–MENU HERE).

For more SF food ideas consider:

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