Banh mi Vietnamese baguette with tofu and cilantro (credit: Thinkstock)
Restaurant vegetarian options are in demand all over the country. From exciting variations on traditional favorites such as grilled cheese to vegetarian hot dog and sausage substitutes that can stand on their own, vegetarian sandwiches aren’t crossover options any longer. Veggie sandwiches are the real deal, and San Francisco showcases some of best.
4001 Judah St.
San Francisco, CA 94122
Outerlands — appropriately named, as its location is in the outer beach avenues — describes its focus best: “committed to an exploration of small business as a powerful means to connect personally and creatively with our larger community.” This mission shines in the lunch menu (available Mon-Fri), where two distinctive vegetarian sandwiches share the menu. Everyone’s favorite comfort-food sandwich, grilled cheese, gets a boost as a cast-iron grilled cheese sandwich with garlic and salt ($7.50), and a veggie sandwich is distinctive with squash, feta, kale and romesco ($13). For a brunch-time twist, Outerlands serves a squash and feta open faced sandwich, laden with romesco and sunny side eggs ($13).
3150 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Traditional Jewish comfort foods, spun with Californian ingredients, define Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, a comfort spot in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission district. Welcoming for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, snacks… whatever, Wise Sons covers it all. No, it’s not a vegetarian restaurant — it is a Jewish deli after all — but vegetarians will find lots to eat here anyway. Veggie sandwich offerings include a smoked trumpet mushroom Rueben, filled with mushrooms and griddled with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on rye ($12).
2211 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Gracias Madre is a fully vegan Mexican restaurant and surprisingly popular and well liked, although if it were simply a lacto-ovo vegetarian and not vegan the likes would possibly increase even more. That said, the food is tasty, healthy and presented well. Along with vegan takes on the usual Mexican specialty classics, there are several tortas (sandwiches) to please just about anyone looking for a meatless break. Torta options include a black bean burger on a famed Acne bread bun with escabeche and chipotle aioli ($15), a Bita Wrap of coconut bacon, avocado, chipotle aioli, pico de gallo and greens in a whole wheat tortilla served with a small ceasar salad ($13), a Tempeh Chorizo Torta of black beans avocado, almond cilantro pesto, pico de gallo and cashew cheese, served with escabeche ($13) and a Black Bean & Pesto Torta ($13). Vegan note: cashew cheese, the only cheese substitute choice, doesn’t bring joy to diners with nut allergies or satisfy like real cheese, so consider yourself informed. But of course this is a vegan spot, after all.
The Plant Café
Suite 108, Pier 3
San Francisco, CA 94111
The Plant Café is an all-organic restaurant that uses only 100 percent locally grown, seasonal produce and ingredients sourced from around the Bay Area. With several branches around San Francisco, The Plant Café is easy to find, and the Embarcadero location is a casual, upscale restaurant and café with indoor seating and covered outdoor seating along the Embarcadero waterfront. Although not a vegetarian spot, The Plant offers a good selection of vegetarian options. At brunch, lunch and dinner try the Plant Burger ($13.50), an in-house made vegetarian patty made of the good stuff and topped with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and vegan aioli. Or, try a California Vegetable sandwich ($12) or wrap options including Ceasar, Thai, Tikka or Jalapeño Cilantro ($13 each) for satisfying ways to quench any sandwich craving. Additional locations: Marina, Downtown Financial District, Dogpatch, SFO, Mill Valley and Burlingame.
553 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 252- 8190
Vegetarians love this place, and carnivores don’t care and order the Veggie Chicken Steak sandwich on dutch crunch roll anyway, just because it tastes so good. As of late 2015, Love N Haight Deli is all vegetarian, as the place cut out its meat sandwich offerings and made the noble switch to an all-vegetarian menu. Carnivores go ga-ga for the fake meat ’wiches, and the smoked duck sandwich is a house favorite. There are several vegan bread options too. Prices are low with most sandwiches in the $5.50 – $7 range.