Last Updated on 03/21/2021
After living in San Diego and having my fair share of delicious meals, I’ve finally put together a guide to the best restaurants with gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. I have celiac disease and am mostly vegetarian, but found a lot of restaurants in San Diego that are accommodating.
While I want to highlight places that have options for special diets, the restaurants mentioned make excellent food all around, with knowledgable staff and clearly labeled menus (half the battle, am I right?).
I’ve divided these restaurants by category: brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert.
*Considering ever changing restrictions, please be sure to check for modified schedules or closures, outdoor seating and take out availability. Always double check that an item is GF, vegetarian and vegan as appropriate for your needs.*
Gluten Free Breakfast and Brunch
San Diegians are crazy about brunch. When we first moved to San Diego, we drove down restaurant-lined Adams Avenue and I could not believe the crowds outside each brunch spot. I actually thought there was a special event going on! Expect a wait or try to make a reservation when available.
Breakfast Republic is a popular choice for staples like eggs Benedict, French toast, omelettes and Mexican favorites (think chilaquiles and burritos). I prefer the Liberty Station location so you can walk around and shop at Pigment while you wait. Every item on the menu is clearly labeled GF, vegetarian, or vegan as appropriate.
While it’s a bit of drive up to Encinitas, you have to stop in Nectarine Grove if you’re going to North County. My friend Skylar of Stetten Wilson introduced me to their gluten free cinnamon rolls. Gluten free cinnamon rolls. Do I need to say anything more?
Don’t worry, they melt the icing on top right before serving it.
The outside might look like an average American diner, but inside you’ll find a a trendy interior and modern approach to comfort food. The brunch I had here was memorable (omelette and vegan hash), but like any classic diner, they also serve lunch and dinner.
Trust quite possibly has the best chilaquiles I’ve had outside of the time I did a self-guided chilaquiles tour of Mexico City. I am partial to their breakfast offerings, but they’re also known for an amazing happy hour (get the roasted cauliflower).
This might be a chain, but I still think they make some of the best gluten free pancakes in San Diego (possibly the only place?). There is always a long line at the Hillcrest location, so I can’t be the only one that thinks so.
The Pacific Beach location with its outdoor patio overlooking the beach is a great spot to get French fries and a beer. All of their gluten-reduced house beers (if you are not 100% GF) pair perfectly with Mediterranean California fusion food. After lunch, you can stroll along the PB boardwalk.
Cafe Gratitude is an entirely vegan restaurant that can do almost any item gluten free. I also drag my husband here occasionally and even he likes it. Who knew cashew cheese could be so good?
This vegetarian Thai restaurant near the University Heights sign was my go to for spicy noodles. Also, conveniently located across the street from Bahn Thai (in the event your significant other would prefer non-vegetarian Thai take-out).
El Tianguis Rolled Taquitos
Located in an average strip mall with a cramped parking lot, you’d think this is place is nothing special. You would be wrong. El Tianguis is my favorite place to get taquitos (sometimes called rolled tacos in San Diego). 100% gluten free with lentil and potato vegan options too.
Little Italy might be famous for having the best Italian food in San Diego, but I have to say my favorite Italian restaurants aren’t in that area. Buona Forchetta’s pizza compares favorably to the best gluten free pizza in Naples, Italy. Go to the South Park location for a local neighborhood vibe.
Cucina Urbana or sister restaurant Cucina Sorella (Sorella literally means sister in Italian) are also excellent choices for modern Italian food. The restaurant group has several location throughout San Diego and and Southern California. Gluten free pasta available.
This cozy Mexican restaurant in South Park is great for dinner or happy hour. I really miss sitting on their patio with a margarita. Vegetarian, vegan, GF and dog friendly.
My friend lives a few blocks from this French bistro and is one of their most frequent customers. They serve plenty of French specialties with meat, but also offer a separate vegetarian menu. I love their cocktails and cheese plates for happy hour.
You’ll find Bivouac Ciderworks right around the corner from City Tacos. Get a cider flight to try three of their unique and tasty concoctions (San Diego Jam is my jam). While they are known for naturally gluten free cider, their food is amazing too. Canned cider is available for purchase at local retailers.
North Park is filled with excellent restaurants and City Tacos is no exception. Just a few feet from the North Park sign, grab lunch at City Tacos and order one (or three!) of their deluxe tacos. Corn tortillas are GF and they have vegan and vegetarian taco options.
An’s Dry Cleaning
Don’t let the name fool you. This is no ordinary dry cleaners. An’s Dry Cleaning is a gelato shop featuring creative flavors with a naming spin based on, you guessed it, dry cleaning. Their “fabrics” change regularly, but I love “Tweed” (tres leches). Mostly gluten free (yes, even the cones) with vegan friendly options.
Unlike An’s Dry Cleaning, Extraordinary Desserts is showing all their cards upfront – the name says it all. They usually have two or three gluten free dessert options any given day. I got a passion fruit cheesecake once that was out of this world. Go to the location on Union Street for the largest selection.
Looking for a great cocktail to wash it all down? Read this post on the 12 Best Bars in San Diego.
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