Going bananas because the kids are full of beans when out at restaurants? Stay cool as a cucumber with these family-friendly vegetarian restaurants that not only serve healthy dining options but also offer a relaxed atmosphere where your kids (and you) will feel comfortable.
The Plant Café Organic (San Francisco): Conveniently located at Pier 3 on the Embarcadero, this cafe combines amazing bay views with creative salads and pizzas, as well as a house-made veggie burger to satisfy all burger cravings. For families on the go, their “Grab and Go” counter offers cold items such as salads and spring rolls.
Herbivore (Berkeley, San Francisco): These restaurants offer vegan food in casual settings. Here you will find seitan or tofu versions of your favorite Thai, Japanese and Indonesian dishes, as well as lasagnas, gnocchi and ravioli for your Mediterranean appetite. Planning a day at the park? The entire menu is available for take-out.
Cafe del Soul (Mill Valley): Organic grains, hormone-free cheese, and vegan alternatives abound at this light-filled Marin cafe. Their inventive wraps and lovely salads, as well as the beautiful layered smoothies, make lunch a peaceful experience.
Farm to Table
Grow organic produce, serve them at your restaurant. Love the concept? Several restaurants indulge in this incredible food cycle.
Greens (San Francisco): At Fort Mason, Greens was a pioneer of the vegetarian movement and serves food whose produce is grown at the Green Gulch Farm, a project of the San Francisco Zen Center. Parents love the Sunday brunch (with scrumptious scones and griddle cakes) or the Greens to Go counter, an ideal place to hit before staking your beach spot at Crissy Field. Note that the first hour of parking is free at Fort Mason.
Café Gratitude (multiple locations): Throughout the Bay Area, Cafe Gratitude focuses on gourmet raw food with a Mexican or Asian twist, all produce being grown at their farm at the Be Love Farm in Vacaville. They have locations in San Francisco, Berkeley, Cupertino, Oakland, and San Rafael, and if you hit the Mission location and need a sweet tooth fix, Mitchell’s Ice Cream isn’t far and your kids will thank you for your choice.
Pauline’s Pizza (San Francisco): Not strictly vegetarian but very kid-friendly and sourcing its produce from its local gardens, Pauline’s on Valencia Street is great for families – on the early side. Any later than 7:00 pm and you’ll have to face long lines at the door. Their pesto pizza is famous – for a good reason.
Gracias Madre (San Francisco): Part of the Café Gratitude family but dedicated to gourmet vegetarian Mexican food, the Mission district’s Gracias Madre serves organic non-GMO tacos, enchiladas, empanadas, quesadillas and tamales in a warm atmosphere.
Lucky Creation Vegetarian Restaurant will convert even carnivores with their Chinese take on vegetarian cuisine – and their clever use of fake meat products. Fake chicken curry or real fried taro cakes anyone? Since it’s easy on the wallet and portions are generous, you can also take home the leftovers and enjoy them at home in the week!
Cha Ya (no website): An outpost of Berkeley’s beloved (but tiny) Cha-Ya vegetarian Japanese restaurant opened at 762 Valencia Street a couple of years back. It’s far more spacious, making it a better option for families than the East Bay version, and the staff has been known to dandle your baby on their knee while you enjoy some of their incredible vegan tempura, rolls, and salads. (They’ve also been known to clean up around your messy toddler while you’re eating, but not in an unkind way).
Garden Fresh (Palo Alto and Mountain View): These restaurants serve strictly vegan variations on classic Chinese dishes and local families love it! The shitake and orange “orange chicken”, the shitake and tofu “veggie duck” or the scallion pancakes will keep your family coming back for more. The best part is, you don’t even have to be a vegetarian to enjoy their food. If you crave good Chinese cuisine, Garden Fresh is a winner.
Avatars (Sausalito): The wizards at Avatars are able to whip just about any Indian specialty on their menu up in a vegan version (they also have a children’s menu that includes kid staples for non-adventurous eaters). The sister restaurant in Mill Valley, Avatar’s Punjabi Burritos, is also a worthy stop for veg-heads.
Where do you like to take your little veg-heads for a meat-free meal? Let us know in the comments below!