The vegan foodie guide to San Diego Magazine’s 2018 “Best Restaurants” issue

For those into plant-based dining, you will understand the dreaded magazine issues draped with "Best Restaurant" feature across the cover. You open it fearing to see nothing about plant-based / vegan restaurants, dishes or companies. But fear not: the latest and highly anticipated “Best Restaurants” issue of San Diego Magazine brings hope for plant-based foodies.

San Diego Magazine Food Critic Troy Johnson's opening remarks in the “Best Restaurants” feature section for the first time include comments about plant-based foods in a big way. He acknowledges that this year "vegetarian and vegan food rose from the compost to flourish, as even diehard carnivorous chefs embraced the art of plant-based cooking."

Well said Mr. Johnson. While many of us know this is happening, to have the top food critic in one of the largest cities in the U.S. say and acknowledge chefs shifting from their formative food-staple – meat – is huge. Also, his pull out quote that leads the story, "it was a year of drastic change," hits it straight on; for people who have been following movements that have their roots in plant-based eating – and even those who have recently discovered it – know this to be true. Johnson also acknowledges that the "healthy gourmet food scene is booming," with "Plant-Power creating the first vegan drive-through" while also throwing a nod to True Foods Kitchen (a veg-friendly restaurant) which is continuing its expansion.

The "inclusive dining" movement (as we call it here at PlantBasedPopUp) endures as more restaurants are offering dedicated "V" (the universal symbol for “vegan” food) items to their standard menus, and influencers, like Johnson, recognize and reiterate these changes.

Continue reading below as we call out some of the other plant-based and veg-friendly highlights from the 2018 San Diego Magazine “Best Restaurants” issue:

For the first time this year, there was a selection for "Best Veggie Burger," with Burger Lounge's veggie burger taking the top spot. Warning, disappointment ahead: their quinoa-based veggie burger, while delicious and beloved by vegetarians and carnivores alike, does have cheese in its patty mix, so vegans and dairy-free people you are out of luck on this one. (Note, we have in the past emailed Burger Lounge a number of times requesting they consider refining their recipe to remove the cheese from their patty to cater to those that don’t and can’t eat cheese...no word back yet. We hope they will consider evolving their recipe so everyone can enjoy it.) In some redeeming news though, Plant-Power's veggie burger (pictured left) was the runner-up pick...and this one is 100% animal free.

The "Best Donut" went to Nomad Donuts, a place we love because their dedicated vegan donut selections are always plentiful. And speaking of sweets, Salt & Straw was named the Readers' Pick "Best Ice Cream" (which should come as no surprise if you ever have waited in the line that adorns India St. along Little Italy’s main strip). While we appreciate that Salt & Straw always has a non-dairy/plant-based option, we would like to see more "V" flavors (other than the one sorbet option) on a consistent basis.

And the "Best Vegetarian/Vegan Selection," as San Diego Magazine calls it, went to the 100% plant-based Kindred restaurant as the Critic's Pick and Runner-up Pick, and Plumeria (a mostly plant-based restaurant, with the exception of egg in some dishes) won the Readers' Pick.

We also loved seeing Modern Times on the "Best Craft Beer Brand" list because they also own and operate Modern Times Coffee, which is one of the few hot-spot coffee joints in San Diego where you can get a vegan croissant (courtesy of Unison Backing Co.)!

Herb & Wood earned the coveted “Best Restaurant” title and mag cover…and we're not mad at that: they have some killer unassuming vegan apps to choose from like their Roasted Cauliflower, and their Avocado Toast, both of which pair nicely with an energetic selection of wines by the glass. They are also great about making modifications on request, and their connected casual bistro, Herb & Eatery, offers an array of plant-based pastries that are delicious.

Many other restaurants named on the ‘best’ list offer pant-based items, it just might require a little bit of homework before you venture out. But clearly, as Johnson puts it best: “even diehard carnivorous chefs embraced the art of plant-based cooking.”

For restaurants still on the fence about creating a more inclusive dining menu that accommodates non-animal consuming eaters, just check out some stats here for a little plant-based inspiration.

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