Since moving to San Diego a few months ago, I’ve had a lot of fun exploring the food scene and finding all the best restaurants in the area! Fish, tacos, smoothies – we have it all. San Diego has so many delicious options, and what I love most about SD is that it’s easy to find a healthy option on almost every menu, unlike other cities where you have to seek out “healthy restaurants” specifically in order to have a healthy meal out. I’ve compiled my top recommendations for eateries in San Diego and organized them by location for your convenience, and I promise there is something for everyone on this list! Most restaurants in San Diego are places where you could take your “unhealthy” friends, and they’d still have plenty to choose from on the menu and love whatever they order. I’ve starred my personal absolute favorites, though!
Encinitas (North County)
***Nectarine Grove – This is probably my all-time favorite restaurant, ever. The entire menu is organic, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly. They have paleo pizza, sandwiches, baked goods, and more. Take your friends here and they’d never guess their sandwich or pizza is actually paleo. Nectarine Grove is amazing for any meal, and they also have delicious hot drinks and smoothies! It’s a paleo dream.
What do I order?! I love the Veggie Pesto Scramble or Eggs Benedict for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, my favorites are the Roasted Veggie Bowl, Chimichurri Steak Bowl (sub goat cheese for vegan cheese), Pesto Pizza, and BBQ Chicken Pizza (I sub vegan cheese on both of those). Also, make sure you try their plantain crusted chicken – it’s insanely delicious, and you can add it to any salad. All of the baked goods are incredible, but the cinnamon rolls are especially noteworthy.
Goodonya – Another gluten-free, organic restaurant! Encinitas in general is very wellness-centered, and overall has the healthiest restaurant options. Goodonya has an amazing latte menu, in particular, but also really delicious salads and bowls. Everything is super fresh and customizable. If you’re looking for another paleo-friendly spot, look no further!
Some of my favorites from the menu are the veggie scramble, breakfast tacos, tuna salad, turkey greek salad, and sprout probiotic salad. Make sure you get the cashew herb spread – it’s my favorite. They also always have some type of delicious gluten-free dessert out (it rotates), as well as Meet the Source Bliss balls (SO GOOD)! They have a ton of hot drinks I love – Golden Milk, ACV Tea Latte, Matcha Protein Tea Latte, Caramel Pu-erh Tea Latte, and more. If you like bulletproof coffee, they have a ton of different variations on bulletproof drinks. Their housemade cashew milk is my favorite, and I always get it in my lattes! My typical drink order is the Matcha Golden Milk or Chai Golden Milk, add CBD, with cashew milk.
Jojo’s Creamery – Cute little ice cream shop with vegan and gluten-free options! They also have gluten-free waffle cones and gluten-free cookies!
Live Culture – This place is brand new and serves vegan soft serve and kombucha floats (and regular kombucha, of course)! The vegan soft serve is coconut and acai flavored, and honestly isn’t my favorite alone, but the kombucha floats are delicious! If you eat dairy, they do have vanilla and chocolate soft serve.
***Powerhaus Pizza – I am obsessed with this place! You can customize your own pizza or get one of the options from the menu, and they also have kombucha on tap, smoothies, and a yummy salad. I have tried all of their pizzas and truly love them all. They have three crust options – gluten-free cauliflower crust, gluten-free classic white crust, and whole grain crust. You can’t go wrong! The cauliflower crust is a bit more like a thin crust pizza, and the GF classic white crust is thicker like traditional pizza crust! Both are delicious.
I usually customize my own pizza, and my go-to is the cauliflower crust with the pea-zza sauce, vegan mozzarella, spinach, artichokes, roasted zucchini, roasted mushrooms, and chicken. I also love their Mushroom, BBQ chicken, and Hawaiian pizzas!
Fish Shop – This is a great casual place to bring anyone who loves fish! You can choose from a variety of fish cooked in different ways, with different rub options, and then get your fish in tacos, on a salad, in a sandwich, or as a plate with sides! I like to get any of their fish options, grilled with salt and pepper, as a salad (olive oil as dressing, add avocado.)
Poke Chop – Great option for a build-your-own poke bowl, and the fish is actually really good!
Thai Village – Another place I found through Kayleigh! If you love Thai food, check this hole-in-the-wall restaurant out! I recommend the red curry, the green curry, and the avocado curry – I hold the rice and get extra steamed veggies!
Bareback Grill – Plenty of options for burgers, salads, and sandwiches – this is a great place to bring someone who isn’t really into “healthy” food. I like to get a burger on a salad, but you can get gluten-free bread, as well!
Waterbar – This place is right on the beach and has a great view of the ocean. If you love seafood, check it out – I recommend the seafood platter!
Second Nature – The ultimate blend of trendy, healthy, and not-so-healthy…options for everyone! They have something on the menu for vegans, meat-lovers, savory-fans, and your sweet tooth. The perfect place for brunch!
Insomnia Cookies – If you want a vegan, gluten-free cookie…. here ya go.
The Baked Bear – Customizable ice cream sandwiches! You do have limited options if you’re vegan / gluten-free, but you can go for the gluten-free chocolate chip cookie with vegan chocolate chip ice cream! It’s a good place to have in your back pocket if your friends like unhealthy desserts and you want to join in, but you have food allergies.
***Peace Pies – This is one of my all-time favorite restaurants, and definitely my favorite in the “main part” of San Diego (this and Nectarine Grove are my favorite places to eat). Everything is raw vegan and gluten-free, and they KNOW how to do raw vegan here! It’s very paleo friendly and relatively l0w-carb for a vegan restaurant! I love their entire menu, and their raw desserts are to die for. They have different options every day, but what drew me in initially was their raw cookie sandwich – it will forever be my favorite.
My favorites on the menu are the Mushroom Quesadilla, the Bliss Burger, the Caesar Wrap, and the Noble Nachos. But again, every single thing on their menu is delicious. I love the Snickerdoodle raw cookie sandwiches and pretty much all of their raw vegan desserts – I’ve never had a vegan cheesecake from here that I didn’t like. I also am obsessed with their Horchata mylkshake!
Raglan Public House – If you’re looking for good grass-fed burgers, head here. My friend Alli recommends Sheilas Cracked, and you can get any burger in a lettuce wrap or on a gluten-free bun. You can also get a portabello or black bean patty if you don’t eat meat!
***Lazy Acres Mission Hills – This is a grocery store, but it’s one of my favorite places to eat because the hot bar is so delicious. I think of Lazy Acres as a step up from Whole Foods, but not quite on Erewhon’s level. My favorite things from the hot bar are the pot roast, oven-roasted turkey, barbacoa, roasted cauliflower, roasted brussels sprouts, grilled asparagus, roasted carrots, and sweet potato wedges. All of those are cooked in olive oil! I also love their poke bowl station – they have cauliflower rice! On nights when I want to eat out, I usually would rather eat here than go to a restaurant – the food is amazing.
Burger Lounge – There are Burger Lounge locations all over San Diego (I usually go to this one and the one in La Jolla), and it’s one of my go-to spots for a quick, easy, casual bite to eat, no matter who I’m with. I always get the Paleo Burger, which isn’t on the official menu (it’s on the gluten-free menu) but you’ll probably see ads for it outside. I also love the fresh vegetable salad without the ricotta if I want extra greens!
Fig Tree Cafe – This is a great spot for breakfast / brunch / lunch! They have a ton of different egg options, salads, sandwiches, coffee, and more. I usually like to get one of the omelettes. Everything is also clearly labeled gluten-free, vegan, etc., so the menu is easy to navigate.
Snooze – Snooze has so many breakfast options, it’s almost overwhelming. There is something here for everyone, and it’s a great brunch spot – especially if you’re with people who like to get drinks with their brunch. It’s easy to modify anything here to be healthier. I like to order any of their egg dishes, and I’ll sub out any toast for sweet potato hash! Check out the Sweet Potato Hash dish, too – roasted sweet potatoes, Tuscan kale, and two sunny side up eggs!
Lemonade – Lemonade has a number of locations in L.A., and I ate there a lot when I lived there in college. It’s a good spot to have in mind if you’re looking for somewhere with healthy options that’s quick, casual, and works for anyone. The food is served cafeteria style, and everything is clearly labeled with any potential allergens. They’re known for their lemonade and macaroons! My favorite things to get are the avocado and cherry tomato salad, curried cauliflower, citrus poached salmon, seared pepper crusted ahi tuna, and seasonal veggies.
Juice Crafters – San Diego is known for smoothies and acai bowls, but the majority of the smoothie shops aren’t actually healthy. Juice Crafters is a chain that’s easy to find, and they have plenty of smoothie options with truly healthy ingredients! You can customize any smoothie, and it’s a great place to buy a green juice as well. My favorite is the Muscle Builder!
Sushi Deli – This is one of the most popular sushi spots in San Diego, with multiple locations!
Farmer’s Bottega – Farm-to-table with plenty of gluten-free options! It’s a bit more expensive, but the food is very high-quality, and they have everything from fancy proteins to flatbreads to fresh salads.
Starry Lane Bakery – The ultimate allergen-friendly bakery! Everything at Starry Lane is free of the top 10 allergens – gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish, mustard, and sesame. The baked goods aren’t necessarily “healthy” – they’re still baked goods, but they’re allergen-friendly and very delicious… you’d never know they’re gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, etc. You can get pretty much anything here – cookies, muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, cupcakes, cakes, and even fresh bread! Their cupcakes are truly impressive – I like the Campfire, Banana Split, and Cookies & Cream!
Roots Bowls – Juices, smoothies, and bowls that are all totally customizable. Pick any combination of ingredients that you want! With the bowls, you can even layer hot and cold ingredients – acai, pitaya, chia pudding, fruit, nut butter, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut, granola, cacao nibs, cinnamon, matcha, and more.
FruitCraft – They ferment FRUIT to make kombucha, hard kombucha, cider, mead, wine from fruit, and red wine. They have a tasting room and bar, with both regular and hard kombucha. They do have a few light bites, but this place is for the drinks.
***Evolution Fast Food – When I discovered this a few years ago, I felt like I struck gold, because not many people know about this place. It’s a vegan fast food place with an actual drive thru, and from the outside you’d never expect it to be so delicious. You can get burgers, wraps, sandwiches, tacos, chicken tenders, “milkshakes”, fries, vegan soft serve, and more. If you’re looking for comfort food / fast food that’s allergy-friendly, drive on through!! There’s a gluten-free option for almost everything. You can get gluten-free buns or get anything in a cabbage leaf. My favorites are the raw burger, chicken caesar wrap, raw tacos, buffalo chicken fries, and milkshakes.
Tribute – This is another great pizza spot in San Diego, and somewhere you might not expect to have so many allergy-friendly options! While the ingredients aren’t super healthy in the traditional sense, they have plenty of gluten-free and vegan choices. Bring anyone who loves pizza, and they’ll be happy. You can get any pizza on a gluten-free crust, and they have an entire vegan menu. I recommend getting the GF fried brussels sprouts and the super vegan VII pizza (the beet puree is so interesting) on gluten-free crust, with a side of vegan ranch. So. Good.
Ranchos Cocina – I am obsessed with this place! This Mexican restaurant is all vegan / vegetarian, and they have a very extensive menu. Mexican restaurants in general are great for eating gluten-free, but I love how many options are here – and they serve breakfast all day. Most people would never even notice that the restaurant is vegetarian / vegan. My go-to is their veggie omelette with nopales!
Blue Water Seafood – Another great fish spot! You can choose your fish, the marinade, and how you want it prepared – sandwich, salad, plate, taco, or a la carte. You really can’t go wrong.
Paleo Treats – You have probably heard of the company Paleo Treats, but did you know they have an actual shop?! Their treats are all made from paleo-friendly ingredients, and they have bars, almond butter cups, brownies, and more. The desserts are sold in little individual packets and you can buy them by the dozen or in sampler packs! FYI – this isn’t a sit-down dessert place, it’s a shop to buy the treats!
Juneshine Tasting Room – The world’s first hard kombucha bar! They have really unique kombucha flavors, too. If you’re a health nut and want to go out for drinks on a date, it’s a good spot to have in your back pocket. ;P
Stella Jean’s Ice Cream – This ice cream is small batch and incredibly fresh! They have regular ice cream as well as dairy-free options. Their menu is seasonal, so check online to see what’s new!
***Holy Matcha – I have no words for this place – it is a MUST. They serve the best matcha you will ever have, and it’s unsweetened! They have an incredibly unique menu with both iced matcha and hot matcha options – flavors with rose water, adaptogens, cacao, and everything in between. I always recommend checking out their seasonal offerings – the pumpkin matcha is incredible! They also have delicious dairy-free soft-serve, gluten-free / vegan donuts, waffles, avocado toast, and more. Plus, you can’t beat the aesthetic – very Instagrammable. The Matcha Horchata is my all-time favorite, and I love the signature Holy Matcha.
Communal Coffee – Great coffee, but even better vibes. Very Instagram-worthy, has plenty of open workspace, and overall a great aesthetic. You’ll feel trendy if you go here. I always see people taking IG photos out front, haha!
Holsem Coffee – Another great coffee shop to work at! They have a ton of coffee options, a delicious golden milk, tea options, cocktails, toasts, sandwiches, and salads.
***Tocaya Organic – This was always one of my favorite spots in L.A., and now it’s one of my favorite places in SD! If you love Mexican food but want something healthy, fresh, and not too heavy, this is your spot. They always have a great seasonal menu with healthy options, so definitely check that out first. Their keto bowl is my go-to. I also love their Spanish cauliflower rice, shaved brussels, and cali tacos. You can get gluten-free tacos / tortillas here – usually Siete, and I’ve also gotten lettuce shells as my tacos.
Barleymash – This is a popular, newer place downtown that truly has options for anyone and everyone. They have a ton of great meat dishes, salads, flatbreads and more. There is a wide price range – so you can get something “fancier” or more casual. I love the seared tuna salad!
Breakfast Republic – Another great breakfast / brunch spot with plenty of customizable options! Anyone can find something here.
Lionfish – Delicious place for a fancy night out! The menu is clearly labeled with what’s gluten-free, which makes it easy if you have a gluten intolerance / allergy. Check out their kabocha squash soup, pork belly, salmon, grilled octopus, and half-roasted chicken!
***Parakeet Cafe – There is also a location in La Jolla and Del Mar, but I go to the Little Italy location. This place is very Instagrammable, and the menu is filled with incredible options with a vegan / vegetarian slant. I love their Mushroom Cacao Chai Latte, Moon Milk, and Immortality Latte for drinks. All of their food is absolutely delicious, but some of my favorites are the raw zucchini noodle salad (there is nothing like this – it’s all in the sauce), the roasted greens bowl, and the Parakeet bowl. They are great with substitutions here, and you can make pretty much anything paleo! Also, I highly recommend getting the beet-cured salmon.
Cafe Gratitude – Another from L.A., but this will always be one of my favorite spots! Cafe Gratitude is a vegan restaurant that is truly all about love and gratitude. They will ask you the daily question to help prompt conversation at your table – always answer it! Some of my favorite entrees are the pad thai, pesto kelp noodles, caesar salad, seaweed salad, and Whole Bowl. I also love their buffalo cauliflower and coconut ceviche! Everything at Cafe G has a name like, “Liberated,” “Dazzling,” or “Radiant,” and when you order you say, “I am Liberated,” or “I am Dazzling,” to order that on the menu. Where Cafe Gratitude really stands out for me, though, is with their desserts. The cookie skillet will change your life. I also highly recommend the Mint Chip shake and Almond Butter Cup shake!
Herb and Wood – Great for a fancy night out. This restaurant is super popular and has a ton of delicious options for proteins and veggies, but they also serve pasta, pizza, and plenty of cocktails.
Farmer’s Table – Same as Farmer’s Bottega in Hillcrest (see above)!
Ironside Fish & Oyster – If you love fish and oysters, this is the place, clearly. Check out their rockfish ceviche and chilled lobster. I recommend an oyster platter!
Civico 1845 – Italian restaurant with plenty of gluten-free options (both gluten-free pasta and gluten-free meat and veggie options) and also a separate vegan menu!
Prep Kitchen – Seasonal menu that changes, but they have a wide variety of meat, fish, veggies, apps, and drinks.
Choice Juicery – Another one of the few smoothie shops that actually uses healthy ingredients! Everything is gluten-free and vegan. I love their Mint Chip and Superhero smoothies. They also have a ton of delicious juices, elixirs, and hot drinks – try out the Hot Chaga, Chaga Choco-Latte, and Turmeric Latte. I also HIGHLY recommend their brownies – they taste like fudge. You can also get some yummy delicious bites here – the Macho Taco Salad, Coconut “Bakon” Cobb, and Ultimate Caesar are delicious.
Salt & Straw – Have you really had ice cream if you haven’t had Salt & Straw? They’re known for serving very unique flavors. The line is long, but you really should try it at some point. The specials change every month, so there is always a different vegan option.
True Food Kitchen – Always a classic. I love True Food Kitchen because it has a healthy menu but also has options for people who don’t really like healthy food – it has a good mix for everyone. The menu changes seasonally though, so sometimes what you love might not be on the menu. I absolutely love their Charred Cauliflower – it is standout. I also recommend the Seasonal Ingredients Salad, Pan-seared Chicken Breast, Spaghetti Squash Casserole with vegan cheese, and Turkey burger with sweet potato hash.
Pressed Freeze – For when you want ice cream, but don’t actually want ice cream. Freeze is vegan, gluten-free, and very light, and the toppings make it delicious. They always only have four flavors. I always get vanilla (and matcha, if they have it), with almond butter, chocolate sauce, chocolate chips, and coconut shreds.
***Beaming – This was my favorite smoothie shop in L.A., and it’s also my favorite smoothie shop in San Diego. Completely gluten-free and vegan. You can get any smoothie or acai bowl “low-glycemic,” which means they replace the banana with avocado and use yacon as the sweetener (but you can get anything without sweetener, if you want). You can also get half avocado and half banana, which is what I often do. My favorites are the Beaming Basic, the Sexy Mayan, the Rockstar, and the Mint Chip smoothies. I always add cacao nibs! I also highly recommend the cookie smoothie if you’re feeling more indulgent. They blend their Beaming Cookie (which you really need to get – it is legendary, so soft and chewy!), into the smoothie, and it is unreal. They also have a selection of to-go food that’s light but delicious. If you want a dessert, get the gelato cookie sandwich. It is my weakness. This is pretty much the only place I will get an acai bowl.
***Trilogy – One of the most popular vegan restaurants in San Diego, and the ambiance is what makes this place extra special. It’s on the roof of a building, and they have aerial yoga, live performances, and great events. It’s a very spiritual place. The menu is delicious – everything is organic, vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free. My favorites are the Buffalo Cauliflower Wingz, Cauliflower Crust Pizza, Green Goddess salad, Enticing Eggplant, Spaghetti Squash N “Meatballs,” and Green Power Bowl. Their desserts are my favorite, though – this is my absolute favorite place for a good dessert. My favorites are the Transcendent (brownie sundae with vegan ice cream), Majestic (raw carrot cake), and Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich.
Burger Lounge – See Hillcrest review above.
Sweetfin – Another great poke spot! This was my go-to poke place in L.A. and I love that there is now a location in SD. You can get one of their signature bowls or build your own! The menu is completely gluten-free, and only two things there have dairy. Everything vegan is clearly labeled. I usually get the kelp noodles or citrus kale slaw with salmon, citrus sauce, avocado, carrots, radish, cabbage, ginger, eggplant, and pickled shiitake mushrooms. The combinations are endless!
Puesto – This is a really popular Mexican restaurant that also has a plant-based menu, and they have clear labels for gluten-free items. You can get any tacos with lettuce wraps instead of a tortilla! Go for the tacos, and check out the salmon ceviche.
The Cottage – Very popular brunch spot – on the weekends it can feel almost impossible to get in! They have a ton of egg dishes, salads, and bigger entree plates. Items to check out: poke lettuce cups, cold poached salmon salad, stuffed avocado, daily catch, brick chicken, pork belly benedict, and the roasted vegetable omelette.
Urban Plates – Seasonal menu, casual restaurant. They have plenty of salads, veggies, and healthy proteins to pick from, and you can build your own plate! I like to build my own plate – brussels sprouts, roasted carrots and beets, grass-fed steak, albacore tuna, salmon, etc. Their grilled wild albacore nicoise tuna salad, antioxidant salad, and steak salads are also great.
Del Mar / Solana Beach
Creamistry – Another place I used to frequent in L.A., and was happy to learn has a location in SD. I love liquid nitrogen ice cream, but it can be very difficult to find dairy-free options! Creamistry is great because it’s entirely customizable liquid nitrogen ice cream. Pick your base, your flavor, and your toppings. Obviously you can get the classic milk-based ice cream, but if you’re dairy free you can get sorbet, vegan coconut base, or vegan cashew base. For their flavors and toppings, you can check out their allergen-friendly menu to see what’s gluten-free and vegan. I’m a sucker for banana-flavored ice cream, so I usually get the coconut base with banana flavor and mix in marshmallows, chocolate chips, and walnuts.
Flower Child – Casual restaurant with gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and paleo options. Lots of vegetables and healthy proteins! I like to get one of their salads and add protein or build my own plate with a protein and sides. I usually like to get the vegan ingredient salad and add salmon, or a plate with sautéed spinach and Indian spiced cauliflower along with salmon, steak, or chicken. In general, though, I love their salads, and the lemon avocado dressing is delicious! They also have bowls, wraps, and lots of lemonade options!
I hope this guide helps you the next time you’re in San Diego! If you have a favorite San Diego eatery, comment below!