California (Northern): Bay Area and Beyond for Dairy-Free Eats

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Last Updated September 2020! Northern California is where the worlds of hi-tech and nature collide. Abundant fertile farmland and an entire region built on innovation means there is no shortage of health-forward, special diet cuisine.

That’s why we’ve been able to create this extensive guide to restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and ice cream shops in Northern California that are friendly to dairy-free diners. It’s a collection based on research and reader recommendations (send yours!), that’s divided into local restaurants (first) and chains (second).

Local Northern California Restaurants Recommended for Dairy-Free Eats

Northern California has been referred to as the breadbasket of the world. This is where vegetables take center stage on menus, avocado is served on almost everything, and garlic isn’t just a flavoring, it’s a main ingredient. You’ll want to enjoy their boisterous salads, since every ingredient was probably grown or made in the region. And take advantage of the heavy Asian influence in this region. Authentic Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and other Eastern influences make it easy to find flavorful dairy-free cuisine.

Like everywhere in the U.S., the locals like their cheese. But due to the widespread popularity of veganism in the Bay Area, you won’t have much trouble asking for dairy-free options at restaurants. But the restaurants listed below go above and beyond with dairy-free, and often vegan and gluten-free, choices. We’ve listed these recommendations alphabetically by city, and then by the restaurant or shop name.

⭐️ = Restaurant is either dairy-free, has a dairy-free menu, has dairy-free labels on their menu(s), or lists top allergens with menu items. (At the time of our last review.)

Berkeley

  • CREAM Nation ⭐️ – Although this is a traditional ice cream sandwich shop, they do offer some vegan goodies. On the menu, you should see at least a couple dairy-free, plant-based ice cream flavors. And to make your dairy-free ice cream sandwich experience complete, they have a nice little selection of vegan cookies. Once your dairy-free dessert is assembled, it can be rolled in or garnished with select dairy-free toppings. Alternatively, you can order scoops, sundaes, shakes, and coffee drinks at this cool spot.
  • Flacos Authentic Vegetarian Comida – If you’re craving handmade corn tortillas and a traditional taste of Mexico, then you’ll want to stop by Flacos. Their menu is 100% vegan, and boasts taquitos, tacos, and tamales for a fair price.
  • Gather – This locavore restaurant serves a mix of healthy fresh eats and comfort cuisine in a warm atmosphere. They clearly label vegan and gluten-free options, and have a lot to choose from. They offer vegan pizzas, share plates, portobello burgers, cookies, and more. You can see some photos of their vegan dishes on Bittersweet. Even more dishes can be made dairy-free on request.
  • The Butcher’s Son ⭐️ – This was the second all-vegan “butcher” shop to pop up in North America. It’s situated in a popular vegan-friendly area, but only open midday (see The King’s Feet below for dinner). They offer house-made plant-based meats, dairy-free cheeses, pre-made meals, and so much more. Their menu has an impressive list of sandwiches, from Chicken Parm to Steak Banh Mi.
  • The King’s Feet ⭐️ – This is the sister restaurant to The Butcher’s Son, serving plant-based Italian cuisine. It’s open for dinner just four nights a week, and serves vegan versions of the classics, like Manicotti, Alfredo, Caesar salads, and Pizzas.

Corte Madera

  • Amy’s Drive Thru ⭐️ – This is their second location – the first is in Rohnert Park. It’s an all-vegetarian fast food spot serving a big array of Amy’s organic cuisine. “Everything” on the menu has vegan and gluten-free options, and includes veggie burgers, burritos, chili, soups, and salads. They also have dairy-free smoothies and kombucha and nitro cold brew on tap.

Cupertino

  • CREAM Nation ⭐️ – Although this is a traditional ice cream sandwich shop, they do offer some vegan goodies. On the menu, you should see at least a couple dairy-free, plant-based ice cream flavors. And to make your dairy-free ice cream sandwich experience complete, they have a nice little selection of vegan cookies. Once your dairy-free dessert is assembled, it can be rolled in or garnished with select dairy-free toppings. Alternatively, you can order scoops, sundaes, shakes, and coffee drinks at this cool spot.

Danville

  • Acai & Bowls Cafe – A reader named Diana recommended this acai bowl spot to us. All of their bowls and smoothies are dairy-free, they have gluten-free granola available, and according to Diana, they are very allergy-friendly. “If you have any other allergies like I do to kiwi fruit they will wash down all cutting boards before making your bowl!” Just take note that they do serve cheese on their sandwiches.

Fresno

  • Raw Fresno – This laid back, California casual cafe (and food truck) serves an array of mostly raw, all vegan food. They offer wraps, tacos, and an array of creative eats, but also make cakes! They craft healthier dairy-free cheesecakes, layer cakes, pies, and other treats.

Martinez

  • Slow Hand BBQ – A Go Dairy Free fan named Diana emailed this recommendation. “All the meats at Slow Hand BBQ are gluten free and dairy free. This was a secret find because they don’t advertise it but they hardly put any ingredients in their meat. They feel smoking it gives it the flavor. Their BBQ sauces are even gluten free and dairy free! The sides that are dairy free are the coleslaw and German potato salad – they are even egg free with no mayo. Just tell them about your allergies and they will work with you.”

Milpitas

  • CREAM Nation ⭐️ – Although this is a traditional ice cream sandwich shop, they do offer some vegan goodies. On the menu, you should see at least a couple dairy-free, plant-based ice cream flavors. And to make your dairy-free ice cream sandwich experience complete, they have a nice little selection of vegan cookies. Once your dairy-free dessert is assembled, it can be rolled in or garnished with select dairy-free toppings. Alternatively, you can order scoops, sundaes, shakes, and coffee drinks at this cool spot.

Monterey

  • Hula’s Island Grill – Enjoy the tiki-atmosphere at this 1960s throwback restaurant. They have a wonderful atmosphere for happy hour, lunch or dinner. We also found them to be extremely helpful and kind with special diet requests. They have a gluten-free menu and many naturally dairy-free selections. Their menus are fish-heavy, but include loads of burgers, sandwiches, salads, bowls, entrees, and “pupus” – all with a Hawaiian flavor flair. They also have a fun assortment of “adults-only” drinks, many served in tiki glasses, of course.

Mountain View

  • Garden Fresh – It isn’t too hard to find dairy-free options at Chinese restaurants, but this popular spot is completely vegan. They receive top ratings for their Chinese cuisine made with plant-based mock meats. And you’ll want to stick around for dessert, which includes carrot cake and chocolate cake.

Oakland

  • Curbside CreameryHannah recommended this ice cream shop. It’s not exclusively vegan, but they offer a rotating variety of dairy-free cashew-based ice creams, from Cookies ‘n Cream to Rocky Road. All of their toppings and cones are also vegan, and they offer vegan ice cream sandwiches.
  • Mariposa Baking Co – Every artisan-crafted bite is made in their own dedicated gluten-free bakery. They do use dairy in some products, but reportedly sanitize between production of products with any top allergens. Their dairy-free selection includes several types of cookies, muffins, cakes, cupcakes, tea loaves, pies, and their famous biscotti. They also make dairy-free pizzas.
  • Pepples Donut Farm ⭐️ – You can’t leave the Bay Area without trying these artisanal vegan donuts. You might spot them at other stores or restaurants in the area, but if you go to their shop, you will also discover full vegan breakfast and lunch menus.
  • Vegan Donut Gelato ⭐️ – The name says it all. Their dairy-free, egg-free gelato is slow churned Italian ice cream that promises a rich, creamy experience with less fat, calries, and sugar. Their donut menu includes all of the classics – from classic glazed to jelly-filled to apple fritters. And of course, organic coffee and tea is served.

Pleasant Hill

  • Slow Hand BBQ – A Go Dairy Free fan named Diana emailed this recommendation. “All the meats at Slow Hand BBQ are gluten free and dairy free. This was a secret find because they don’t advertise it but they hardly put any ingredients in their meat. They feel smoking it gives it the flavor. Their BBQ sauces are even gluten free and dairy free! The sides that are dairy free are the coleslaw and German potato salad – they are even egg free with no mayo. Just tell them about your allergies and they will work with you.”

Rohnert Park

  • Amy’s Drive Thru ⭐️ – Yes, that Amy. This fast food restaurant is actually located quite close to their corporate headquarters. The entire menu is vegetarian, and they have “Gluten Free and Vegan Options Available on Everything.” They serve an array of their organic veggie burgers, pizzas, chili, burritos, and also have salads. And yes, they have dairy-free shakes!

Roseville

  • Pushkin’s Bakery ⭐️ – This newer location has more space than their original midtown Sacramento shop, and it has a bigger menu to match. It’s a gluten-free bakery and restaurant, but everything on the menu can be dairy-free, too. They also offer quite a few vegan menu items, including eggplant lasagna and nachos. The bakery menu is also big, with all types of pastries and breads.

Sacramento

  • Pushkin’s Bakery ⭐️ – The midtown location is the flagship shop for this gluten-free bakery. It’s tiny, but constantly busy. All of their pastries are 100% gluten-free and dairy free. Their sandwiches are too, but they offer both dairy and dairy-free cheese as options. The cheese alternative is cashew based and positively delicious! The sandwich selection includes ample breakfast and midday options.

San Francisco

  • Ananda Fuara – There is no shortage of vegan menu items at this all-vegetarian restaurant. They serve lunch, all-day dinner, and even dessert (award-winning vegan chocolate cake anyone?). The menu is expansive with vegan specialties like Spinach Artichoke Ravioli and Curry Wraps. You can even order a vegan version of their famous Neatloaf dinner.
  • CREAM Nation ⭐️ – Although this is a traditional ice cream sandwich shop, they do offer some vegan goodies. On the menu, you should see at least a couple dairy-free, plant-based ice cream flavors. And to make your dairy-free ice cream sandwich experience complete, they have a nice little selection of vegan cookies. Once your dairy-free dessert is assembled, it can be rolled in or garnished with select dairy-free toppings. Alternatively, you can order scoops, sundaes, shakes, and coffee drinks at this cool spot.
  • Nourish Cafe ⭐️ – They have two locations, one near the Presidio and one near Union Square. Their menu is purely plant-based and dairy-free, with a healthy array of savory bowls, wraps, sandwiches, soups, toasts, smoothie bowls, and smoothies. They’re also well loved for their coffee and tea drinks, and rotating gluten-free baked goods and desserts.
  • The Mill – Fresh baked bread and coffee are the specialties at this wifi-free, unplugged spot. We’ve heard their almond milk lattes are fabulous, and best savored with toast and the baker’s house made almond butter. They also offer pastries with gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options. And they have bread loaves, granola, and cookies to go.
  • The Plant Cafe Organic – They have a few locations dotted around the golden city, all serving local and sustainably-sourced cuisine. This isn’t a vegan restaurant, but they label vegan, gluten-free, and paleo options right on their expansive menu. Most items are, or can be made, dairy-free, including the breakfasts, bowls, smoothies, and more.
  • Veganburg – This 100% plant-based, dairy-free burger joint has two locations: San Francisco and Singapore. They have a big menu of vegan veggie burgers, various types of fries, some other meat-free dishes, soft serve, and cake.
  • Wholesome Bakery ⭐️ – Everything they make is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, low glycemic, and made with organic and sustainable ingredients. You might actually spot their cookies, cakes, and brownies at variouos Bay Area grocers, and they ship nationwide. But they also have a cafe filled with even more freshly-baked sweets and savories.
  • Zpizza – This regional build-your-own pizza chain is very friendly to special diets. They offer Daiya vegan cheese alternative, use vegan dough, offer a vegan, gluten-free pizza crust, and have Beyond Meat crumbles. You can also choose organic tomato sauce, housemade marinara sauce, or housemade roasted garlic sauce, and top it with any non-cheese toppings for “just dairy free.” At last check, everything on their menu was dairy-free, except the dairy cheeses, ranch dressings, caesar dressing, basil pesto sauce, and meatballs. But confirm in store before ordering!

San Jose

  • CREAM Nation ⭐️ – Although this is a traditional ice cream sandwich shop, they do offer some vegan goodies. On the menu, you should see at least a couple dairy-free, plant-based ice cream flavors. And to make your dairy-free ice cream sandwich experience complete, they have a nice little selection of vegan cookies. Once your dairy-free dessert is assembled, it can be rolled in or garnished with select dairy-free toppings. Alternatively, you can order scoops, sundaes, shakes, and coffee drinks at this cool spot.

Santa Cruz

  • Saturn Cafe – They closed their Berkeley location, but this space-themed vegetarian restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, dessert, and ‘Late Night Eats’ with comfort cuisine in mind. Their menu has a wide variety of pancakes, burgers, munchies, and more, many of which are already dairy-free and vegan or can easily be made so. They also offer separate gluten-free and soy-free menus.
  • Hula’s Island Grill – See our Monterey listing above – this is their second location. It’s a fun, casual tiki restaurant with a broad menu of pupus, drinks, and entrees. Their menu contains a lot of naturally dairy-free dishes, and they have a separate gluten-free menu.

Sausalito

  • Bean Sprouts Cafe – They are located inside the Bay Area Discovery Museum, and focus on amazing kid-friendly cuisine. Their playful menu boasts options for various special diet needs, including dairy-free, gluten-free, and even vegan.

Sebastopol

  • Muir’s Tea Room & Coffee Shop ⭐️ – Whether you a tea lover or not, you’ll probably appreciate this 100% vegan establishment. They have high tea with finger sandwiches and pastries galore, but also offer a full coffee bar, and wonderful full lunches and dinners. Gluten-free options are available.
  • The Slice of Life – Viewer Sarah sent us this recommendation. It’s a purely vegetarian and egg-free restaurant that does serve cheese, but they also offer several types of dairy-free and vegan cheese alternatives for their broad menu. In fact, many menu items are made with their chipotle cashew cheese. They serve everything from burgers to Mexican to pizzas and Italian food, and have many gluten-free options.

South Lake Tahoe

  • Fire + Ice – Janet recommended this restaurant for dairy-free lunch, dinner, and brunch options. It’s a Mongolian BBQ type place, but they offer a global array of flavors. Since you pick your own ingredients, it makes it easy to order without dairy and choose the right sauces. Janet said, “If the grill has already been used or is being used for things that shouldn’t be anywhere near my food, they take mine to the back and cook it in a separate pan and deliver it to my table.”
  • Sprouts Cafe – The food is fresh, the staff is hopping, and the people keep on coming at this fast casual sandwich, rice bowl, salad, burrito, and breakfast shop. Their menu is mostly vegetarian, but they also offer turkey and tuna (not dairy-free). They have a plethora of vegan and dairy-free options (including dairy-free cheese alternative), and can easily make most menu items dairy-free and even gluten-free upon request. The daily soups are almost always vegan. They also squeeze and blend fresh juices and smoothies, and have soy protein powder and dairy-free milk alternative on the menu.

Sunnyvale

  • Merit Vegan Restaurant ⭐️ – This is a vegan Asian restaurant with some Americanized twists. Their menu is broad, and includes many Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, and Chinese inspired dishes. But they also serve a big range of desserts, including cheesecake, cupcakes, brownies, and much more.
  • Zpizza – This regional build-your-own pizza chain is very friendly to special diets. They offer Daiya vegan cheese alternative, use vegan dough, offer a vegan, gluten-free pizza crust, and have Beyond Meat crumbles. You can also choose organic tomato sauce, housemade marinara sauce, or housemade roasted garlic sauce, and top it with any non-cheese toppings for “just dairy free.” At last check, everything on their menu was dairy-free, except the dairy cheeses, ranch dressings, caesar dressing, basil pesto sauce, and meatballs. But confirm in store before ordering!
  • Zpizza – This regional build-your-own pizza chain offers Daiya dairy-free cheese, vegan and gluten-free pizza crusts, several vegan housemade sauces, and more. See our San Francisco Listing above for more specific details.

Walnut Creek

  • CREAM Nation ⭐️ – Although this is a traditional ice cream sandwich shop, they do offer some vegan goodies. On the menu, you should see at least a couple dairy-free, plant-based ice cream flavors. And to make your dairy-free ice cream sandwich experience complete, they have a nice little selection of vegan cookies. Once your dairy-free dessert is assembled, it can be rolled in or garnished with select dairy-free toppings. Alternatively, you can order scoops, sundaes, shakes, and coffee drinks at this cool spot.

Most Popular National Chains in Northern California for Dairy-Free Diners

There are many more chains in this state, but these are the ones we recommend most for dairy-free options.

At the Airports

San Francisco Airport

  • Amy’s – They serve several of their organic veggie burgers, soups, and chilis. They even offer non-dairy shakes!

This Guide is Continuously Updated with Recommendations

We welcome you to recommend other dairy-free friendly restaurants. Leave a comment or contact us and tell us why you like a certain restaurant. Restaurant owners and employees are also invited to reach out and let us know how you welcome dairy-free customers.

Please kindly let us know in the comments if any of these restaurants close. We want to keep this list current for you, but aren’t always notified when a restaurant closes. Let us know and we will quickly update!

This Guide is for Informational Purposes Only

Menus, ingredients, kitchen procedures, management, and restaurants are subject to change at any time. Always read the menu and discuss your dietary needs with the staff before ordering. Make sure that they can accommodate your situation.

There is always a risk for potential cross-contamination of allergens in any commercial kitchen. If cross-contamination is an issue for you, always speak with the manager to ensure that your meal can be safely prepared. Listings here do not guarantee that a restaurant is safe enough for your individual needs. Only you can make that decision.

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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