If perfect moderate temperatures and a sea of outdoor entertainment is what you are seeking, then San Diego should be your next stop. And to make your stay even more enjoyable, I’ve got a complete guide filled with dairy-free friendly San Diego restaurants, SeaWorld and LegoLand tips, vegan food events, recommended grocery stores, suggested lodging, and even more things to do.
Photo from Native Foods Cafe.
San Diego Dairy-Free Index
Jump to the beginning of any section in this post by clicking the link below! For ease of navigation, you will see more “jump to” links at the end of each section in this post.
- Local Restaurants
- Best Restaurant Chains
- More Things to Do
- Best Grocery Stores
- Where to Stay
- Airport Eats
Dining Dairy-Free in San Diego
This youthful city has a burgeoning vegan food scene, and down nearly every street you can find wonderful Asian dining options. Ramen houses, sushi spots, build-your-own poke bowls, and casual pho restaurants dot the neighborhoods with an abundance of naturally dairy-free food.
For other types of cuisine, vegan-friendly eateries are slowly emerging. As you will see in our recommended list below, more than a few small vegan chains now call San Diego home. And their rather large Italian food scene is also becoming hip to the need for dairy-free cheese and vegan meat alternatives. We were also impressed with the many juice and smoothie shops that seemed to focus on dairy-free “milks” and acai bowls.
Like most cities, we did face some dairy-free challenges in San Diego. There were limited to no dairy-free options on many menus, and staff mishaps did happen. At one touristy spot, we were served food covered in sour cream as the server said, “here you go, no butter and no dairy.” If dining on the fly, I recommend going Asian, or simply consult this list of San Diego restaurants for the top dairy-free and vegan spots.
The Best San Diego Restaurants for Dairy-Free Eats
These San Diego restaurants go above and beyond to cater to dairy-free or vegan diners, and they are well-rated for friendly service and good food. I’ve listed the “local” options first, which are restaurants you can only find in San Diego or Southern California. They are alphabetical, and I’ve referenced the neighborhoods for easier planning. After the regional list, I’ve included fantastic national chains for dairy-free eats that you can find in San Diego. Those link up to separate posts with more dairy-free information for you!
Keep in mind that menu items, ingredients, and kitchen procedures can change. Always check with the staff before you dine to ensure that the food and preparation is safe for your needs.*
Ambrogio15 (dinner, lunch, happy hour)
Location: 926 Turquoise St h, San Diego, CA 92109 (Pacific Beach – lunch is weekends only and no happy hour) and 550 West Date St, San Diego, CA 92101 (Little Italy – express location)
We originally found this restaurant because it was rated #1 on TripAdvisor for ALL restaurants in San Diego. Ambrogio15 tosses authentic Milan-style pizza on paper-thin crust, made from imported organic flour. The vegan pizza on their menu is cheeseless (pictured above), because it’s that good. So they shouldn’t look at you funny if you order another pizza with dairy-free toppings sans cheese. However, they do offer vegan mozzarella at both locations for cheesy cravings.
Anthem Vegan (late breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, dinner – closed Mondays)
Location: 2611 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104 (North Park)
This is an all-vegan comfort food diner serving an impressive range of home-style breakfasts, meaty burgers, hearty sandwiches, Mexican dishes, wholesome bowls, and more. They have gluten-free labels on their menu, but the options are modest. You can find Anthem Vegan with a “limited menu” (it’s still pretty big!) at the Ocean Beach, SDSU, and Hillcrest farmers’ markets. They also bottle and sell several of their sauces, including vegan 100,000 Island Dressing (not a typo!), Sriracha Ranch Dressing, and Wasabi Mayo.
Cafe 160 (breakfast, lunch – closed weekends)
Location: 9275 Sky Park Ct #101, San Diego, CA 92123 (Serra Mesa)
Situated near the Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport, this local, fresh, organic-focused restaurant also strives to be allergy-friendly. They have a big menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, bowls, breakfasts, and coffee drinks, with ample paleo, vegan, and gluten-free options. They also serve gluten-free bread for no extra charge, have vegan pesto, offer paleo coconut wraps, and even make their own dairy-free cashew milk daily (hemp milk and almond milk are available too). And they usually have dairy-free and vegan desserts available.
Cafe21 (breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour)
Locations: 802 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter) and 2736 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116 (University Heights)
The cuisine at this trendy cafe is Mediterranean with a from-scratch, farm-to-table spin. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are labeled on the menu, and there is a good smattering for each type of diner. They even have a vegan option or two on their happy hour menu. But I wouldn’t count on many options for breakfast. Their morning menu is heavy on cheese, milk, and cream.
Cafe Gratitude (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, happy hour)
Location: 1980 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101 (Little Italy)
Cafe Gratitude started in Southern California, but is methodically expanding to other states. It is a completely plant-based restaurant, so everything on the menu is dairy-free and vegan. This includes internationally-inspired bowls, sandwiches and wraps, and even comfort cuisine like lasagna and enchiladas. They also have a beloved dessert menu.
Civico 1845 (lunch, dinner)
Location: 1845 India St, San Diego, CA 92101 (Little Italy)
It isn’t often that you find an Italian restaurant with a complete vegan menu. Vegetables, creamy sauces, and dairy-free cheeses take center stage with ravioli, gnocchi, and lasagna among the options. They even have vegan desserts that go beyond sorbetto! Additional menu items can be made “just” dairy-free and they clearly label gluten-free items on the menu.
Cucina Basilico (weekday lunch, dinner)
At last, a San Diego restaurant that labels dairy-free right on the menu! This restaurant serves traditional cuisine from northern Italy, right down to the homemade pasta. And they do have quite a few dairy-free options, along with many gluten-free and vegetarian dishes. If you head east of San Diego, you can find their second location in La Mesa.
Cupcakes Squared (lunch, dessert)
Location: 3772 Voltaire St, San Diego, CA 92107
As the name implies, their cupcakes are square! They offer a gluten-free and vegan chocolate cupcake daily, and do take custom orders. They also offer to go meals, several of which are vegan.
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters (breakfast, dessert)
Locations: 3260 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116 (Normal Heights), 811 25th St, San Diego (Golden Hill), CA 92102, 3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104 (North Park)
They pour very popular coffee, and can serve it with your choice of oat milk, almond milk, or soymilk. They even have kombucha and kefir soda for beverage alternatives. But the really draw here is their alter-ego, Skinny Donuts Craft Vegan Donut Company. Order up one, or two, to enjoy with your fresh brew.
Donna Jean Restaurant (lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, happy hour)
Location: 2949 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
This 100% vegan restaurant serves comfort food with Italian flare. The menu includes healthier options for ravioli, mac ‘n cheese, and Caesar salads. And they have a big menu of pizzas with an array of dairy-free cheeses, vegan meats, and unique toppings. You can also lounge on their spacious patio with herb garden while sipping on house kombucha or beer.
Donut Panic (breakfast, dessert – closed Mondays)
Location: 6171 Mission Gorge Rd #113, San Diego, CA 92120 (Allied Gardens – SDSU area)
This is a local bagel and donut shop makes both vegan and non-vegan donuts in very inspired flavors. The vegan varieties change with each baking cycle, but usually include some raised, cake, filled, and fritter options. If it’s a bagel day, you can choose between hummus, vegan cream cheese, or vegan butter as your spread.
Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro (late breakfast, lunch, dinner)
Location: 2145 Fern St, San Diego, CA 92104 (South Park)
Their dessert menu is modest for dairy-free diners, but we’ve heard that the vegan olive oil almond torte is worth it. They also reportedly offer vegan chocolate truffles. Their savory menu is also labeled for vegan and gluten-free options. The vegan selection includes crispy quinoa fritters, and vegan options for the panini, sea salted potatoes, and a few salads.
Everbowl (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
Location: 5624 Mission Center Rd, San Diego, CA 92108 (Mission Valley)
This small, Southern California chain specializes in cool, creamy superfood bowls. Almost their entire menu is dairy free (they do offer whey protein) and vegan (they have honey and bee pollen as options). You start with a base of acai, acerola, pitaya, or graviola (I may or may not know what all of these are!). Then you get to mix in your liquid of choice – all are dairy free. There is also an array of toppings and mix-ins to choose from, including things like hemp protein, maca, almond butter, ginger, blueberries, and … I could go on.
Evolution Fast Food (lunch, dinner, dessert)
Location: 2965 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 (Cambridge Square near Balboa Park)
There’s no guessing with the Evolution menu. Everything from the three types of burger patties to the “chicken” tenders to the milkshakes is completely dairy-free and vegan. They have a surprisingly big menu of healthier sandwiches, Mexican food, and sweets with lots of raw food options too. Evolution also has an array of house-made desserts and they bake custom cakes.
Extraordinary Desserts (lunch, dinner, brunch, desserts)
Locations: 1430 Union St, San Diego, CA 92101 (Little Italy), 2929 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 (Cambridge Square near Balboa Park)
They have a smattering of vegan options labeled on their menus, and quite a few gluten-free choices. Some additional items can be enjoyed dairy-free if you speak with your server about the options. As for dessert, their Decadent Yogi cake is available vegan, and they bake vegan cookies (some gluten-free). We’ve also heard that they make vegan hot fudge sundaes with coconut ice cream. And spotted some dairy-free options on the menu, like the Cocadas (contain eggs).
Fresh Brothers (lunch, dinner)
Location: 5950 Village Way, San Diego, CA 92130 (Carmel Valley)
It is a chain, but you’ll only find this pizza and wings restaurant in Southern California. They use house-made ingredients, shun deep frying, and offer many gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options. You can order a thin crust or deep dish pizza with Daiya dairy-free cheese, and vegan “Impossible” meat, if you wish. They also have popular vegan tenders, which reportedly to taste like chicken. And their big menu of salads includes vegan variations of House Italian, Olive Oil & Vinegar, Ranch, and Blue Cheese dressings. For dessert, you can order vegan Sweet Knots (cinnamon roll-like bites) or vegan and gluten-free brownies.
Greystone Prime Steakhouse & Seafood (dinner, happy hour)
Location: 658 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)
We were excited to see the menu at this fine-dining restaurant. Dairy-free and gluten-free are clearly labeled with quite a few steak and seafood dishes to choose from. Their vegan selection is limited, but they have a separate vegetarian menu with one popular vegan dinner option.
Grains Cafe (lunch, dinner)
Location: 2201 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116 (North Park)
I love how they call this place “rustic-chic.” It does have a modern mountain feel, and a purely vegan menu to match. The cuisine is a big mix of earthy greens, internationally-inspired dishes, and comfort food twists. On the menu you can find popcorn “chicken,” curry, banh mi, Philly cheesesteakes, and fried “calamari” alongside boisterous green salads.
Hodad’s (lunch, dinner)
Location: 5010 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107 (Ocean Beach), 945 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101 (East Village), and inside Petco Park
This casual local burger joint has a list of their ingredients with allergen information on it. And from what we could tell, all of their buns (for burgers), breads, and chicken are dairy-free and egg-free. Their fries are also made without dairy, but their onion rings aren’t. So check if potential fryer cross-contamination is a concern for you. They also offer a vegan patty (their vegi-patty contains dairy).
Location: 3118 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
This Instagram-worthy shop is a pink dream with splashes of green matcha in nearly every menu item. It’s a bit of a splurge, and the service can be spotty, but Holy Matcha is a completely dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan spot. According to the owner, their most popular menu items are the baked donuts, soft serve, and waffles. Their beverages include different types of traditional matcha, served warm or iced. They also have horchata and “Milk Matcha” lattes with various seasonal flavors. For warm days, they also offer Strawberry, Matcha, or Rose lemonade.
Juice Crafters (breakfast, lunch)
Locations: 401 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 (Hillcrest), 943 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118 (Coronado), 1740 India St, San Diego, CA 92101 (Little Italy)
There’s no shortage of juice shops in San Diego, but Juice Crafters told us they are completely dairy-free. So you don’t have to worry about dairy yogurt or whey protein in the blender. Their menu includes a big range of pressed juices, hydration drinks, wellness shots, smoothies, and acai bowls. They even have herbal teas and CBD drinks. For a creamy finish, they use their own date-sweetened almond nut mylk. Beyond the locations listed here, they have more up north in La Jolla and throughout the L.A. area.
Jyoti-Bihanga (lunch, dinner – closed Sundays)
Location: 3351 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116 (Normal Heights)
Relax in this spiritual restaurant run by students of Sri Chinmoy. The menu is completely vegetarian with vegan and gluten-free options clearly labeled. It offers a light and varied assortment of appetizers, wraps, soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and even desserts. So you can unwind with the popular vegan neatloaf (as an entree or a sandwich) before indulging in a slice of vegan chocolate moussecake or apple pie.
Kindred (dinner, late night, weekend brunch, happy hour)
Location: 1503 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102 (South Park)
This eccentric bar serves exclusively vegan fare while cranking out death metal music. Their drink menu is unique and extensive, and the food includes a neat little array of snacks, sandwiches, and a few other entrees. On the weekends you can enjoy their brunch, which includes indulgences like cinnamon rolls, French toast, and Benedict.
Lighthouse Ice Cream (dessert)
Location: 5059 Newport Ave #102, San Diego, CA 92107 (Ocean Beach)
It isn’t house-made, but we still think it’s a real treat to order dairy-free scoops right next to the beach. Their vegan ice cream is Double Rainbow’s soy cream, and it’s available daily in Mint Chip and Cherry Chocolate Chip by Double Rainbow. You can enjoy it on a plain or sugar cone, or blended into a vegan milkshake. They also have house-made non-dairy sorbet daily, with flavors like Marionberry, Raspberry, Mango, and Blueberry Pomegranate.
Luna Grill (lunch, dinner, happy hour at select locations)
Locations: 2245 Fenton Pkwy #105, San Diego, CA 92108 (Mission Valley), 350 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 (Hillcrest), 2400 Historic Decatur Rd #100, San Diego, CA 92106 (Liberty Station), 4175 Genesee Ave #100, San Diego, CA 92111 (Clairemont), 7825 Highlands Village Pl e105, San Diego, CA 92129 (Camino del Sur), 5950 Village Way #105, San Diego, CA 92130 (Pacific Highlands Ranch), 8430 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92126 (Mira Mesa), 10585 Scripps Poway Pkwy D, San Diego, CA 92131 (Scripps Ranch)
Luna Grill does include vegan icons on their menu, and there are a few options. But they also have a great allergen guide that reveals numerous milk-free menu items. The desserts are off-limits, but there are many kabobs, salads, and small bites to choose from.
Nibble Chocolate (dessert)
Locations: 2754 Calhoun St, San Diego, CA 92110 (Old Town)
This modern chocolate shop is completely vegan and dairy-free. Their chocolate bars are a bit of a splurge, but the Madagascar is worth it. And depending on the day, you might find house-made frozen desserts and baked goods, like banana bread, brownies, and mini red velvet bunt cakes. They can also be found at several of the San Diego farmers’ markets.
Nomad Donuts (breakfast, dessert)
Location: 3102 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104 (North Park)
Gourmet donuts are baked up by the dozen at this popular sweet spot. And they make several vegan flavors daily. The selection changes weekly, but they usually make about a dozen vegan varieties.
NoW Cafe (breakfast, lunch)
Location: 844 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109 (Mission Bay)
Proceeds from this wee little cafe benefit the NoWorriesMovement for animal protection and their animal sanctuary in Austin, Texas. So the menu is completely vegan, and it includes light bites, like toasts, paninis, salads, smoothies, and acai bowls.
Paleo Treats (dessert)
Location: 4662 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116 (University Heights)
Raw chocolate and grain-free granola-like bites are the specialty at this wholesome, dairy-free, gluten-free shop. They do use eggs (baked) in some items, and honey is there primary sweetener, so these desserts aren’t recommended for strict vegans.
Peace Pies (lunch, dinner)
Location: 4230 Voltaire St, San Diego, CA 92107 (Ocean Beach)
Peace Pies is beyond vegan. They’re an “eco-raw” restaurant. The menu isn’t extensive, but it boasts ample greens and a broad range of “healthified” entrees. It also includes a delicious assortment of not-so-sinful dessert, like the Conscious Cheesecake and Alive Apple Pie. They have a second location north of San Diego in Encinitas.
Pesto Italian Craft Kitchen (lunch, dinner)
Location: 6011 El Cajon Blvd A, San Diego, CA 92115 (College Heights)
The pastas are a little difficult to work with, but most of their pizzas and paninis can be made dairy-free with Daiya dairy-free mozzarella. The pizza fries might be a fun option for vegans too!
Phil’s BBQ (lunch, dinner, happy hour)
Location: 3750 Sports Arena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110 (Midway District) and at the San Diego International Airport (Terminal 2)
Barbecue seems to be pretty popular in San Diego, but we loved that Phil’s has a full allergy menu with lots of dairy-free options. In fact, most of their menu is dairy-free, nut-free, and peanut-free, including their burger and sandwich buns. It does look like they are able to cater to gluten-free diners, but there aren’t any substantial options for vegan diners.
Pho 5th Avenue (lunch, dinner)
Location: 3807 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 (Hillcrest) and 2442, 5157 College Ave, San Diego, CA 92115 (College Heights – express location)
Most Vietnamese restaurants are predominantly dairy-free, but this is the one that we ate at and thoroughly enjoyed. It has a nice, clean atmosphere, and the food had excellent flavors. They also cater to vegan clientele with a full vegetarian menu of pho, banh mi, spring rolls, and more.
Plant Power Fast Food (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
Location: 2204 Sunset Cliffs Blvd, San Diego, CA 92107 (Ocean Beach); 411 Santa Fe Dr, Encinitas, CA 92024; San Diego State University
As the name implies, this is a plant-based, completely vegan, quick-serve restaurant. The menu has many great options for burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads, small bites, drinks, and even desserts. The latter includes old fashioned “milkshakes,” “cheesecakes,” chocolate chip cookies, and soft serve “ice cream.” They also have a full breakfast menu with breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and “egg” muffins.
Plumeria Vegetarian Restaurant (lunch, dinner)
Location: 4661 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116 (University Heights)
This vegetarian Thai food restaurants is reportedly dairy free! They have egg as an option in some dishes, but they state that no other animal products are used in their food. And they include labels for gluten-free options (hint: there are many!). The menu is expansive, with vegetable-forward riffs on every Thai food favorite. They even have vegan desserts, like ice cream and a coconut creme brulee.
Poki One N Half (lunch, dinner)
Locations: 8055 Armour St C, San Diego, CA 92111 (Clairemont Mesa), 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92123 (Kearny Mesa), 3030 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104 (North Park), 5120 College Ave, San Diego, CA 92115 (Rolando Village)
Poke is more than popular in San Diego, and it’s typically a great dairy-free option. But not all poke places are created equal. This fresh, clean local chain is known for quality, and they confirmed that everything on the menu is dairy-free, with the exception of their macaron ice cream dessert. They also offer tofu for a vegan alternative.
Ranchos Cocina (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
Location: 3910 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104 (North Park)
Their huge menu of beloved Mexican dishes includes vegan options for nearly everything. They even serve vegan breakfast with options like a vegan breakfast burrito with tofu scramble and house made tempeh sausage. Dairy-free diners will also like the option for Daiya dairy-free cheese alternative and the fact that they serve dairy-free milk beverages.
Red House Pizza (weekend lunch, nightly dinner, happy hour)
Location: 4615 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116 (University Heights)
You can find dairy-free friendly chains like Blaze Pizza and MOD Pizza in San Diego. But this local spot has a very full vegan menu. It includes starters like vegan cheesy garlic bread (made with Daiya cheese alternative) and numerous vegan pizza options with various crusts (including gluten-free) and plant-based meats to choose from. They also have a unique beverage menu with craft beers, craft sodas, and a selection of tea.
Sally’s Fish House & Bar (lunch, dinner, happy hour)
Location: 1 Market Pl, San Diego, CA 92101 (Marina)
This upscale eatery is located at the Grand Hyatt on the waterfront, and they go above and beyond for special diets. The menu includes labels for dairy-free, gluten-free (they actually label “celiac-safe!”), vegetarian, and contains shellfish. The dairy-free options include some small plates, happy hour options, sushi and sashimi dishes. But they’ve also told us that can easily make most of their dishes dairy-free upon request. They serve a very full and varied menu of surf and turf dishes.
Sattvik Foods (lunch, early dinner)
Location: 8650 Miramar Rd, San Diego, CA 92126 (Miramar)
Indian food can be a landmine for dairy-free diners, but this all-vegetarian restaurants has many vegan options that they are happy to help you with. The atmosphere is very casual, the location isn’t fancy, and the prices are modest. But the food receives raves from many repeat customers.
Second Nature (breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour)
Location: 5026 Cass St, San Diego, CA 92109 (Pacific Beach)
This health-conscious modern eatery serves a lot of vegan and vegetarian options alongside organic eggs, organic chicken, grass-fed beef, and sustainably-sourced salmon. Vegan and gluten-free options are clearly labeled on the menu, and there are many more options for dairy-free diners upon request. They even have non-dairy cheese available.
Soulshine (lunch, dinner, weekend brunch)
Location: 3864 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109 (Mission Beach)
This airy vegetarian cafe appears to be all vegan and gluten-free, but check with the staff before ordering. They serve fresh California cuisine with house made dairy-free cremas and a nut-free cheeze sauce. It’s also a great spot for coffee, tea, or kombucha, and they offer several beverages featuring turmeric. Their unique desserts are not to be missed, including mango mousse, spicy cacao brownies, and cashew cheesecake. While in the area, you can check out their vegan, gluten-free neighbor, Barefoot Bakery and Market. It didn’t quite make our top list, but is worth visiting.
Starry Lane Bakery (breakfast, dessert)
Location: 3925 Fourth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103(Hillcrest)
This bakery is free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish, and all artificial food dyes. And their goodies are vegan to boot! They’re open midday into the evening with a big line-up of cookies, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, scones, and more. They also take special orders and design custom cakes.
Subterranean Coffee Boutique (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
Locations: 3764 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104 (North Park) and 412 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 (Hillcrest)
You’ll find more than good coffee at this modest cafe. They also have a full breakfast, sandwich, and salad menu with vegan and gluten-free options. They also serve egg dishes that are steamed without oils or milk! So you can find dairy-free dishes aplenty. Just some of the vegan options include the vegan bagel with red pepper hummus, vegan gluten-free sriracha tacos, and the Mrs. Vegan salad. They also offer several dairy-free milk beverages (we’ve heard rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and oat milk) for their coffee drinks and blending smoothies.
Sushi 2 (lunch, dinner, happy hour)
Location: 135 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101 (near Gaslamp Quarter)
Most sushi spots have dairy-free options, but often the creativity is limited. Many of the “fancy” rolls contain cream cheese, and they don’t have many creative fillings. But Sushi 2 has a full vegan sushi menu on top of their regular menu, which boasts creative sauces, vegetables, toppings, and even tempura. And they serve quite a bit more beyond sushi – from ramen to chicken wings!
Tocaya Organica (lunch, dinner)
Location: 755 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)
This is another Southern California mini-chain, but unlike many others, they focus on Mexican cuisine. Their menu has a fresh spin with healthier eats, and many dairy-free and vegan options. They even serve two types of vegan cheese, vegan creme, and vegan proteins. You will need to inquire on other “just” dairy-free options as dairy-free isn’t clearly marked on their menu. But gluten-free items are labeled. They also have a location in La Jolla and several in the L.A. area.
Veganic Thai Cafe (lunch, dinner)
Location: 1417 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 (Penn Station)
Despite the name, this isn’t a 100% vegan restaurant, but it’s pretty darn close. The menu has all the same dishes as most other Thai restaurants, but with more vegetables, tofu, and mock meats, which are well-loved by vegans and omnivores alike. It also helps to take the guess work out for dairy-free diners – yes, Thai cuisine can harbor dairy!
Veggilish (lunch – closed Sundays)
Location: 1146 7th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)
If you’re downtown or near Balboa Park, then this is a great healthy lunch option. It’s a build-your-own-bowl type of place and they told us that everything on the menu is dairy-free, except the Chipotle Dressing and the cheese (obviously!). All of the dressings, besides the chipotle, are also vegan, and they have many gluten-free options. The base choices are quinoa, pasta, black beans, and spring mix, and the proteins are tofu (vegan), chicken, and salmon, so there is something for everyone.
WorldBeat Cafe (lunch, early dinner – closed Mondays)
Location: 2100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101 (Balboa Park)
Located inside the WorldBeat Cultural Center in Balboa Park, this vegetarian restaurant serves an intriguing mix of African, Caribbean, and American cuisine. The sips are as eclectic as the eats, with moringa smoothies, Jamaican ginger beer, cane soda, and even kombucha on tap. Most of the menu is vegan, and they do have vegan desserts, like ice cream and sometimes cupcakes.
Zpizza (lunch, dinner)
Location: 8657 Villa La Jolla Drive La Jolla, CA 92037
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!
National Restaurant Chains in San Diego for Dairy-Free Eats
These wonderful national (and international!) chains serve delicious dairy-free and vegan options and have outposts in San Diego. You can click on the link for each one to learn more.
100% Vegan National Chains in San Diego
These rapidly expanding fast-casual restaurant chains serve plant-based food exclusively.
- Loving Hut (lunch, dinner – closed Mondays) – 1905 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104 (North Park) and 9928 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92131 (Mira Mesa)
- Native Foods Cafe (lunch, dinner) – 3369 Rosecrans St, San Diego, CA 92110 (Point Loma) and 5604 Balboa Ave #107, San Diego, CA 92111 (Clairemont Mesa)
- Veggie Grill (lunch, dinner) –
More Beloved National Chains in San Diego
Most of these options are fast casual, but I’ve used an * to mark any restaurants with table service.
- Blaze Pizza (lunch, dinner) – 5604 Balboa Ave, San Diego, CA 92111 (Clairemont)
- Cream (ice cream) – 5157 College Ave ste b, San Diego, CA 92115 (SDSU – College Heights)
- Flame Broiler (lunch, dinner) – 5618 Mission Center Dr., San Diego, CA 92108 Unit 1003 (Mission Valley), 1088 Garnet Ave., San Diego, CA 92109 Unit C (Pacific Beach), 9450 Scranton Rd., San Diego, CA 92121 Suite 115 (UTC)
- Haagen Dazs (ice cream) – 7007 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA 92108 (Mission Valley)
- Ike’s Place (lunch, dinner) – 1010 University Ave #101, San Diego, CA 92103 (Penn Station)
- Nekter Juice Bar (breakfast, lunch, dessert) – 3435 Del Mar Heights Rd Suite D9, San Diego, CA 92130 (Carmel Valley), 11975 Carmel Mountain Rd #606, San Diego, CA 92128 (Rancho Bernardo), 2445 Truxton Road Suite 109, San Diego, CA 92106 (Liberty Station), 969 Market St #150, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)
- Philz Coffee (breakfast, coffeehouse) – 12873 El Camino Real m1, San Diego, CA 92130 (Carmel Valley),
- Qdoba Mexican Eats (lunch, dinner) – 9357 Spectrum Center Blvd, San Diego, CA 92123 (Kearny Mesa), 3225 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101 (Marina)
- Salt & Straw (ice cream) – 1670 India St, San Diego, CA 92101 (Little Italy)
- Seasons 52* (lunch, dinner, happy hour) – 4505 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122 (UTC), 789 W Harbor Dr #134, San Diego, CA 92101 (Marina)
- Tender Greens (lunch, dinner) – 110 West Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter), 2400 Historic Decatur Rd #104, San Diego, CA 92106 (Liberty Station), 1640 Camino Del Rio N FS-7, San Diego, CA 92108 (Mission Valley), 4545 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122 (UTC)
- The Habit Grill (lunch, dinner) – 3455 Sports Arena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110 (Midway District), 845 Camino De La Reina, San Diego, CA 92108 (Mission Valley), 5500 Campanile Dr, San Diego, CA 92182 (College East), 4175 Genesee Ave, San Diego, CA 92111 (Clairemont)
- True Food Kitchen* (lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, happy hour) – 7007 Friars Rd Suite 394, San Diego, CA 92108 (Fashion Valley – no happy hour at this location) and 4303 La Jolla Village Drive Suite 2100, San Diego, CA 92122 (UTC)
Dairy-Free Dining at SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld California has worked with FARE to create an allergy-friendly park. They do not allow you to carry outside food throughout the park, but do allow you to leave it in your car and re-enter the park as needed.
When you head to any of their in-park restaurants, ask the cashier for a supervisor. The manager or supervisor at each restaurant should be trained in food allergy management, and can help guide your order. We’ve heard from many park attendees that they do a great job. Their chefs are trained to prevent cross contact when cooking meals for allergic diners, so be sure to let the supervisor know if this is needed.
As for snacks, they have a coffee shop serving Starbucks on-site that offers almond milk, fresh fruit, and a few pre-packaged options. I’ve also heard reports of some delicious vegan cookies (be on the hunt!) and dairy-free slushies at SeaWorld San Diego.
Dairy-Free Dining at LegoLand San Diego
LegoLand California is in Carlsbad, which is 30 to 45 minutes north of San Diego. But it’s an easy trip you might make while visiting the area.
Outside food is not permitted in LegoLand, but they do claim to allow food for those with dietary restrictions. I’ve heard mixed reports from visitors, so call ahead if you do plan to bring any snacks with you. They do search bags when entering.
Fortunately, they do have a Dietary Guide that clearly states what options are available at each in-park restaurant for dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian, and vegan. For snacks, the coffee kiosk near the front is a must visit. They sell several vegan snacks, including dairy-free yogurt. But you can also find dairy-free snacks and treats (like slushies, juice boxes, dairy-free milks, fresh fruit, and fruit pops) at some of the other in-park vendors.
Best Things to Do While in San Diego
This bustling town has many more outdoor pursuits to offer, beyond SeaWorld and LegoLand!
Downtown and the Sites of San Diego Bay
The USS Midway is a museum that even kids enjoy because it’s an aircraft carrier right on the water! The giant ship houses an extensive aircraft collection and military docents are available to be your guide. The cafe on board has a couple dairy-free options, but it wouldn’t hurt to pack along some snacks. And if there is room in their parking lot, take it – it’s a fair price. If not, head to the G street block to see if any 9-hour meter parking is open (most downtown meters are only 2 hours). You will want several hours to tour!
There are also several boat tours offered next to the Midway, from sailing to dinner cruises. We took a relaxing and modest 2-hour tour on Flagship Cruises, which was rich in sites and information. It wasn’t fancy, but for the price (we found it on Groupon) it was a worthwhile value. The daytime cruises have a modest selection of snacks, but they let you bring your own munchies on board.
The New Children’s Museum is also worth a visit if you have young kids – around the ages of 3 to 7 years old is ideal. The museum has a big focus on art with immersive art studios and interactive art installations. But we also love that they have a Bean Sprouts Cafe inside. This cafe caters to tots with fun food, and they have a full allergen guide with several dairy-free options!
Enjoying San Diego’s Outdoor Spaces (with Dairy-Free Tips!)
Balboa Park is a beautiful urban park that is free to roam, and even has ample free parking. It houses the popular San Diego Zoo, but within those 1400 acres you’ll also find 17 museums, beautiful gardens, kid’s playgrounds, and hiking trails. The park itself doesn’t have abundant dairy-free restaurant options, but just outside the park you can enjoy vegan-friendly restaurants in the North Park and Cambridge Square neighborhoods.
I also recommend hitting up Cabrillo National Monument. It’s a wide-open park with a great visitor’s center, pleasant paved walks, some trails, a lighthouse that you can actually tour, tidepools rich in marine life, and the prettiest views of San Diego. There aren’t dining options inside the park, so pack along some dairy-free food just in case you get hungry.
For more casual pursuits, head to the Beach. But get their early if you want to find parking or an open volleyball net! Bringing a cooler or snacks is always a good idea, but you can find several dairy-free friendly eateries on our list near Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach.
Ongoing San Diego Food Events with Dairy-Free Eats
If you want a foodie adventure, hit up a San Diego Farmers Market, they have several daily around the city! There is usually a vegan food vendor or two on site, plus more local dairy-free food items for sale. A few vendors to keep an eye out for that aren’t on our list above are Passiflora Vegan Bakery (Little Italy Wednesday Market and North Park Thursday Market), Earth Equals (Pacific Beach Tuesday Market, Little Italy Wednesday Market, and North Park Thursday Market) for raw organic smoothies and energy “truffles,” and vegan-friendly FaVe Tacos (North Park Thursday Market and Hillcrest Sunday Market)
On the first Friday of every month, Anthem Vegan hosts the First Friday Night Market, which is completely dairy-free and vegan-friendly. It’s in the evening, and a free event, but you won’t be able to resist buying eats, drinks, and other goods from the vendors.
San Diego also has a bustling Food Truck scene. You can usually find at least a few dairy-free and vegan offerings at each gathering, but the Balboa Park Food Truck Fridays event actually provides a list for Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free Options.
San Diego Grocery Stores for Shopping Dairy-Free
You can find Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Vons, Ralphs, Target, and Walmart throughout San Diego. But for more localized natural food stores with good special diet options, these might be worth a splurge:
- Jimbo’s…Naturally (several locations, click link at left for map) – This is an expensive, but very nice place to shop, and a great option if you are downtown.
- Sprouts (several locations, click link at left for map) – This is a big natural food store chain in the Southwest and our favorite for both price and selection.
- Lazy Acres (Hillcrest – 422 W Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103) – Expect very high prices but lots of dairy-free products.
- Mission Square Market (Allied Gardens – 6171 Mission Gorge Road #111-112, San Diego, CA 92120) – More of a corner store, but they offer a vegan deli and quite a few vegan convenience foods.
- Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market (Ocean Beach – 4765 Voltaire St, San Diego, CA 92107) – This coop packs a lot into a modest space, and offers plenty of vegan foods.
- Stehly Farms Market (Normal Heights – 4142 Adams Ave #101, San Diego, CA 9211 and Morena near Old Town – 1231 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110) – This is a farmers market extension with a good selection of dairy-free and organic foods.
- Barons Market (Midway District near SeaWorld – 4001 W Point Loma Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110 and North Park – 3231 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104) – They have a big selection of specialty foods, including gluten-free and dairy-free.
Dairy-Free Tip: If you aren’t vegan or vegetarian, you might look for the Boar’s Head signs prominently displayed at many grocers and in front of several delis in San Diego. Most Boar’s Heads deli meats are milk-free.
Best Places to Stay in San Diego
If you can afford the US Grant Hotel (pictured below) in downtown, it might be worth the experience. It’s located right downtown next to the Gaslamp Quarter. If not, I recommend walking by (the exterior is spectacular) and heading into the lobby for a peak at the grandeur and history (like we did!).
A notch down in price, the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego has a prime downtown location in the Marina, and beautiful amenities. They can provide you with a refrigerator and microwave for a small fee, and Sally’s Fish House & Bar (from our list above) is on-site.
For budget travel, the Kings Inn has clean, relatively modern, fairly spacious rooms, a nice pool area (great for kids), and is centrally located on Hotel Circle. There isn’t much within walking distance, but it is very convenient by car to Mission Valley, Hillcrest (and downtown), and the highways. They do not have kitchenettes, but each room has a refrigerator and you can request a microwave for a small fee.
Inn at the Park is a good option for special diets since all rooms have a kitchenette and it’s right next to Balboa Park. So it’s walking distance to many sites and dairy-free friendly restaurants in the Cambridge Square, Hillcrest, and Penn Station neighborhoods.
Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages have to be booked well in advance, but are a great option if you want to be right on the beach. Plus they have fully equipped kitchens or kitchenettes and the cottages have deck dining areas. And they are located near many great Pacific Beach restaurants and SeaWorld. If booked, Catamaran Resort Hotel is very close by, and has great amenities.
The Best Dairy-Free Dining at the San Diego Airport
The San Diego Airport has 2 terminals and they are directly connected so you can walk easily between then. Alaska, Frontier, and Southwest fly in and out of Terminal 1, while the remaining airlines call Terminal 2 home.
You can buy some vegan packaged snacks at Ciao Gourmet Market, grab a bagel at Einstein Bros, or enjoy a coffee with dairy-free milk beverage at Peet’s Tea & Coffee. The Counter Burger is a good fast food option, but you will need to inquire on the best dairy-free options. They’ve removed their allergen chart from online.
If it’s still morning and you want to relax, Pacifica Breeze Cafe is a sit-down restaurant with a couple dairy-free options for breakfast.
This wing offers more restaurants and a great view of the planes in the “Sunset Cove” eating area. We’ve tried Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar, which is more of a sit-down bar, but their ceviche is fantastic and the location is ideal. They also have a few other dairy-free appetizers for sharing. If you have kids with you, you can still order from the bar, but sit at a table outside of their roped in space.
Saffron Thai (spring rolls pictured below) is a counter-serve spot, but there is plenty of seating in Sunset Cove. The food is quite tasty, mostly dairy-free, and they have the best deal on bottled beer in the airport.
Phil’s BBQ at the end of the terminal has a pretty big menu (and an allergen chart) with a counter-serve set-up. Qdoba is another great fast option, but the guacamole is extra. And Camden Food Co. can make a dairy-free or vegan sandwich.
What Are Your Favorite Dairy-Free Finds in San Diego?
Comment with your favorite San Diego spots for dairy-free food or drinks. Let us know the neighborhood and any details you’re willing to share. Supporting dairy-free and vegan options at restaurants helps to ensure they stay open and that more emerge!
Also, please let us know if any of the above restaurants or shops close. We’ll lament the loss, but want to keep this post current for all of you.
Like What You Read? Then You Might Love My Book, Go Dairy Free!
*This post is for informational purposes only. Menu items are subject to change, and not every restaurant may be safe for your dietary needs. Restaurants are always at risk for potential cross-contamination. If you have allergen cross-contamination concerns, call ahead and/or ask to speak with a manager when you arrive. If in doubt, go to another restaurant.