Vegetarian plant-based restaurants California

5 of the best plant-based restaurants in California

California is a vegetarian's natural habitat. Fruits and vegetables proliferate. Restaurants accommodate. You won't even get so much as a sideways glance if you BYO nut milk to brunch.

And there are plenty of veg-focused restaurants that give their meaty brethren a run for their money in both flavor and creativity. Unearth some of the best plant-based restaurants in the Golden State right here.

Plant Food + Wine, L.A.

If there's one name to know in the plant-based restaurant sphere, it's Matthew Kenney. The classically trained chef has been preaching the herbivore gospel for years, and has accolades, cookbooks, culinary academies and a restaurant group to show for it. Kenney sets himself apart by focusing on the potential of the plant world: At Venice's Plant Food + Wine, you'll find frittatas, cheese and pasta, even ice cream. But that frittata's made with tofu; that cheese is a funky fermented brew of nuts and spices; spaghetti squash cleverly masquerades as cacio e pepe; and your sundae is all coconut milk and cashews, not cow's milk. Much of the produce comes from Plant's on-site garden, and Kenney's plating prowess shines in every vibrant dish that leaves the pass.

Greens, San Francisco

The local food movement wouldn't be where it is today without restaurants like Greens. Open since 1979, the vegetarian stalwart is one of the founding mothers of California cuisine: fresh, local and simple. The restaurant's on-site garden brims with brilliant produce that the chef, Annie Somerville, has been serving diners for 30-plus years. Forty years in, their philosophy unchanged, Greens' food remains as alluring as ever: Think Rancho Gordo bean-stuffed pupusas, orecchiette with spigarello and spring onions, red curry packed with winter veg. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge isn't half bad, either.

Millennium, San Francisco

A meal at Millennium, a vegan SF haunt, is comparable to eating your way around the world. Chef/co-owner Eric Tucker's global perspective gives his food range and depth; you won't miss the meat. Here, cocktails and food are equally seasonal (try the cherry caipirinha). Chaat-fried chickpeas take you to India before you're whisked to Asia by way of an oyster mushroom spring roll. Hop over to Mexico for tamale verde, then stop over in the good old USA—the South, to be exact—for mushroom and grits with roasted tomato étouffée.

The Gadarene Swine, L.A.

Incredible things happen when omnivorous chefs enter vegan territory, as L.A.'s The Gadarene Swine can attest (the name, for instance). Waste no time and go whole hog (sorry) into the family style, chef's choice menu at dinnertime, when you'll start with inventive, flavor-packed snacks (roasted garlic and thyme popcorn, fried olive-stuffed olives) before moving into larger plates that play on nostalgia. Here, peanut butter and jelly means sourdough slathered with fresh nut butter, prune jam and a nest of arugula and pickled mushrooms. Blackened cauliflower is served atop a bed of cauliflower purée and topped with a tangle of piquant red onions and shower of pistachios.

Elf Cafe, L.A.

When you're elbow-deep in the breakfast sandwich at Echo Park's charming Elf Cafe (it includes, among other things, maple-smoked mushrooms, avocado, tahini and herbed goat cheese) or inhaling wafts of Grecian goodness from steaming moussaka (orange lentil and chickpea ragout, béchamel, allspice tomato sauce), you might just forget that eating animals is ubiquitous in most parts of this country. A few glasses of natural wine will further solidify your amnesia. Elf is everything you want in a restaurant. It's cozy and come as you are, the servers know their stuff, and the vegetarian food packs a serious hearty punch. You won't leave hungry for anything except a return visit.