The Golden State has no shortage of incredible cafes, particularly socially conscious cafes.
From San Diego up to Redding and everywhere in between, you can find establishments that take care to promote animal health, recycling or fair trade practices. Vegan-friendly and vegetarian-friendly cafes, in particular, are abundantly available throughout California.
Here are 19 of the best. Mark them on your map if you have a West Coast road trip coming up.
Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Venice and San Diego
Perhaps the best-known cafe in the state of California, Cafe Gratitude boasts a menu that is completely organic. The staff practices “Sacred Commerce,” which includes “inspired service, honest and transparent communication, and express gratitude for the richness of our lives.” The establishment works with local farmers and even has its own farm, the Be Love Farm in Valley. Terces and Matthew Engelhart, the farm’s founders, grow many of the yummy ingredients that go into Cafe Gratitude’s gourmet meals and drinks.
Ahimsa Vegan Cafe in Long Beach
The term “ahimsa,” which the Ahimsa Vegan Cafe is named after, is a word familiar among Jain, Buddhist and Hindu faiths that means “the principle of nonviolence towards all living things.” You’ll find this principle reflected throughout the menu, which often includes foods with organic beans, brown rice, tempeh and tofu. Juices (the cafe has its own juice bar) are made with healthy sweeteners like organic evaporated cane juice and organic agave; unbleached flours make all pastries and breads better for you. Ingredients for these foods are grown and tended to at a pesticide-free heirloom farm that Ahimsa owns in Escondido.
Saturn Cafe in Berkeley and Santa Cruz
If you’ve never had a vegan milkshake or vegan cupcakes before, then you need to get over to Saturn Cafe stat. All employees are dedicated to being environmentally sustainable, and the business itself is a certified Monterey Bay Area Green Business. The cafes also buy from local farmers and make sure that byproducts can be biodegraded. If you buy Santa Cruz Coffee, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams in Santa Barbara, Numi Organic Tea or Double Rainbow Gourmet Ice Creams, you’re supporting Saturn’s green efforts.
Baagan in Rocklin
Selling sandwiches, teas, soups, salads, desserts and smoothies, you can enjoy a full sit-down meal for lunch or dinner at Baagan. The flavorful touches of East Asian and Indian spices liven up any dish. Founders Rajbir and Angelique also work with local suppliers to serve raw, organic foods that are good for the environment and contain no GMOs, casein or dairy. High-glycemic index sweeteners and refined sugars are also nowhere to be found, meaning you can enjoy something sweet without wrecking your waistline.
Freesoulcaffe in Tustin
Since 2010, Freesoulcaffe has made delicious vegetarian and vegan treats. The staff here make some incredible pizzas, salads, pastas, soups, sandwiches, burgers, pies and cheesecakes with nothing but plant-based ingredients. Most foods are gluten-free, and plenty of them are soy-free, so be sure to ask when you stop by.
Golden Mean Cafe in Santa Monica
Named after Aristotle’s mathematical golden mean, the Golden Mean Cafe “represents balance & harmony, a scientific exploration of how all things are connected from a mathematical standpoint.” You’ll never find GMOs in any of the delicious dishes served here, and all foods are organic.
Native Foods Cafe in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego
A Palm Springs stop since 1994, Native Foods Cafe‘s items are all handmade from scratch. The company has a number of core values that its staff lives up to every day such as making vegan fare that’s completely organic, supporting local animal organizations and nonprofits, and being as eco-friendly as possible. Sit at the cafe’s reclaimed oak tables, and rest assured that all packaging is recycled and can be biodegraded.
VegiLicious in Huntington Beach
“When you eat VegiLicious‘ meals instead of a regular meal, you automatically reduce 3 tons of greenhouse gas and save 2 tons of water, which means you better the environment,” the company says. What are you waiting for? Go visit.
Real Food Daily in Pasadena, West Hollywood and Santa Monica
Real Food Daily founder Ann Gentry personally vouches for the sustainability of all the food prepared and served at her cafe. “Eating a plant-based diet goes further than any other single effort — including driving a hybrid car — to lower one’s carbon footprint and help preserve the environment,” she says. All water used to prepare meals goes through a reverse osmosis water filtration system to clean it. Foods are grown and harvested from organic California farms that don’t use any chemicals that will cause long-term environmental damage.
Peace Pies in San Diego
Typical restaurants and cafes naturally generate a lot of waste, whether that’s packaging or food scraps. At Peace Pies, all employees must abide by a zero-waste policy, which insists that biodegradable packaging is used and that all leftover waste is composted. Even better, the cafe has great relationships with a number of farmers in the San Diego area who grow the fresh produce that end up on your plate.
SunCafe Organic in Studio City
SunCafe Organic owners and co-founders Rebecca Smith and Ron Russell have led vegan lifestyles for more than 30 years each. Russell gets all his ingredients from organic farms that never use pesticides in the growing process. The organic, GMO-free menu features such tasty options as buckwheat pancakes, zucchini lasagna, and a tempeh bacon BLT.
Palm Greens Cafe in Palm Springs
Prepared fresh every single day, the food at Palm Greens Cafe is reasonably priced, organic and sustainable. Owners Greg Schmitz and Jeff Huyett have expanded their establishment over the years, receiving a lot of critical praise from newspapers and media across the United States.
Follow Your Heart Market & Cafe in Canoga Park
Follow Your Heart is a market and cafe that was founded back in 1970. All of the company’s products come from Earth Island, a solar-powered facility near the cafe. Sun energy powers the eatery; all refrigeration, lighting, carpeting and skylights are either recycled or energy-efficient. Do be aware that the food here is lacto-vegetarian, so while it doesn’t have any eggs, fish or poultry, dairy may appear in the dishes.
M Cafe in Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Brentwood
Get your delicious vegan eats anytime by ordering online from M Cafe. The “M” in the name stands for “macrobiotic,” as the cafe specializes in contemporary macrobiotic cuisine. Try good-for-you sweet potato fries, sushi, or a macro burger with tempeh, and make sure you end your meal on a sweet note with an organic cupcake.
Garden to Grill in Sacramento
Specializing in farm-to-table foods, Garden to Grill has award-winning burgers, organic wines, craft beers and its own gluten-free bakery. Take your time to savor your meal while you check out the live music in the lounge upstairs. All food is locally sourced.
Old California Coffee House & Eatery in San Marcos
Old California Coffee House & Eatery opened its doors in 1990 and had annually won recognition as being one of San Diego county’s best cafes. Its team members “remain committed to providing the finest quality locally roasted coffees and ingredients,” making this one sustainable option. Old California is heavily involved in the San Marcos community, supporting schools, the sheriff’s department, firefighters, churches and other local causes. You can also enjoy live entertainment here each Friday and Saturday night.
Earth Cafe in Laguna Niguel
Known for its creamy, dreamy cheesecake, Earth Cafe sells its products across the United States at co-ops. The Celiac Sprue Association certifies all food here is prepared gluten-free, which prevents cross-contamination. EarthKosher, a part of the Kosher Certification Agency, certifies Earth Cafe as Vegan Verified, meaning its desserts are free of animal product derivatives.