Orange County boasts numerous scenic beaches, a vibrant nightlife, and several notable amusement parks. Despite this, O.C. is one of those wonderful places constantly upstaged by its more prominent neighbor (I’m looking at you, Los Angeles County). When it comes to vegetarian fare, however, O.C. has earned its culinary stripes as proven by these top 10 vegetarian restaurants in the county — best of all, most of these eateries also cater to a vegan diet:
Orange County's Best Vegetarian Restaurants
Image Credit: Shanice Garcia
1. Mead's Green Door Café
Cozy and vibrant, Mead's Green Door Café is a family-owned eatery that serves scrumptious breakfast, lunch, and baked goods. Using locally grown produce and materials made of recycled paper, Mead’s promotes sustainability and social responsibility. The café also offers bold, aromatic coffee roasted on-site each week by a local artisan who donates 20% of his profits to support global coffee farmers. Wonderful food and good ethics? It’s a win-win situation.
Standout dishes: The vegan and gluten-free “Buffalo Cauliflower” is a spicy, tangy dish of roasted cauliflower with buffalo sauce and bleu cheese dip. Also noteworthy is the “Artichoke and Gouda Grilled Cheese” on 12-grain bread.
Address: 642 W Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92868
Phone: (714) 771-8556
2. Âu Lạc
Located in a quiet plaza across from Mile Square Park, Âu Lạc is a casual vegan restaurant that gives a unique, modern spin on mostly traditional Vietnamese food as well as other cuisines including Italian and Mexican. Offering both cooked and raw dishes, Âu Lạc is such a hit in Orange County that they recently opened a second location in Downtown Los Angeles.
Standout dishes: The “Beef Watercress” (or Bò Lúc Lắc in Vietnamese which translates to “beef shaking”) is savory, garlicky soy beef served on a refreshing bed of watercress, tomato, and onion. As for a delicious raw dish, “Angel Hair Marinara” comes with squash pasta and mushroom meatballs in a zesty tomato sauce.
Address: 16563 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Phone: (714) 418-0658
3. The Stand Natural Foods
The Stand may seem like a simple snack shack with a small outdoor eating area, but take one glance at their expansive menu and you’ll see the cooks don’t mess around when it comes to mouthwatering vegetarian food. From thick sandwiches to fruity frozen soft serve to stuffed burritos, The Stand aims to offer something for everyone.
Standout dishes: The “Avocado Sandwich” may sound effortless, but The Stand creates an outstanding version stacked with sprouts, fresh lettuce, tomato, and a heap of creamy avocado. Additionally, you can’t go wrong with the strawberry soft serve that’s reminiscent of sorbet because of its real fruit juice and strawberry bits.
Address: 238 Thalia St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: (949) 494-8101
4. Seabirds Kitchen
Starting as a modest food truck, Seabirds Kitchen has become a trendy vegan restaurant situated at The LAB Anti-Mall. Seabirds continues to embrace change as its menu is based on seasonal, locally grown produce. With innovative ingredient combinations, balanced flavors, and house-made condiments, this laidback eatery is sure to please lovers of vegan Tex-Mex and brunch.
Standout dishes: Sweet tooths should order the “Chaffle” — the love child of a churro and waffle served à la mode with pecans and chocolate sauce. A savory favorite is the “Butternut Enchiladas.”
Address: 2930 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: (714) 549-2584
5. Vegan Pizza
True to its name, Vegan Pizza serves its namesake food as well as vegan calzones, pastas, and desserts. The pizza has a crispy, not-too-thick-or-thin crust that holds its integrity despite being loaded with a generous amount of toppings. At this eatery, you can guiltlessly indulge in completely plant-based, dairy-free, and meatless versions of Italian culinary classics.
Standout dishes: The “BBQ Chik’un Pizza” is a staple at any pizzeria. Adventurous pizza eaters will enjoy the “Indian-style Pizza” which has coconut curry sauce and veggies sautéed in garam masala, paprika, and turmeric.
Address: 12022 Chapman Ave, Garden Grove, CA 92840
Phone: (714) 750-8686
Freesoulcaffé exudes a rustic, relaxed charm ideal for patrons who prefer to unwind and enjoy thoughtfully crafted vegan fare. The café prepares its menu items from scratch, so you can savor your soup, burger, and pizza knowing that the food was all freshly made in-house. Additionally, dog owners can rejoice since this canine-friendly eatery allows pets in the patio seating area.
Standout dishes: First-timers should try the “Truffle Burger” which almost tastes like an actual burger. The “Panini Portobello” is another favorite.
Address: 191 East Main Street, Suite 1B, Tustin, CA 92780
Phone: (714) 371-0976
7. Appu’s Café
Appu’s Café is the embodiment of a hidden gem as it’s tucked behind the Woodruff Medical Offices. As you embark on your mini-quest to find this café, you may have doubts about the route, but there are sandwich board signs that read “Appu’s Café” to guide you. Although only open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays, this eatery has exceptional customer service and offers very affordable (i.e. none of the menu items exceed $8) Indian and Mexican fusion food.
Standout dishes: The “Mahararaja Burrito” includes rice pilaf, saang paneer, and a secret sauce made of deliciousness. Also appetizing is the “Spinach Enchilada” served with beans and rice.
Address: 3816 Woodruff Ave, Long Beach, CA 90808
Phone: (562) 756-3500
8. Thuyền Viên Vegetarian Restaurant (Phở Veggie)
This hole-in-the-wall restaurant has a prominent sign reading Phở Veggie, but locals know this eatery as the one and only Thuyền Viên, a humble spot specializing in authentic Vietnamese cuisine but with veggie-friendly substitutes instead of meat. Thuyền Viên is the go-to place to satisfy your hankering for warm noodle soup or flavorful rice dishes that taste lovingly homemade.
Standout dishes: The bestseller is the fragrant garlic soy chicken dish that is cooked in tomato sauce, garlic, and green onions. For dessert, try the tofu-based cheesecake topped with a sweet homemade blueberry sauce.
Address: 1740 S Euclid St, Anaheim, CA 92802
Phone: (714) 490-0242
9. Vegan Nirvana
Vegan Nirvana has a casual yet exciting atmosphere due to its psychedelic décor and eclectic vegan menu. The abundance of colorful, unusual artwork contributes to the surreal vibe. Located just a stone’s throw from the coastline (i.e. a mere 10 minute drive), Vegan Nirvana can serve as an invigorating pit stop on your itinerary before you visit the beach.
Standout dishes: The “Ultimate Liberation” is vegan-friendly fish tacos with pico de gallo, cabbage, and “Omnipotent” sauce. Another favorite is the crispy “chick-free” tenders served with your choice of dipping sauce.
Address: 7862 Warner Ave, Ste 110, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Phone: (714) 847-4080
10. The Wheel of Life
The Wheel of Life is a vegan Thai restaurant that prides itself on serving low-fat, MSG-free food. The chefs use their own recipe to make the majority of their soy meats to ensure high-quality ingredients in their products. With an abundance of diverse menu options from curries to fried rice to curry, this eatery will delight any health-conscious individual with a craving for Thai cuisine.
Standout dishes: The “Vege BBQ Chicken” is a hearty, flavorful appetizer that could win over the most stubborn meat eaters. Moreover, the “Prik Khing” has a heavenly combination of red Thai curry, “vege” beef, and green beans.
Address: 14370 Culver Dr, Suite 2G, Irvine, CA 92604
Phone: (949) 551-8222
This article was written by Justina Tran.
Hero Image Credit: Ian Schneider