Anyone who lives in San Francisco for more than a minute inevitably develops an appreciation for great food, but after 20 years, you practically become dependent on local farmers’ markets, high-vibe juice bars, and the ubiquitous natural food stores within walking distance of your front door. Nine years ago, after two decades in the city, I swapped this healthy-living paradise by the Bay for the smaller, equally health-conscious seaside community of Santa Cruz, and while I wouldn’t change a thing, I still make pilgrimages to some of my old haunts when I get a hankering for a thick organic smoothie with a side of Golden Gate Bridge views. These are just a few of my favorite spots in the city for refueling healthfully, from Ocean Beach to the Mission District and beyond.
For nearly a decade, I lived and worked in the Outer Sunset district, home of fabulous sea views, a vibrant surfing community, and one amazing vegan café and juice bar, Judahlicious. On cold, foggy days, I’d hop on my bike and pedal to Judah street and find sanctuary in the warm and inviting interior, ordering comforting bowls of homemade soup, cashew crème-topped chili, and crazy-delicious raw desserts. All these years later, they still dish up locally grown organic food, and live up to their green ethos with biodegradable to-go boxes and other eco-friendly business practices. Love!
When VegNews decamped from the gray Outer Sunset to the sunny Mission district, my culinary horizons broadened along with the blue skies. Vegan restaurants like Cafe Gratitude, Cha Ya, and Herbivore (RIP) made me feel like I’d moved to a plant-based paradise, and I still feel that way walking down 24th street and into Beloved Cafe. This super cozy café and tea bar doesn’t just do energizing drinks, but incredible soups and grain bowls, too. I love the Citrus Hazelnut Kale Salad with sprouted hummus and tempeh, and I can’t leave without ordering either the Heavenly Hot Cacao or Homemade Chai.
Wherever I am in the city, I’m never too far from Project Juice, one of my top spots for smoothie bowls. I love the customizable options: pick a base—I’m a fan of the Almond Butter Acai blend with acai, housemade almond milk, almond butter, blueberries, amd banana—then top it with add-ons like granola, hempseeds, coconut, and cacao nibs. If you’re feeling extra, take it to the next level with an adaptogenic mushroom blend or activated charcoal. I’m always tempted by their microgreens-topped toast selection, but after a yoga class, a Peace, Love & Kale smoothie with coconut water, spinach, kale, and dates gives me life.
From the outside, both Nourish Cafe locations (there’s one in the Richmond and another on Nob Hill) resemble your typical SF lunch spot: big picture windows overlooking quintessential street views, a sandwich board outside listing the daily specials, a few tables positioned out on the sidewalk. But inside, the vibe is more French bistro, with gleaming glass cases filled with scrumptious vegan desserts and other plant-based offerings. I come for the whole-grain bowls and superfood smoothies (surprise!), but you might be tempted by their healthy versions of classic banh mi, grilled cheese sandwiches, and burgers.
The name of this multiple-location chain tells you exactly what their ethos is: healing nourishment for overworked urbanites. Everything on the menu is organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO, and was created to help your body thrive. To ward off winter colds, I order their wellness elixirs like the Booster Shot made with fresh turmeric, orange, carrot, lemon, astragalus, and oregano oil. And when I’m feeling run down and craving a super-healthy lunch to rev me back up, I gravitate toward the Vegan Caesar dusted with parmesan seed cheese made from hemp, sesame, and sunflower. So good!