California’s Newest Up-And-Coming Vegan City Isn’t Where You Think

Welcome to a coastal California gem that’s making waves as a thriving plant-based travel destination. Oceanside, once considered merely a stop en route to San Diego, has blossomed into a bona fide hotspot for conscious travelers seeking more than just pristine beaches. With an explosion of hip coffee shops, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and a burgeoning vegan dining scene that has SoCal locals buzzing, Oceanside is a paradise for plant-based adventurers.

The top places for plant-based finds in Oceanside, CA

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1Oceanside’s crown jewel

The Plot has quickly become one of the most adored vegan restaurants in California. If you’re fixing for brunch, the Sausage & Biscuits is a delicious surprise with its huge slab of succulent breakfast sausage atop a cheesy country gravy-slathered biscuit—especially when paired with a chicken nugget-topped Bloody Mary. For dinner, don’t miss the tempura-fried Chronic sushi roll made with lion’s mane crab and spicy tuna … and enjoy it outside! Outdoor dining is plentiful with tables set around vegetable beds.

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2Elevated vegan Japanese

The vegan tasting menu at fine-dining Japanese restaurant Matsu is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Esteemed Chef William Eick transforms seemingly simple vegetables into plant-based masterpieces in Matsu’s omakase (roughly translating to “I leave it up to you”) style of dining. The 10-course meal of chef-selected bites—which can range from tempura carrot with Dynamite sauce to the signature charred cabbage-skin dumpling filled with cabbage pulp in a cabbage dashi—is a commitment, but it’s worth every bite for those with an appreciation for the art of dining.

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Good smoothies, good coffee, better bites

For a no-frills, casual vegan eatery with top-notch local kombucha on tap, pop into Eris Vegan Food Co. If you can’t choose between lighter fare or a more indulgent dish, try the Triple Taco Combo, featuring adobada seitan, sweet potato-pepper jack, and coconut fish tacos. After you nosh, take the short walk west to stroll along the oceanfront boardwalk. Or hit up the light and bright Communal Coffee for an iced blueberry-Earl Grey oat milk latte before you head to the beach.

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Not just vegan pizza

For a hyper-local and lively atmosphere, The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza should top your dining list with its large menu chock-full of vegan options (the OKC Pie with green romesco sauce, cashew mozzarella, sunflower sausage, roasted shallot vinaigrette, and Brazil nut parmesan is a winner). If you happen to be in Oceanside on Tuesday, check out the free comedy night which has a rotating roster of comics doing short sets in the evening. Go early to get a seat, order a couple of vegan potato tacos and a drink, and prepare to be entertained.

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A Balinese culinary experience

For Balinese-inspired fare, Dija Mara will spin your taste buds into a tizzy. Don’t let its laid-back vibe and industrial setting fool you—the numerous vegan options and drinks are first-rate and packed with flavor. The Charred Eggplant is easily veganized and accompanied by a smoked tomato sambal and fried shallots, while the tofu-and-tempeh rendang served with pickles, peanut sauce, and fragrant coconut rice perfectly balances savory, tangy, sweet, and salty flavors. And don’t forget to ask for the perfect pairing with a selection from the natural wine list.


6Michelin-starred Mexican

The beachfront Mission Pacific Hotel has a few attractive offerings for your itinerary. Your first stop should be The Rooftop Bar, boasting one of the city’s best ocean views. By sunset, it evolves into a sexy and sophisticated lounge replete with live DJs, cocktails, and poolside lounging. Next, head to your special vegan reservation at Michelin guide-honored, fine-dining hot spot Valle, which transforms its standard Baja California-inspired meals into a next-level plant-based night of eating that’s completely worth the splurge for a special occasion.

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7Farmers’ market must-tries

Don your walking shoes, because downtown’s Thursday night, year-round food and music street fair, Mainstreet Oceanside Sunset Market, sprawls along several fun-filled blocks. Stop by vegan-friendly Rafikiz Foodz for wholesome, flavorful Kenyan dishes, like black-eyed peas, coconut rice, and collard greens with a homemade kachumbari sauce. Or try Pacific Island fare done vegan-style from Teif’s Pacific Island Grill. Artisanal goods and crafts vendors will satisfy your shopping fix while a live band provides the soundtrack for your perfect night out.

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8Rejuvenating juice 

Trek down Coast Highway from Oceanside into the neighboring city of Carlsbad to visit one of the region’s most popular healthy joints, all-vegan Choice Superfood Bar & Juicery. The fresh juices and smoothies are abundant (and varied, ranging from an ultra-green spinach-broccoli-ginger juice to a PB&J smoothie with raspberry-chia jam), but that’s only the beginning—all of the grab-and-go salads, artisanal toasts, and superfood banana bread muffins are delectable. Hunker down in the kid- and dog-friendly courtyard with a coconut bacon cobb salad to fuel an afternoon of boutique exploration in nearby Carlsbad Village.

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9Fancy tea service goes vegan

Back in Oceanside, you may not expect to find a high-tea parlor in this laid-back beach town, but Bliss Tea & Treats is a welcome surprise with its bright and joyful teatime experience. On the main downtown stretch of Mission Avenue, this Black-owned tea parlor has a vegan tasting that pairs tea with goodies like cream cheese-and-cucumber sandwiches on housemade focaccia, along with a seriously delightful apple and cookie butter finger sandwich.

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10Don’t forget the culture

As one of California’s 14 designated Cultural Districts, Oceanside’s burgeoning arts and culture scene deserves as much shine as its cuisine. For museum hoppers, the California Surf Museum offers a deep dive into SoCal surf culture, while the Oceanside Museum of Art hosts international exhibits and coffee and conversation events with local artists. Wind down by catching a local production at Star Theatre or Sunshine Brooks Theater—or both, they’re only a block apart.

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