From many splendid sandy beaches and epic surf breaks, to picturesque mountains and tranquil towns with organic farms, Santa Cruz offers you the best of both worlds. This popular tourist destination is also sought after for its fascinating beer, wine and dining scene.

Thankfully Santa Cruz has excellent dining options for vegans and vegetarians too, including an array of restaurants serving delicious American comfort food as well as various ethnic cuisine.

You’ll find vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Santa Cruz, as well as exceptional eateries that serve both meat and vegetarian dishes. But their enticing vegetarian options means that we just had to include some of those non-vegetarian restaurants on our list.

So let’s delve into our favorite six vegetarian restaurants in Santa Cruz – we’re sure all will bring you an unforgettable food experience!

cocktails and food
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Six Exceptional Vegan Restaurants In Santa Cruz, CA: Food Worth Waiting For!

1. Cafe Gratitude

We believe eating healthy, nutritious and tasty meals should never be compromised on, even when you’re visiting a new place for the first time.

That’s exactly why we’re excited (or should we say, grateful) to have found Café Gratitude! This farm-to-table vegan restaurant offers some of the freshest dishes around. And all are prepared with seasonal, 100% organic ingredients.

Walk into this super hip restaurant and experience the warmth and friendliness of the staff, colorful murals and relaxing music playing in the background. This café is very passionate about providing farm-to-table gourmet plant-based food, and dishes cooked in a sustainable way. In fact they care about is so much, they’ve got their very own farm for it!

Some of the dishes that particularly stand out here include their Whole Macrobiotic Bowl which is prepared with fresh ingredients like baby kale, kim-chee, carrots, arame seaweed, brown rice, garlic-tahini sauce and is then topped with sprouts and tamari glazed almonds.

Their Warm-hearted Pan Seared Polenta which includes polenta cakes, as well as a tasty puttanesca sauce, and which is then topped with almond-sunflower parmesan crumble is a definite must-try too!

The large variety of drinks here will also leave you impressed too. From smoothies, milkshakes, fresh juices, to wellness shots, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The most unique beverage here has to the their Powerful Kim-Chee juice shot which is packed with probiotics, b-vitamins and electrolytes – a little spicy, zingy energy boost!

We think that the ideal chaser after those wellness shots has to be their delicious Key-Lime Pie made with avocados – a real treat for the taste buds.

This vegan restaurant in Santa Cruz is open everyday from 11am to 9pm.

Address: 103 Lincoln St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

vegetarian bowl
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2. Veg On The Edge

Veg On The Edge isn’t only super creative with their name, they’re also very creative when it comes to the authentic mouth-watering African/American cuisine they offer up.

This sleek restaurant is located in a food court, but if you want a quieter setting then they have some nice indoor seating which is more tucked away. That’s also where you can sit and watch what’s happening in the open kitchen and see your food being made live!

For a more lively setting, you can grab a seat in the outdoor seating area which is shared with a few other stands. If you’re lucky, you may even get the chance to rock out to a live band playing!

What dishes would we recommend? Well, Veg On The Edge offers up a taste of West Africa with their Plantain Curry which is prepared with ingredients like plantain, jackfruit, green onion, bell peppers and red onion. Another incredible dish has to be the Shiitake Suya Bowl, which consists of shiitake suya, jollof rice, corn, broccoli, bell pepper and roasted sweet potatoes.

This vegan restaurant in Santa Cruz also has a different menu on the weekend. But worry not as you can still dig into the Plantain Curry then too. However you can also try other great dishes like the Locust Beans & Veggie Curry which is prepared with locust beans, cashews, mushroom, collard greens, tofu, veggie blend and brown rice.

This vegan restaurant in Santa Cruz is open everyday from 12pm to 8pm.

Address: 725 Front St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Poke bowl with avocado and tofu
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Unsplash+/Maryam Sicard

3. Laili Restaurant

We’ve so far shown you a couple of casual spots serving up great vegan and vegetarian food. However we had to include something a little different. Laili offers you an unforgettable fine dining experience, alongside exquisite vegetarian dishes.

Located just a short walk from Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Laili Restaurant is the perfect way to look back on your day’s escapade with your loved ones around some of the best – and most exotic cuisine – in Santa Cruz. This place creates dishes with a fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, alongside their own Afghani spin.

This restaurant has a cozy and relaxed ambience indoors thanks to the warm lighting, hanging pictures and art. That, coupled with the super attentive and knowledgeable service, makes Laili a lovely place to spend an evening.

You can also choose to dine al fresco here on their charming terrace which is surrounded by tall trees and decorated with fairy lights. And don’t worry if it gets cold – they have an outdoor heater to keep you toasty while dining. Don’t forget to make your reservation though as this outdoor space gets booked up fast!

As for the food, all the dishes are prepared with the freshest locally sourced organic ingredients. In fact you’ll find their daily menu showcasing many seasonal dishes, but you’ll also find dishes that are here to stay and that can be enjoyed all year round.

Although Laili Restaurant isn’t an exclusively vegetarian spot, the vegetarian choices are crave-worthy.

Some of the top vegetarian dishes here include appetizers like their Eggplant Parmesan Flatbread or the Vegetarian Maush-Awa Soup.

As for entrées, the Pomegranate Eggplant which is served with saffron basmati rice, chard, caramelized onion and qurut yogurt is delectable. Another great option has to be the Roasted Cauliflower which consists of chickpeas, tomato ginger sauce, saffron basmati rice, qurut yogurt and salata. Believe us when we say you won’t find anything boring on the menu here.

Laili Restaurant is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 4pm to 8pm.

Address: 101 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

salad with wooden spoon
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Unsplash+/Olivie Strauss

4. Charlie Hong Kong

If you have late night cravings and love good street food, Charlie Hong Kong – which is open until 11pm some nights – will fit the bill for vegans and vegetarians alike. Quick, hot, healthy and delicious food freshly made for you. And also made with locally grown organic produce too!

Established in 1998, Charlie Hong Kong is conveniently located on a busy street corner and although not solely vegetarian, we just had to include it on our list of vegetarian restaurants in Santa Cruz for the flavors in their dishes which display Southeast Asian street food at its best.

This colorful place has indoor seating, and is a laid-back down-to-earth joint. It’s self-serve at Charlie Hong Kong, so you will order at the counter and when your food’s ready, your order number will get called. But the turnaround time is quick and the staff are very accommodating and friendly.

Some of the dishes that stand out the most include their Gado Gado which is prepared with a mixture of vegetables and mushrooms cooked in a black bean sauce with jasmine rice and spicy organic peanut sauce. Two other great options are their Szechuan Mushroom Medley Rice Bowl, and the Organic Spicy Garlic Tofu Rice Bowl. We have to mention that all of these options are vegan, as well as gluten-free!

Don’t forget to grab one of their specialty drinks too. In particular their Ginger Lemonade is delicious and goes really well with many of the flavors and seasonings in the dishes.

Charlie Hong Kong is open everyday from 11am to 10pm, except on Friday and Saturday when you can enjoy delicious food until 11pm.

Address: 101 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Fried rice with chopsticks
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Unsplash+/Benoit Deschasaux

5. Woodstock’s Pizza

Who doesn’t love that perfect combination of crispy pizza crust, well-seasoned sauce and bubbly cheese? For us, it always hits the spot when dining out! Luckily you can enjoy this ultimate comfort food until midnight on most days at Woodstock’s Pizza, and until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays!

Whether you’re grabbing a pizza to go and heading to the beach, or want to enjoy some indulgent pizza and drinks with friends, Woodstock’s Pizza has a super laidback and relaxed ambience that will be perfect! This place with its exposed brickwork, booth seating and heated patio, is that perfect laid-back after-work spot. But the vibe can get pretty loud and fun at times here, so this is a place to enjoy food and drinks, rather than have a coffee and read a book.

As for the pizzas, we highly recommend their Grateful Veg which includes bell peppers, onions, fresh tomatoes, olives and mushrooms. Another great choice has to be their Pesto Primavera which has toppings like pesto sauce, broccoli, artichoke hearts, onions and fresh tomatoes.

However, if you like to choose your own toppings, you’ll be delighted to know that Woodstock’s Pizza offers you the opportunity to choose your own crust, sauce and toppings. So why not be creative!

Although not solely vegetarian, we just had to include Woodstock’s Pizza on our list of vegetarian restaurants in Santa Cruz. And that’s not only for the heartwarming pizzas (and pies too), but also for the fantastic offers on drinks and deals on pizzas.

Those offers include affordable pitchers from Monday to Friday from 9am to close. While the Monday Madness deals includes buying any large or extra-large pizza and then enjoying one for free. So if you’re a student in Santa Cruz and looking for a budget-friendly spot, this will be right up your street as you’ll save some money!

Woodstock’s Pizza is open everyday from 11am to midnight, except on Fridays and Saturdays when you can enjoy late night pizza until 1am.

Address: 710 Front St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

vegetarian pizza on a board
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Unsplash+/Ahmed

6. Café Brasil

Laidback, colorful, welcoming and homey – that’s what describes Café Brasil. Whether you’re on the search for the perfect breakfast, lunch or brunch spot, this café has it all. Plus the food here is packed with flavors and seasonings.

This cafe screams Brazil as the building itself is decorated in the colors of the the Brazilian flag. You’ll find loads of seating inside, alongside Brazilian music playing in the background, colorful décor and a casual yet fun atmosphere.

Although not solely vegetarian, we had to add Café Brasil to our list of vegetarian restaurants in Santa Cruz. Why? Well, the amazing food here will leave you impressed thanks to the large selection of vegetarian options and the friendly and happy ambience Café Brasil have fostered. The staff are always happy to assist with any requests too, and even suggest some dishes if you’re not sure what to try.

This is a good breakfast place too, and some of our top picks for breakfast here include their Santa Cruz Omelette which is made up of tomatoes and mushrooms and is topped with avocado & sour cream. Another great dish is their Eggs Florentine which is prepared with soft poached eggs over sliced baguette and spinach.

When it comes to lunch, the A Carioca which is made up of sautéed tofu, served with spinach, cream of corn, rice, farofa and salad is a popular vegan choice. Another great lunch option is their Stroganoff which is prepared with tofu, creamy rose sauce, mushrooms and served with rice, shoestring potatoes and salad – you won’t be disappointed.

We recommend you book in advance on weekends though as this place attracts a crowd. The only downside is that you might struggle to find a parking spot as there are only a few around. But this can be easily solved as you might find parking on the side of the road beside the café.

Café Brasil is open everyday from 9am to 6pm.

Address: 1410 Mission St . Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Omellete with salad
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Unsplash+/Frank Flores