Vegan Friendly: Plant-Powered Vietnamese at Thanh Tinh Chay in City Heights

Thanh Tinh Chay courts locals with a $5 baseline price for nearly all dishes. It’s a bargain tempting to everyone—vegan or not.

Van Bui had never run a restaurant, but the need for one was clear. 

Cost is a large hurdle for those exploring vegan and vegetarian dining, and while City Heights is filled with affordable Vietnamese restaurants, most have limited options for those seeking meat-free meals. 

The lack of affordable vegetarian food in City Heights (and beyond) begged for a solution. 

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Top 10 Restaurants I Frequented in 2019 (San Diego, CA)

Before social pressures, we would just eat and tell others to eat wherever we always ate. These days, it seems, recommendations come skewed by hype (to which I too am not immune) when what we really should be sharing are the places we return to over and over even when no one is looking.

So, here is an un-scientifically compiled list of the restaurants I frequented in San Diego the most in 2019, which was totally inspired by this tweet:


Hands down one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. I love about 90% of the menu and never hesitate to recommend it to anyone. While I rotate between many of the dishes, the Black Pepper Cashew Chicken—trimmed mushrooms battered and fried in “beef jerky” (my words) sauce served with always perfect rice—special (above) is almost always on my table.

Top 10 Restaurants I Frequented in 2019 (San Diego, CA)

The Purple Mint Vegan Bistro (San Diego, CA)

Summer Rolls are one of the great culinary inventions in the history of man. A perfect package of crunchy vegetables, fragrant herbs, and the soft but snappy bite of rice paper enriched with the sweetness of some sort of sauce. At Purple Mint Vegetarian Bistro I appreciate that they don’t dilute the rolls with extra noodles, offering rice paper stuffed with tofu, purple mint, lettuces, basil, jicama, and carrots.  The sauce, although spiked with crushed peanuts and pickled carrots, runs bland and benefits greatly from a kick of hoisin ($5.95).

The Purple Mint Vegan Bistro (San Diego, CA)

A Comprehensive List of Vegan Burgers in San Diego

I uncovered more vegan burger options  then I could have imagine when building the 20 Vegan Burgers To Try in San Diego map for Eater. It seemed a shame to not share the full list for those who swim in the deep dark waters of the restaurant scene (or have a lot of friends and family that drag them to non-vegan-friendly spots). So here it is.

For photos and descriptions of the top 20, check the Eater map and help drive up views (and demand) for vegan content.

[information current as of November 2019]
A Comprehensive List of Vegan Burgers in San Diego

Vegan Friendly: Tribute Pizza in North Park

There are two types of people: Those that love a specific style of pizza, and those who love supreme examples of EVERY style of pizza. Tribute Pizza—where pizza topping combinations are inspired by all the American greats—is for people who love them all.

The cavernous hall of the old North Park Post Office seemed an audacious choice for a debut restaurant. But attention to detail and a sweeping love of pizza quickly attracted customers.

On most nights, the restaurant is packed.

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Vegan Friendly: Telefónica Gastro Park in Tijuana

The indoor/outdoor Telefónica Gastro Park offers an array of global flavors infused with the creativity of some of Tijuana’s rising chefs.

The Vibe

Long under the influence of its northern neighbors, the relatively recent dip in tourism has given rise to a brave new breed of Tijuana restaurant. Aimed at feeding the local’s hunger for innovation and community, chefs are pushing the boundaries of Baja cooking.

Telefónica Gastro Park encapsulates this shift.

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a god-awful small affair: A Bowie Dinner with Joshua Ploeg

I’ve long espoused the idea that foodie culture rose from the smashed emotions of the Great Recession swizzled with Yelp. But lately I’ve been reading the theories of food as entertainment—a phrase that immediately rings true. Because foodie culture also rose along side Food Network, increasing obesity, grocery abundance, Salt Bae, and other bastions of 21st century American culture.

Our Birthday Lady, Beth

But for longer than that, food has been the fuel of the party season. Entertainment not aimed to sell us more or make us docile, but to share a bit of joy with friends, and friends of friends. Touring chef, Joshua Ploeg, tied it all together in an unironic David Bowie themed dinner theater for Beth’s birthday.
a god-awful small affair: A Bowie Dinner with Joshua Ploeg