California has always been a leader in forward-thinking concepts. From clean air to clean living, the left coast is pretty much always ahead of its time. That could be why veganism has steadily transformed into somewhat of a phenomenon out here; it’s a lifestyle that has positive effects on just about every aspect of life.

Is it good for our health? Yep!

Vegans have a lower risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and hypertension. They also have better cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure levels, lower BMIs and lower overall cancer rates.

Is it good for the environment? Sure is.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, 51% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to “livestock and their byproducts.” Other problems associated with factory farming include water pollution, the unnecessary use of natural resources and more.

Is it good for our humanity? Heck, yeah.

There are a whole lot of animal lovers out there who just feel better because they’re not eating meat. It’s a simple concept that makes people feel warm and fuzzy inside.

But the real question is: “How is the food?” Well let’s answer that with a resounding DELICIOUS! Thanks to some innovative chefs and devoted followers, vegan cooking has become a culinary sensation with first-rate restaurants popping up all over California. And they’re so good, even non-vegans are becoming regulars! In honor of World Vegan Day on November 1, here are five of the most popular vegan restaurants in the state. Enjoy!

1. Real Food Daily—Los Angeles
West Hollywood: 414 N. La Cienega Boulevard
Santa Monica: 514–516 Santa Monica Boulevard
Pasadena: 899 E. Del Mar Boulevard

There are a lot of fantastic vegan restaurants in the Los Angeles area, but Real Food Daily (RFD to natives) is consistently one of the best and most reliably delicious. Every morsel of food on the menu is grown using only “organic farming methods,” guaranteeing that everything is not only scrumptious, but also as healthful as possible. Standout dishes include the Supreme Burrito, Not-Chos, Tu-Nut Salad, Total Reuben and the fabulous Caesar Salad (for dessert, try the Faux-Stess Cupcake for a decadent treat). The weekend brunch is also not to be missed! *Organic wines and beers are also available. Other L.A. area spots to try include: Crossroads (Los Angeles), Sage Organic Vegan Bistro (Echo Park and Culver City) Sun Café (Studio City) and Café Gratitude (Larchmont and Venice).

2. Café Gratitude—Berkeley
1730 Shattuck Avenue

The original Café Gratitude in Berkeley has for years been one of Northern California’s favorite vegan spots (so much so that other Cali regions have laid claim to its deliciousness, as well…namely L.A. and Santa Cruz). The menu features both raw and cooked offerings, including the light and yummy raw I Am Terrific (Pad Thai with kelp noodles), the raw I Am Honoring (Nachos with spicy cashew cheese) and the cooked I Am Extraordinary (BLT with sautéed maple coconut “bacon”). Also do not miss the raw key-lime pie. Other rave-worthy Northern Cal vegan restaurants include: Millennium (San Francisco), Source (vegan & vegetarian/San Francisco) and Gracias Madre (Same owner as Café Gratitude/San Francisco).

3. Anna’s Vegan Café—Sacramento
3500 Stockton Boulevard

As shocking as it sounds, the one cuisine that is often an elusive treat for vegans is Chinese Food. So many things that sound vegan have hidden and unexpected non-vegan ingredients (like fish broth for example). Anna’s Vegan Café in Sacramento is a total gem and a favorite for carnivores and vegans alike with dishes like the Mongolian Delight, Lucky Lemongrass and the Golden Drumstick appetizer. The other huge plus, the prices are incredible—a typical entrée costs less than $8. Other great vegan spots in the capital: The Plum Café & Bakery and the exclusively raw Green Boheme.

4. Evolution Fast Food—San Diego
2949 5th Avenue (corner of Quince)

Why should carnivores have all of the fast-food options? Evolution fills an important void in the world of veganism—fast food drive-thrus! Pull up to the window and order a Tempeh Mushroom “Cheese” Burger, the Buffalo Chick’n Sandwich or the Raw Tacos. (And don’t forget that side of Chili “cheese” fries!) There’s also a huge selection of beverages from shakes and smoothies to organic juices and fresh-in-the-shell Coconut Water. Hungry yet? Other San Diego area options include the much-loved Loving Hut, the fabulous Casa de Luz (with its daily changing menus) and another fast-food-esque destination, Native Foods (about an hour drive in Costa Mesa).

5. El Cantaro Vegan Mexican Restaurant—Monterey
791 Foam Street

There are those times when nothing will satisfy quite like good Mexican food and Monterey is so lucky to have this amazing vegan restaurant. For those who think they’ll miss meat in their burritos and tamales, never fear—because the grilled chickin’ and “steak” will convince you that you’re missing nothing by eating cruelty free. The must-try dishes include the Grilled Pineapple Veggie Burrito, the Crispy Potato Taco, Fish Baja Style Taco and the Molé de Cacahuate with Chickin’. On a side note: the “sour cream” is excellent, so indulge in that delicacy, as well.  Another vegan-friendly favorite in the area is Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant (Pacific Grove).

Do you have a favorite vegan restaurant that we missed on the list? Let us know where you indulge your plant-based cravings in the comments section below.