They say you can find vegan options anywhere, but when you’re stuck on an island, this saying doesn’t always have merit. Catalina Island is a popular daycation spot about 30 miles off the coast of Orange County, CA home to a mix of touristy attractions (jetskis, parasailing, mini golf), a casino, and miles of scenic hiking trails. When you dock in Avalon from your private boat—or, more likely, the convenient Catalina Express fleet of ships—you’ll find yourself in the midst of the tourist hot-spot, but before you run into the secluded hiking trails (or make a bee-line to the zipline eco-tour), fuel those adventure vibes with some hearty vegan food. The plant-based options aren’t overly apparent, but they do exist, and here’s where to find them.
1 Catalina Coffee and Cookie Company
For breakfast, the Catalina Coffee and Cookie Company has taken special care to incorporate a plant-based selection. What started as a way to accommodate people of various dietary restrictions evolved into a full vegan menu that allows customers to customize anything they order. Before you pass on this option looking for something more substantial, note that this shop does more than just coffee and cookies. The vegan items are extensive and include popular plant-based staples such as JUST Egg, Violife cheddar, and Follow Your Heart mozzarella, veggie sausage crumbles, and Vegenaise—all of which can be used to build a filling bagel sandwich, breakfast burrito, avocado toast, or pizza bread. And for drinks, the various coffees and smoothies can be made vegan with oat or almond milk. There’s even an assortment of vegan baked goods such as the Caffeinated Kitchen donuts imported from Long Beach, CA and banana nut bread by Le Chef in Los Angeles.
“We really added all these vegan options in February and March, so they’re relatively new,” said Catalina Coffee and Cookie Co. Owner Erin Eubank to VegNews. “It was kind of for selfish reasons, honestly. I can’t eat cheese and there’s usually not a lot to choose from at other restaurants. I wanted everyone to be able to mix and match to get what they want.”
Waterfront Italian-inspired dining typically does not indicate an abundance of vegan options, but the times have changed and even this cheese- and seafood-heavy upscale eatery now caters to its plant-based patrons. The default vegan entrée at M is the classic penne primavera made with fresh asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, and sundried tomato tossed with herbs, shallots, and extra virgin olive oil. Not in the mood for that specific dish? Manager Scottie Meyer says the staff is happy to make substitutions to other dishes or pull together a special order for vegans who want something off-menu.
“We can modify just about anything,” Meyer told VegNews. “We have guests from around the world and many of them want a plant-based option. The menu boasts tomato broth bases, seasonal vegetables, fresh herbs, and sauces made in-house daily.” The takeaway: never fear to ask, just do so politely.
3Coyote Joe’s Restaurant
When in doubt, Mexican joints are fairly reliable for their vegan options—rice and beans is the OG vegan staple, after all. We’ve confirmed Coyote Joe’s does not use animal-based broth or lard in the black beans (avoid the refried beans and the rice; unfortunately, these items are made with lard). While limited in options, if you have a giant vegan burrito in hand, there’s really nothing else you need. The Soy Chorizo and Avocado Burrito is stuffed with plant-based chorizo, avo, black beans, and an assortment of veggies. It’s enormous, filling, and everything you could want after an island excursion. Pair that with a margarita and call it a good day.
For something fresh and energizing, put NDMK on your radar. It’s outwardly focused on seafood, but there are a few plant-based hidden gems worthy of your dollars. Ask for the poke bowl made vegan and you’ll get a wholesome bowl packed with rice, veggies, avocado, and tofu. The “Spot” Burger also can be modified with a plant-based patty—just say the magic word (“vegan”). To supplement your main, add french fries, a side salad, seaweed salad, rice, or sautéed vegetables.
5 Cafe Metropole
Just around the corner from Catalina Coffee and Cookie Company is Café Metropole. The kitchen focuses on fresh, homemade ingredients made to satisfy your hunger and nourish your action-packed day. Note to hikers, watersport enthusiasts, or island tour-goers: this is a great spot to grab lunch to-go and pack for the trail or for the boat. Café Metropole Manager Kristine Jordan recommends one of their avocado toasts (they’re huge), but if you’re packing luch, the Smashed Chickpea with vegan mayo, chickpeas, pickles, dijon, lettuce, tomato, and sprouts is the way to go.
“We’ve really started seeing an increase in orders for our vegan options,” Kristine told VegNews. “The chickpea salad sandwich is one of our most popular items and you can also get a fresh avocado loaded with the chickpea salad.” Along with vegan juices, smoothies, and açaí bowls, diners can enjoy the veggie stack sandwich or veggie panini, which are each jampacked with fresh vegetables and hummus. Finish it up with a fresh-pressed immunity shot made with ginger, apple, and lemon.
6Steve’s Steak House
Certain steak houses will surprise you with their vegan dishes, and Steve’s is one of them. Like M, it leans more toward the upscale end so check your shorts and sandals for something a bit more formal. Unlike M, there’s no need to ask for special requests if the one dedicated vegan option isn’t to your liking—Steve’s offers a full vegan menu complete with appetizers, entrées, and sides. Hits include the Cauliflower Steak Dinner paired with a creamy vegan cheese sauce and veggie sides; a stacked Impossible Burger with sweet potato fries; and BBQ Vegan Chicken Tenders.
7 Local tips
Beyond the eateries mentioned above, there are a handful of other noteworthy plant-based options. For something sweet, swing by any of the ice cream shops to check in on their assortment of sorbets. If you’re near Hotel Atwater on a weekend, seek out the hotdog cart for its weekend-only vegan hotdog special. You can also find a quinoa and papaya salad at Naughty Fox, potato tacos vegan-style from Maggie’s Blue Rose, and a refreshing tofu poke bowl by NDMK.