One restaurant high on my must-do list when I traveled to Los Angeles recently was Sun Café (formerly Sunpower Natural Café). When I lived in LA, this vegan establishment was a place that I visited regularly. (You can read my first review of it here.) Sun Café would easily get a place in my five favorite restaurants. With fresh, raw food playing a front and center position, they also have cooked options, shakes, and desserts. It was clear that in the time since I’ve been gone, their business has only continued to gain popularity. Each time that I visited, during varying times of day, it was always busy (though never too crowded to enjoy it).
The first time that I went was for lunch. Eager to spend every second in the sun that I could manage, I opted for an outdoor table in front of their restaurant. I pretended to peruse the menu even though I knew before I’d even packed my bags what I was going to order – the Supreme Pizza on a raw crust. Their pizzas have always been a favorite of mine.
The supreme is topped with marinara, their SunChorizo, tomatoes, marinated bell peppers and onions, and drizzled in a creamy cashew cheese. It’s then peppered with strips of fresh basil. The pizza is absolutely popping with flavor and varying textures. The crisp raw crust adds a mild crunch, and since it’s full of nuts and seeds, it’s surprisingly filling. (A version on flatbread is available for a cooked option.) I was only able to finish about half, and I saved the rest for a late afternoon snack. The pizza comes with a variety of side options, and I opted for a massaged kale salad. (The Mexican pizza is also fabulous if you’re looking for something with a Southwestern flair.)
The next time that I went back I had my sights set on their Sweet Kale Shake. When I moved away from the area, one of my first courses of action was to try my hand at recreating their surprisingly decadent drink. This was my first time having it after making my own version, and theirs definitely has almond extract in it, which mine does not. (Although, sometime I plan on getting almond extract and adding it, because it brings something wonderful to the table.) This creamy, softly sweet shake is dusted with coconut flakes and goji berries. Its hefty size makes it plenty large enough for sharing. I took half back to the hotel with me to put in the refrigerator for my husband.
Along with the shake, I had the taste bud popping Lettuce Leaf Tacos, which are similar to my own collard leaf tacos but served in a different vehicle obviously. The tacos are stuffed with SunChorizo, pico de gallo, avocado, green onion, and pecan pieces. They’re then drizzled with cashew cheese and basil ranch. The tacos are in the starter menu and would be a great size for sharing.
Finally, I went back one final time on the last evening before we headed out of a town. Gathering with a large group, we started with the Sun Nachos. The Sun Nachos can be prepared raw with thin-sliced jicama chips or with baked corn chips. We opted for a combination of both to satisfy the variety of taste preferences at our table. The nachos are absolutely piled with nacho cheese, cashew cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives, jalapenos, and green onions. A mish mash of so many full-bodied flavors, everyone at the table kept going back for “one last taste.”
For my meal, I ordered the Kale Colossus, one of my favorite items on their menu. It comes in two sizes, one personal and one for groups. The salad shown here is the personal size, people. It was huge! It worked out well, because I was able to have the other half of it the next day on the airplane. This massaged kale salad is loaded with everything you could ever imagine in a salad – mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, pico de gallo, three different dressings, raisins, bananas, and more of their SunChorizo. With so many different flavors it doesn’t seem like it would work together, but it makes each bite a surprise for the mouth.
Too full for more, we were won over by the temptation of dessert and decided to split one slice of cheesecake between all of us at the table. The cheesecake that won us over was the chocolate chip cookie dough. The slice was beautifully plated and had a dense, creamy texture. The dominant flavor of the cheesecake was coconut, presumably because it’s made with coconut oil. I enjoy coconut in small amounts, but it was stronger in flavor than I’d prefer, making it easy to stop after just a couple of bites.
Going back to Sun Café after all of this time made me realize how much of an influence it’s had on my own cooking (or should I say uncooking?) since I’ve been inspired to recreate many of their dishes in my kitchen so far away. You know what they say… If you can’t be with the one you love, agave, love the one you’re with. I’m glad that they are thriving as a business, and I’ll look forward to visiting again the next time I’m in the area. Until then, I’ll be sipping on my own cashew kale smoothie and thinking of them.