SunCafe reopens in a bright new space with beer, wine, & creative mixed drinks.
If you are vegan in the valley, you knew about SunCafe. Heck, sometimes it felt like everyone and their mom was trying to fit into that tiny little restaurant, so I’m sure more than one of your non-vegan friends also knew about this gem of a restaurant. Well now you can bring your momma, your papa, and your friends, because SunCafe, the award winning vegan/raw restaurant that was previously housed in a tiny strip mall, has reopened in a beautiful light filled space worthy of its namesake.
Fans of owner & chef Ron Russell will appreciate the old standbys on the menu: sun nachos and raw tacos, as well as some delicious new additions like an updated version of their popular mac & cheese, served in a cast iron skillet. Chef de Cuisine Roi Elam has added a raw Pad Thai to their menu, made with golden beet ‘noodles’ and expanded their popular pizza menu to 7 varieties available in both their gluten-free rice crust or their signature Raw SunCrust. I had their Farmer’s Market Pizza with fresh figs, white sauce, tempeh bacon, arugula, & a meyer lemon balsamic reduction. Delicious.
Before you carnivores turn your nose up at what you think will be cardboard covered in tahini, you best be tasting some of this delicious grub. The raw tacos are a dish I would order regardless of my omnivore inclinations and their drink menu is fantastic. Oh, did I say drink menu? Yes. Yes, I did.
The highlight of the re-opening is their new beer & wine license. Nevin Kumar has curated an excellent selection of beers on tap & in bottles, that showcases a wide variety of styles rarely found in IPA heavy California. The selection includes sours, barrel aged selections, and higher ABV beers. According to Kumar, “I love an IPA as much as the next passionate beer drinker, but offering more than a few, would mean sacrificing more exotic or seasonal styles. Mash ups from Modern Times with IPA/amber or IPA/heffe crosses are fascinating and are wonderful pairing for our cuisine.” This foray into novel styles and smaller batch, craft brands has paid off as Kumar notes, “Our guests are adventurous and I really encourage sampling (with no guilt trips) and education. They love a great story about how something got from “farm to table.” When they find out that Modern Time’s owner Jacob, is 17 years vegan and supports the restaurant, or that John Salley (hall of famer Laker), is friends with us and has his wine (the vegan vine) on the list they feel that they can enjoy their drink knowing it’s coming from passionate, meticulous craftsmen.”
Often restaurants fall flat when trying to offer mixed drink options with a limited license, but not SunCafe. Making the most of their 22% ABV limitations, their bartender, Michael Barret (Little Fork) has crafted a delicious selection of mixed drinks featuring amaros, organic produce, and home made syrups and reductions. Barret is always pushing the envelope, as he tries innovative combinations ranging from a currently experimental off-menu kombucha shandy with IPA (delicious – don’t knock it till you try it) or my personal favorite, the Carosello Cooler with its use of the artichoke amaro Cynar, house-made spearmint syrup, lemon & beer. The beer he used is the Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouges, a Flemish Sour Red Ale aged in Oak barrels, which gives this drink a beautiful tart quality.
With Barret’s bartending background and Kumar’s extensive beer knowledge, they make a great team. Together they crafted the Abbey Float, a beer float featuring St. Bernandus Belgian Abbey Ale, cherry cola, and vanilla cashew ice cream. Creating a mashup of abbey heritage and 50s soda fountains seemed appropriate given Kumar’s personal history. “Shirley Temple was my great aunt so I felt cherry was appropriate and the paper straw just makes sense.”
All of the alcoholic offerings are vegan, meaning no gelatin or other animal products are used in their production, as well as organic. There are 2 sangrias as well as 39 wines, 18 available by the glass. Also the future has some surprises in store, if you are a beer nerd or just an adventurous enthusiast, a little birdie told me that there will be some events featuring rare beer tastings, and a “Bottle Reserve” List.
Our Little SunCafe is all grown up. So, get yourself down there for some guilt-free dining, with adult beverages to match.
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