By Jon Waterhouse
August 24, 2007
From the carnivorous point of view, the key to a successful vegetarian restaurant is helping diners forget about the absence of meat. It’s a chore not easily accomplished. No matter how much crunchy granola goodness reigns, if certain dishes don’t have the hearty umph of meat-infused offerings, then you’re hugging trees on a not-so-satisfied tummy.
Cafe Sunflower’s Sandy Springs location stays up for the task with wonderfully satisfying entrees with a smart vegetarian sensibility that not only keep both camps happy, but downright glowing with delight.
Box me in
Cafe Sunflower hooks you out of the gate with sensational appetizers. Although the choices are nearly doubled on the dinner menu, the Sunflower Box is the hot pick either day or evening. This sampler arrives in bento box fashion with compartments separating the goods. With pot stickers here and basil rolls there, it’s hard to decide where to dive first. But each selection is so top notch, just grab blindly. We cut into the spaghetti squash cake, a flat and flavorful soft patty made of squash, leeks and polenta. The soothing, squashy warmth from each bite exudes the essence of comfort. A duo of dumplings are both expertly-created Asian nibbles. Squishy steamed dumplings come packed with spinach, carrots, glass noodles, tofu and black mushrooms. And the crunchy pot stickers provide pan-grilled bliss. A pair of rolls follow the soft-versus-crispy format, too. Cabbage, onions, carrots and glass noodles are housed inside the fried outer shell of the Sandy Springs roll. For the basil roll, tiny squares of tofu join celery, snow peas, carrots, jicama, glass noodles and basil in a rice paper wrap. The fried-yet-light air of the Sandy Springs and the fresh zest of the basil roll prove equally enjoyable.
Mighty and meatless
We wash down our starters with the perfectly brisk country peach iced tea before eyeing the entrees. Its World’s Best Veggie Burger boasts a heavy claim. But after an initial bite, it may not be too far off the mark. The hand-formed patty has just the right hint of soy without being overbearing and a stick-to-your-ribs excellence not always found in fake meat burgers. Ours comes with a thick slab of golden soy cheese. And the sunflower sesame seed bun makes perfect book ends.
The garden lasagna plays out the same way. Although veggies like zucchini and yellow squash are plentiful, it’s the ground soy that helps amp up its overall heartiness. And the roasted garlic marinara blankets the delightful pasta square in soothing flavor.
Cafe Sunflower knows solid wraps, from the sweet brown sauce found drizzled atop its moo shu vegetables to its brick-size burrito. But don’t try munching by hand. Cutting into the former finds a wave of tofu, sprouts, green onions, cabbage, carrots and mushrooms spilling forth. But the burrito’s rice filling glues together its tasty innards (beans, cheddar cheese, bell peppers, corn, onions, tomato and cilantro).
If the kitchen expertise of Cafe Sunflower helps dismiss the lack of meat on the menu, its desserts may just seal the deal. Large triangles of dairy-free cakes roll out of the kitchen. And mousse fans take their pick of chocolate, carrot or chocolate raspberry.
- Where: 5975 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-256-1675, www.cafesunflower.com
- Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon-2:30 p.m. Saturdays. Dinner 5-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5-9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
- Recommended dishes: Sunflower Box, burrito, moo shu vegetables, veggie burger, garden lasagna
- Prices: Appetizers and salads $5-$9.50; entrees $8.50-$17.
- Verdict: Amazing vegetarian with international flavor.