SunCafe Brings Vegan Wonders to New Digs

After four years of creating vegan and raw dishes, as well as helming cooking classes at SunCafe, co-owners Ron Russell and Rebecca Smith have moved their popular eatery down the street to its new location at 10820 Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, replacing the former Zach’s Café, which served up Italian food for the last 18 years (and for those who remember the ‘80s, Mary’s Lamb). The grand opening date is Wednesday, July 2.

SunCafe may be sans dairy and all animal products; however, the dishes stand impressively on their own merit by balancing ingredients with uniquely delicious flavors rather than as a substitution for the “real stuff.” Yes, carnivores like it too—and there is no persistent “earthy-hippy-dippy-I-smell-patchouli-oil” feel, if you know what I mean. The new space is sophisticated, yet cozy, and has tripled in size, with seating for 100, a full kitchen, indoor and outdoor sitting, an expanded menu and liquor license

WHY WE LIKE IT:

Wow: It is a former 1920s house turned production company, then restaurant. The architectural integrity had been retained yet updated with a mix of vintage and modern—from the original, restored wood floors to antique gates imported from China (which front an awesome patio with built-in benches and tables) to retro light fixtures, chandeliers, shutters and door handles salvaged from home demolitions in Beverly Hills.

Fun: The “Mad Hatter” table (above) —a long table for eight designed to fit between columns in the main dining room with a mismatched set of one-of-a-kind vintage chairs found at architectural salvage stores. Since it is a former house, there are separate dining areas with a mix of private booths, individual tables and a small bar.

Nourishment: An eclectic, appealing, tasty menu filled with creatively inspired Mediterranean, Mexican, Italian, Thai and American dishes.

Libations: The drinks menu is based on liqueur, vermouth, wine and beer, with cocktails such as the Carosello Cooler with the Italian liqueur Cynar, spearmint syrup and sour beer; or the Masala Roja, a chai-spiced, pinot noir-based sangria. There are 39 wines available (18 by the glass), as well as 12 beers on tap and 10 bottled beers, from as close as Orange County and as far away as Belgium. All of the beers and wines are vegan, meaning no gelatin or animal products are used in their production, and organic (not all are certified, but all follow organic production practices.) Nonalcoholic choices include juices and shakes.

Cool: It has a built-in celebrity following, which includes Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Anne Hathaway, Ed Begley Jr., Julianne Hough, Alicia Witt and Megan Fox. Or forget the celebs—sitting on the patio has its own cool factor.

Parking: Yes, they have a lot with valet—or find a meter on the street.

MUST ORDER EATS:

Lasagna: Portobello mushroom, spinach, cashew ricotta, zucchini “noodles,” house-made "chorizo," marinara and cashew cheese.

Lettuce Leaf Tacos: House-made "chorizo," cashew "cheese," pico de gallo, avocado, green onion, pecan pieces and basil ranch on lettuce leaves.

Mac & Cheese: Quinoa pasta, tomato, cashew "cheese" sauce, garlic pecan crumble with lemon basil.

Pesto Pizza: Pesto, marinated mushroom, cherry tomato, olive, green onion, cashew "cheese" on flatbread.

Fiesta Burger: Raw patty made from sunflower seeds, mushrooms, sun-dried tomato and topped with guacamole, pico de gallo, nacho "cheese," cashew mayo and jalapeno peppers.

Shamrock Shake: Spinach, banana, cacao, cashew and agave (tip: it actually tastes like ice cream).

"Chocolate" Cookie Dough Pie: pure decadence

SunCafe, 10820 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Open Monday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information or reservations, call 818-927-4100.