Illustration by Matt Lehman
When the Sunshine Inn first opened in the mid-’70s, with a window full of plants at its location on a sleepy stretch of South Euclid, many of us thought it was a health-food restaurant. (Ugh.) It wasn’t quite vegetarian. A little chicken and fish were on the menu, but they were just a polite gesture.
The kitchen quickly converted the dubious. One friend still salivates over the Golden Lion vegetarian burger, one of the crown jewels. The immense Garden of Eden salad introduced many St. Louisans to the wonders of sprouts and sunflower seeds. And the desserts were excellent: Slices of date-nut bread were swirled with cream cheese and studded with bite-sized gems of fresh fruit. The chocolate mousse was so good, it caused at least one semiregular to order the dessert, finish it, survey the room to see whether anyone was watching, and then order a second.
There were some flaws, to be sure. Service only sometimes rose above the level of “dazed.” One of the city’s restaurant critics regularly bemoaned the lack of vegetables beyond the usual options. (Beets, he’d mutter to his typewriter. Kohlrabi.) But considering that it was the ’70s, the Sunshine Inn was ahead of its time.