Cafe Sunflower’s Plant-Based Global Cuisine Enriches Atlanta’s Vegan Food Scene

Just a 17-minute drive from Emory University, Cafe Sunflower offers stellar vegan cuisine with a large range of foods from around the world. Whether you’re a plant eater, looking to dip your toes into veganism, or just want to host your vegan or vegetarian friends, this cafe is the perfect place for a memorable dining experience.

I went to Café Tournesol with my dad on February 23, a birthday tradition that started a few months before the start of the pandemic in 2020. For a Wednesday evening, the restaurant was surprisingly packed, with almost all the tables occupied. The dining room itself was casual and relaxed, with simple wooden decor. Modern pendant lights and artwork around the restaurant have dramatically brightened the interior, giving it a charming vibe.

(Krithika Shrinivas / The Emory Wheel.)

For our appetizers we ordered the Buffalo Lollipops and the Steamed Dumplings. The lollipops were my favorite part of this dinner. These soy chicken drumsticks were coated in a rich buffalo sauce with a vegan blue cheese dip on the side along with a few refreshing celery sticks.

The drumsticks were so tender and succulent, and their bold flavors were complemented well by the light and creamy dip. My only complaint is that there weren’t enough!

The steamed dumplings were also very tasty, filled with a colorful mixture of Asian cabbage, carrots, tofu, black mushrooms and spinach and served with a tangy soy ginger dipping sauce. This appetizer is a great choice for anyone who loves Asian cuisine but prefers a milder level of spice.

(Krithika Shrinivas / The Emory Wheel.)

From shrimp tacos to eggplant orzo lasagna, Cafe Sunflower offers delicious entrees from a variety of international cuisines. We decided to get the Pesto Pasta and Spicy Thai Noodles, our old favorites that we wanted to try at Sunflower Cafe.

The pesto pasta was mouth-watering, with a walnut pesto sauce that could easily pass for traditional pesto. The dish was topped with broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, artichokes and capers, with two pieces of garlic bread on the side to make a well balanced and hearty meal.

While the pesto pasta was a treat, the spicy pad thai noodles were a little disappointing. Not because the dish wasn’t tasty, but rather because the noodles were a very Americanized version of this sharp and tangy Thai dish, looking more like a bowl of pasta than noodles because of the creamy sauce.

(Krithika Shrinivas / The Emory Wheel.)

A good choice for those on a gluten-free diet, these rice noodles were topped with zucchini, green beans, red peppers, mushrooms, baked tofu, kale, carrots and crushed peanuts with a rich coconut sauce and tahini. The sauce reminded me of alfredo sauce, except it was heavily infused with coconut essence.

It was a far cry from the traditional pad thai, which is sweet, salty and tangy, and it didn’t live up to its spicy advertisement. Nonetheless, this starter was comforting and the assortment of vegetables made it healthy and eye-catching.

We chose to skip dessert as the restaurant only has a selection of vegan cakes which we didn’t want at the moment. From previous experiences the cakes are scrumptious, my favorite being their carrot cake.

Skipping dessert gave us time to look at the many plaques at the entrance to the restaurant that are dedicated to Lin and Edward Sun, the chefs and owners of this award-winning and nationally recognized restaurant.

While their Sandy Springs restaurant, founded in 1994, closed after 25 years in business, the Buckhead restaurant, founded 3 years later, is open and thriving. The chefs founded Cafe Sunflower after discovering holistic health and becoming vegetarians in the early 1990s.

Already in the restaurant business, owners sold their existing restaurants to found Cafe Sunflower, hoping to make vegetarianism more accessible and change the common perception of vegetarian dishes as tasteless and boring.

The chefs have accomplished this mission, because the world cuisine offered in this restaurant is delicious. Cafe Sunflower has revolutionized the plant-based dining scene in Atlanta, and I highly recommend it to everyone, vegan or not!

Overall: 4.5/5