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Sunlight Cafe

That the Sunlight Cafe does a number of things right should come as no surprise. It is, after all, the longest-standing vegetarian restaurant in Seattle. The popular Roosevelt enclave offers inexpensive yet highly nutritious lunches, dinners and the ever-crowded Saturday and Sunday brunch.

The food is your basic, functional vegetarian fare: lots of salads, soups, veggie burgers, stir-fries and grain dishes. It is not as creative as some of Seattle's newest vegetarian restaurants, but neither does it disappoint. You'll find lots of vegan and wheat-free options here.

The food, simple decor and even the restaurant's name combine to give the Sunlight Cafe a 1960s granola feel. Specials boards in the restaurant's two rooms let you know the day's special soup, salad dressing, entree and desserts. Eating here is like stepping back to a simpler time of community and friendship. It is a place that attracts a lot of regulars who enjoy the low prices and the large plates of food.

Sit, if you can, in the cafe's sunny southern room. Its huge windows offer a pleasant place to sit and chat with a friend or read peacefully. In the darker northern room, you can sit in a booth or a smaller table in the center of the room. Or sit at the long counter and watch as the staff prepares your food. Local artwork adorns the walls and changes frequently.

The food is mostly American with some international influences. Diners with dietary restrictions or allergies will do well here: there are plenty of wheat-free choices, and servers can direct your attention to desserts sweetened without sugar and alternative drinks (additive-free beers, Knudsen's natural spritzers, herbal teas, etc.). You can even ask for raw milk cheese on your sandwich.

A nice appetizer is the pita with hummus. Three dollars gets you four whole wheat pita pieces and a big batch of smooth, creamy hummus for dipping. You can also choose a salad or soup as an appetizer or as your main meal.

One of my favorite lunches is the soup, salad and bread combo, for about $5. You get a good-sized salad, a cup of soup and a piece of hearty bread for dipping. It's also hard to go wrong with one of the salads, which typically have lots of different veggies. The lemon-tahini dressing, an option on many of Sunlight's salads, is one of the highlights of the menu. Some people with sensitive stomachs might request that the broccoli or cauliflower be lightly steamed. One of the biggest draws for weekend brunches is the eggless sesame crunch waffle, served with Vermont maple syrup and fruit. The service is generally efficient and friendly. But one time recently, when I visited for lunch, a counterperson told me to find my own seat. After waiting for 20 minutes without being acknowledged by a waitperson, I gave up and left. At another lunch, the steamed vegetables over brown rice dish was served minus its sauce. The waiter quickly corrected the problem by bringing out a cup of the soy-based sauce.

Sunlight Cafe serves red and white wine, and a variety of coffees, espressos and lattés. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, and brunch on weekends.