Sophie Bolich

Sunshine Cafe Offers Classic American Fare

New southside restaurant emulates old Silver Dollar Cafe in Clarke Square neighborhood.

By - Nov 21st, 2022 01:51 pm
Site of Sunshine Cafe, 831 S. Cesar E Chavez Dr. Photo courtesy of Desiré Calderón.

Site of Sunshine Cafe, 831 S. Cesar E Chavez Dr. Photo courtesy of Desiré Calderón.

Sunshine Cafe, a new option for classic American-style breakfast and lunch, is now open and serving in the Clarke Square neighborhood.

The cafe, which opened Saturday at 831 S. Cesar E Chavez Dr., has had a bit of a slow start, said owner Desiré Calderón, but business is expected to pick up throughout the coming weeks.

“Everyone is still learning,” said Calderón, who recently hired a crew of new staff members. The cafe will remain in its soft opening phase for a few weeks as employees learn the ropes. A grand opening is on the horizon, according to Calderón.

An industry veteran, Calderón has nearly 20 years of restaurant experience. Starting as a server, she eventually worked up to co-opening her own restaurant, Jo’s Cafe, located near the corner of Silver Spring Drive and 35th Street. She is no longer an owner, though the restaurant remains open.

Regardless of previous experience, cooking has always been inherent to Calderón, who was raised in a family of talented home cooks.

“I come from a big family and everyone would gather up in the kitchen,” she said, recounting playful arguments between family members about the correct amount of seasoning or method of preparing a dish. “Oh my god, it was just always fun,” she said.

“It was always a passion of mine to be able to share good cooking with others because that’s what my grandmother was known for back home in Puerto Rico,” Calderón added. “She had a shack off of the beach, and that’s where she created a lot of traditional dishes from our hometown of Loíza in Puerto Rico.”

While Calderón particularly remembers har grandmother’s crab empanadas, she opted for a different approach to the menu at Sunshine Cafe.

Diners can choose from a number of classic American breakfast options including eggs any style, bacon, sausage, potatoes and toast. The cafe also serves oatmeal, omelettes, pancakes and seven varieties of breakfast sandwiches, as well as specialties like Chicken & Waffle, Fried Shrimp & Waffle, Pork Chops & Eggs and Biscuits and Gravy.

For lunch, the cafe offers 20 sandwich and burger options, including a classic BLT, grilled cheese or jalapeño cheeseburger. Baskets of fried cod, chicken strips or shrimp are also available.

There is also a designated kids menu.

Sunshine Cafe also offers 100% Colombian coffee, hot chocolate, Coke products and juice.

“I wanted to do both,” Calderón said of her decision to focus on American food for the cafe. “To cater to both the American tradition and the Puerto Rican tradition, and to bring everyone together.”

Calderón said she hopes her new business will emulate the nostalgia of Silver Dollar Cafe, a longstanding restaurant that formerly occupied the same building, serving the near South Side over the course of at least four decades, starting in the 1960s.

“I know that they were a big part of the southside community for many, many years,” Calderón said of Silver Dollar Cafe. “I want to revive that same tradition on the city’s South Side, because I feel that it was kind of lost. It’s just a good way to bring the community back together,” she said.

Since the early 2000s, the building has seen numerous restaurants come and go, none lasting more than a few years in the space. Most recently, Mr. Taco Wings & Potato occupied the space from late 2019 until 2022. Before that, Heavenly Grille occupied the space from 2018 to 2019.

Sunshine Cafe is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.


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