It’s been my favorite salad for at least 50 years. Through thick and thin; through Nouvelle, Fusion, California and New American Cuisines; through fast food, slow food, farm-to-table, ethnic and international cooking movements, I have loved the Sunshine Inn salad above all others. My sort of comfort food. My family thinks so as well.

The Sunshine Inn first shined bright light on the St. Louis public when it opened as a vegetarian restaurant in 1974. This was the city’s one and only “health-food” restaurant and it thrived, which was a bit surprising as St. Louisans loved their hamburgers, steaks and barbecue pork above all else.

My family relished the restaurant and we went often.  My daughter always ordered a rice bowl with assorted veggies and melted cheese. My husband shopped the menu, ordering a Golden Lion (vegetarian burger) one week—a stir fry the next. I fell in love with The Garden of Eden salad at first bite and never strayed.

When the restaurant closed in April 1998, I started making the salad at home and have made it happily ever after. 

The Sunshine Inn served the salad piled in layers on a large plate. It offered several salad dressings, with the Creamy Sesame and House the most popular. 

When making the salad at home, I first put a generous amount of lettuce in a large salad bowl then sprinkle other vegetables on top, ending with the alfalfa sprouts, sunflower seeds and cheese.

Sunshine Inn salad in large white bowl.

The dressing, sprouts, sunflower seeds and, of course, lettuce are a must to capture the essence of the Sunshine Inn salad, so be sure to include them, otherwise do your own thing, leaving out any ingredient that you don’t fancy and gauging proportions to suit your own taste.

I like the salad lightly dressed, others prefer it drenched, so I toss it with a minimal amount of dressing and serve extra on the side.



A mixture of leaf and iceberg lettuce cut into bite-size pieces

Slivered red cabbageSunshine Inn salad ingredients

Peeled and seeded cucumber, cut into bite-size pieces

Grated carrot

Sliced radishes 

Trimmed and chopped tomato

Slivered red onion

Alfalfa sprouts 

Sunflower seeds

Shredded cheese (The restaurant used mozzarella or white Cheddar; my family likes St. Louis provel.)

Put lettuce in a large salad bowl. Top with remaining ingredients in the order stated. 

Drizzle a light amount of dressing over salad just before serving and toss gently. Serve additional dressing on the side.

Refrigerate leftover dressing in a covered container and use within a day or two from making.



Yield:  2-1/3 cups.Sunshine Inn Creamy Sesame Dressing

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup tahini

1/4 cup tamari

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Put juice, tahini and tamari in the jar of a blender. Turn blender to high and slowly add oil, emulsifying mixture. Use immediately or refrigerate in a covered container and use within one or two days.



Yield:  2-1/3 cups.Sunshine Inn House Dressing

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons tomato juice

1/2 tablespoon honey 

1/2 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 small tomato, trimmed and chopped

3/4 cup parmesan cheese

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Put lemon juice, vinegar, tomato juice, honey, onion, tomato and cheese in the jar of a blender and process on high until ingredients are well blended. While blender is on high, add oil in a slow steady stream, emulsifying dressing. Use immediately or refrigerate in a covered container and use within one or two days.

Garden of Eden Salad