Move Over Saltfish, 'Sunshine' is Here

There's nothing like consistency. Consistency in every aspect of life is a good thing, but I’m thinking a consistent menu. A place you can count on when your stomach is yelling at you. A place where the food is the exact same texture and flavor every single time you visit. That kind of place is the definition of Shandal’s Vegetarian Cafe - open since 2004, it's the type of place you can depend on, regardless if you visit 3 times a year, twice in your life, or all the time.

​Located 520 Capitol Ave, Bridgeport, CT, Shandal’s sits as one of very few proprietors on the long residential block. As you approach the entrance, you’ll hear Caribbean tunes permeating from the restaurant window; like Capleton and Lutan Fyah. This place is small, but large enough to dine in or out. There’s no maitre d.'  There's only the owner at the head of the buffet counter; a humble, real down to Earth chef from Antigua.

The process is simple, but then again it isn't. There's a small platter, which includes 4 options. Then there's a large platter, which includes 6 options. There are usually 12 options to choose from, so deciding what selection makes it into your meal may be a daunting task. I’ll run through a few of the choices. Check the critique.

Shandal’s Vegetarian Lo Mein - Lo Mein noodles, spice and sauce, finished with diced red peppers. The flavor is unique. You've never had a lo Mein that tastes like this. I've been guessing the recipe for the longest time; I think I have it, but I won't give away here. This option is a staple whenever I travel to this establishment. Grade: B

Sunshine Tofu - seasoned (maybe even marinated) tofu well done, and stewed with olives, bell pepper, and scallion. This is, as with most of the dishes here are, incomparable to flavors experienced elsewhere.  The combination of the fresh scallion, olive, and flavor packed tofu makes for one hell of a bite. Grade: A

Curry Potato w/ Vegan Chicken - Stewed curried potatoes, vegan chicken, and thyme. Simple curry with some kick. The heat in this option is subtle at first like Mombasa Pepper, then hits the back of the pallet. Hearty choice. My only suggestion would be a little coconut (or more) to the recipe. Reminiscent an Indian curry. Good eats. Grade: B-

Barbecue Tofu - Smoky barbecue smothered tofu. The tofu differs from the Sunshine tofu; it's prepared to a resemble the barky texture of ribs from the smoker. It's bold and rich. Topped off with raw white onion. Grade: B-

Rasta Pasta - Pasta shells cooked al dente, combined with 'beef' cubes. The shells are firm, tender and with decent flavor as a standalone. The 'beef cubes' give varied texture and an additional savory note. I'd love to see this choice emboldened with more flavor.  However, it serves as a good bite, transitioning from one pick to the next. Grade: C+

Sweet Plantain Cinnamon - Ripe slices of plantains, pan fried with hints of cinnamon. This selection is the perfect break from the earthy taste of the other platter components. It's refreshing, sweet enough for the children to enjoy, but still a part of lunch or dinner. Grade: A

See Shandal's Vegetarian Cafe RDR Report Card below:

Place Location C+ Being so unique, this spot should be downtown, but I also like the fact it's in the hood
Parking C+  Sometimes it's difficult to find parking on a predominantly residential block
Restaurant Atmosphere B+ Languid environment. Everyone's on island time here. The music will chill you out if you're manic, and give you pep if you're lethargic
Cleanliness B The serving and cooking areas are up to par, No worries there. 
People Service (Hostess, wait time, etc) B It's rarely a wait time. If so, never more than a few minutes before it's your time to choose
Waiter/Waitress A Shandal is always apparently at peace and of positive disposition. Great gentlemen
Fellow Customers B The patrons are often a diverse group; from young to old, locals to visitors Everyone is typically excited as they approach to order 
Food Presentation C- Presentation isn't the name of the game here. Don't hold it against the place. It's about the taste and the amount!
Originality B Curry, plantains, rice & beans, you've heard of and tasted, but the lo mein, 'Sunshine' and smoky barbecue are definitely original flavors
Taste B+ Most items have great flavor and a very satisfying. You have 12 options, so pick all your favorites!
Nutrition/Ingredients B Good ingredient options;  vegetables from carrots, to mixed vegetables, plenty of proteins, although mostly soy based. Slight overabundance of starches.
Price Appetizer/Starters/Small Plates Price Range NA No warm ups here. Skip to the main entrée
Entrees Price Range A $8.00 or $10.00. Simple. Affordable
Drink Prices NA There were fresh vegetable and fruit juices made to order. That part of the restaurant seems to have gone away unfortunately 

Get a taste of the Antiguan islands, Shandal's style

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