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Jacksonville's Sun-Ray Cinema Nationally Recognized For Vegan Eats

Lindsey Kilbride

The animal-rights group PETA ranks Sun-Ray Cinema the No. 1 theater in the country for patrons who don’t eat animal products.


The sound of popcorn popping on Friday afternoon at the theater in Five Points make might Sun-Ray Cinema sound like a typical movie theater, but it’s not. Here, patrons have the option to forego butter and get their kernels dressed with a house-made dairy-free seasoning instead.  

Shana David-Massett is co-owner of the Riverside theater, and she's proud Sun-Ray does things a little differently. It’s a place where someone can buy a ticket for an offbeat documentary and settle in with an Intuition-beer-marinated barbecue tofu banh mi sandwich.

From cheese fries to pizza, most anything can be served vegan here if it doesn’t already come that way.

Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News
From pizza to sandwiches, Sun-Ray Cinema offers vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

Massett says when the menu was being developed four years ago, she wanted the food to accommodate everybody, something she says some restaurants are afraid to do.

“I think they worry that it will water-down their menu, and I think it just adds richness to their menus, and we should embrace it,” she says.

She says it just makes sense.

“People don’t think about that people who eat meat and people who don’t eat meat hang out together and they all want to go to the same places, and they want options that are good for everybody," she says.


Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News
Jacksonville's Sun-Ray Cinema sells only vegan baked goods. In a case by the theater's register, 'Twankies' and brownies are on display.

Back in the theater’s kitchen, Massett assembled a vegan chili-cheese dog. It's topped with a homemade vegan "queso."

She says the vegan dogs are popular, but the most-ordered vegan item is the Bold New Pizza of the South. It comes with a hummus base, "rinotta" cheese instead of ricotta, garlic and veggies.

And Massett says carnivores love this one too.

“People order that and an Uncle Meat Pizza all the time,” she said. “We would say to people, ‘OK, you guys know this is a vegan, white pizza? Are you sure you know what you’re ordering?’ And people love it.”

Aside from accommodating vegans and vegetarians, Sun-Ray also provides many gluten-free options. And Massett says she’ll soon be expanding the menu with more meat options.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.