The Force has always been strong for Daniel Cantu.
A few hours after his pregnant mother went to see the original “Star Wars” movie in 1977, she went into labor and delivered Cantu, the second of her four children.
“I like to say I heard the movie through the womb and had to get out to see it for myself,” joked Cantu, a lifelong fan of the epic space film.
“‘Return of the Jedi’ was the first movie I remember seeing in the theater,” he said. His father took him to Burger King beforehand to get the obligatory film toy.
“I just loved the movies as a kid,” he said. “They were dynamic stories with spaceships in a sci-fi galaxy.”
The “Star Wars” franchise is front and center this week with Friday’s release of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” the origin tale of the swashbuckling cosmic bad boy Han Solo.
Through the years, Cantu amassed a large collection of “Star Wars” memorabilia from games and books to posters and figurines.
Last November, he took his fandom a step further, opening Twin Suns Cafe — named for the two suns of the fictional planet Tatooine that Luke Skywalker calls home.
Deciding on the décor for the restaurant, 2305 S. Highland Drive, “was a no-brainer,” he said. “I wanted the restaurant to have a nostalgic, dinerlike feel with the usual bric-a-brac.”
Instead of the teacups, candles and vases, though, Twin Suns features his collection of objets d’art from an R2-D2 lunchbox to Yoda posters and figurine sets from “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”
Fighter jets and other space vehicles are suspended from the ceiling; a large round table displays trading cards of Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and several lesser-known characters.
The restaurant’s north wall features a mural of the Salt Lake City skyline — with two suns reminiscent of a scene from “Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope.”
“There’s this scene where Luke is watching the sunset and is trying to decide what he is going to do. Is he going to leave home and join the rebellion or stay?” said Cantu. “It’s kind of his hero moment.”
Cantu can relate. He’s been his own Jedi Knight, of sorts, fighting against the fast-food rebellion for “good, wholesome food” for all, not just those who have money.
A Nebraska native, he came to Utah in May 2002, just missing Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics. He worked at Wild Oats and then was the chef for five years at Salt Lake City’s One World Everybody Eats Cafe — a restaurant with no set prices.
Since 2009, he has been working in the catering business running Cantu’s Culinary Creations.
Last year, he was looking for a larger commercial kitchen space for his business when he stumbled upon the old Rocky Mountain Grill site on Highland Drive.
That’s when the idea for the Twin Suns Cafe dawned. The restaurant, which opened in November, serves breakfast and lunch every day but Tuesday.
Cantu’s menu is a blend of comfort food with Southwest flavors and space-inspired names. The monikers are subtle, because he hopes to avoid copyright issues with Disney, which now owns the franchise.
Prices are moderate, with all menu items $13 or less.
The Twin Suns breakfast includes two sunny-side-up eggs with hash browns and choice of bacon, sausage or other meats; for lunch, there’s the Obi Kebobis (chicken kabobs with peanut sauce) or a Nerf Burger, made with a blend of beef, pork and lamb.
Nerfs, as avid fans know, were a species of furry animals raised on various planets across the galaxy. And Princess Leia once called Solo “a stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herder!” Ouch!
Several dishes — like the burrito and Tower of Power breakfast — feature Cantu’s signature “Sith sauce.” Red and chunky, it’s made with fresh tomatoes and peppers.
For dessert, there’s Darth Mousse or a chocolate Millennium Falcon bar filled with peanut butter and jelly.
On a recent morning, Chan and Irina Choi were eating breakfast at Twin Suns. The Salt Lake City couple live nearby and have dined several times since the restaurant opened last November.
Chan has seen all the “Star Wars” episodes, “but I’m not necessarily a super fan,” he said.
Irina has never seen one of the films. “We come back for the food,” she said, as she finished the fruit bowl that came with Mom’s breakfast. “It’s quality for a good price.”
Words that every Jedi can appreciate.