Sunspot: A fresh look at an established favorite

On the edge of the UT campus, Sunspot Chef Jeff Carter offers an eclectic menu for all tastes.

Keith Norris

At the corner of Cumberland and 22nd Street, Sunspot is easy to access in the new traffic pattern, and parking is available both behind the restaurant and on Lake Avenue.

The new location retains its contemporary atmosphere and cool vibe, with a stained concrete floor, reclaimed hardwood walls, and a dining room divider fashioned of re-purposed wooden doors.  These elements, combined with deeply padded booths, provide an airy, but not noisy, dining experience.

2018 Top Chefs Second Place winner and Blackberry Farm alumnus Jeff Carter has brought an array of new and inventive dishes while taking care to keep those that are beloved by Sunspot faithful. The menu indicates which dishes are vegetarian, plant-based, or safe for the gluten-sensitive.

Small plates have a seasonal flair with a lovely summertime burrata, a cumin-and-coriander-dusted ahi tuna, or citrus-marinated shrimp. If you want to go the vegetarian route, the hummus plate with pickled vegetables or cauliflower and sweet potato fritter with caper remoulade are updated versions of these classics.

Photo by Keith Norris

Sunspot is known for its salads, and Carter does not disappoint with his fresh kale and quinoa or chickpea salads. The Sunspot Salad is still here, along with a roasted serrano Caesar salad. A variety of proteins can be added to any salad for a small charge.

The entrée menu gives Carter a chance to showcase his creative approach. You could order the grilled salmon, but our recommendation is to try the jerk-roasted chicken with braised greens, or the unassumingly named Rice Bowl (Brown Basmati rice, house-made curried chickpeas, kale, red cabbage, mango, and root vegetables).

If you are dining with friends who like to share, the braised brisket with Shelton Farm grits and a spicy tomato relish and the cornmeal fried North Carolina catfish are not to be missed. Order one of these “for the table” so everyone can try them.

No Sunspot review is complete without mentioning the much-loved Tacos selection. In addition to the carnitas, salmon, chicken, and shrimp, the menu features a fried avocado taco, which made our meal. Complemented with hummus and goat cheese, it is delightfully fresh and different.

And fear not, Sunspot regulars. The beloved Black Bean Burger is still on the menu, along with a Cuban 2.0 (with Benton’s ham), the Bob (jerk chicken) and the BGLT (fried green tomato, bacon, arugula, goat cheese, and roasted garlic).

Sunspot offers 55 beer and 46 Bourbon selections. On any weeknight, you will see a group of after-work friends at the spacious bar, the outdoor patio, or on the rooftop garden, enjoying Sunspot’s broad inventory.

In keeping with present-day sensibilities, presentation is unfussy and lets the natural beauty of the food shine through. Portions are just right and appealingly plated.

The staff is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and relaxed, while still attentive and capable. This is clearly a place that intentionally addresses culture and attitude. The result is a warm and friendly experience.

One of the best things about Sunspot is the range of prices, from $7 appetizers, to $12 salads to the most expensive entree at $18.00. No matter your budget, you can enjoy a flavorful and healthy meal at Sunspot.

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