Sunspot delights both veggie and carnie crowds
Why does a place known for its salads and vegetarian offerings have so many customers who come in specifically for what they insist is one of the best burgers in town? “Well,” answers Sunspot manager Jeff Breedlove, “we make our own grill seasoning. And we use local ground beef. Along with the grass-fed beef from Simpson Farms.” It’s unfailingly juicy and tasty, with a combination of flavors deriving from the mayo, mustard, house pickles, tomato, onion, arugula and cheddar cheese.
For the vegatarians, the beloved Black Bean Burger combines with quinoa, beets, portabella mushrooms, chipotle mayo, arugula, guacamole, cucumber and tomato for a unique palate symphony.
Sunspot, on the edge of the UT campus at 22nd Street and Cumberland, attracts what Breedlove calls “a very diverse clientele.” With its high ceilings, half-capacity seating, well-masked servers, and the bar-area/dining room divider fashioned of repurposed wooden doors, Sunspot has been able to make COVID-wary patrons feel comfortable, even as the roof and patio areas have closed for the colder months. “On game days, we’ve done OK,” says Breedlove.
It doesn’t hurt that Sunspot has more than 40 beers on tap and 15 more in bottles, as well as 60 Bourbons and a generous selection of wines.
The eclectic menu reflects the creative sensibility of Chef Jeff Carter, 2018 Top Chefs second place winner and Blackberry Farm alumnus. “He’s added a more Southwest sort of style,” says Breedlove, “with a little flavor here and there to surprise you.”
That starts with the much-loved tacos selection. The seared salmon taco is tantalizing with salsa verde, slaw, and cotija. The fried avocado taco comes with arugula, pico de gallo, hummus, and goat cheese. The blackened shrimp gets a kick from jalapeno aioli, radish, pickled onion, slaw, and hot sauce. The curry tofu taco gets chickpeas, red cabbage, mango slaw, and cashew-parmesan crust. The fried chicken tender dances with Mexican street corn, house hot sauce, cotija, pickled red onion, and arugula.
Each taco is a fresh and delightful experience. Smart Sunspotters mix and match, but it’s hard to pick only three. Don’t tell the other tacos, but the fried avocado is our favorite.
Among the Small Plates, veggie favorites include the hummus plate, offering the simplicity of fresh and house-pickled vegetables, and the broccoli and coconut fritters, served with chipotle mayo and topped with roasted tomatoes. The mixture of broccoli, coconut, lemon zest, egg yolks, and parsley sparks a unique taste.
On the Entrees list, the Rice Bowl is a similarly singular creation among the most requested. Brown basmati rice and house-made curried chickpeas come with red cabbage, mango, and roasted root vegetable hash.
The melt-in-your-mouth grilled salmon is served with Romanesco sauce and lemon butter atop a melt-in-your mouth grit cake with sugar snap peas. If you’re feeling down to earth, the chili mac is an honest man’s favorite with a Jeff Carter twist. Black beans, beyond burger and green chile top plant-based mac and cheese, served with roasted tomato and house salad.
The presentation of these dishes is straightforward while allowing the originality of the dishes to shine through. The staff has effectively navigated these difficult past months by understanding how to keep diners comfortable with social distancing while still being attentive and capable. On the dining horizon, Sunspot consistently shines.