Friday, June 6, 2014

Sunset Grill Offers Two Menus — Inventive Specials and Longtime Favorites — for Newcomers and Loyal Fans

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 6:27 AM

I moved to Nashville for the first time in the spring of 1999. I’d never visited Nashville much before and didn’t know a whole lot, so I had to rely on my new co-workers for recommendations on where to live, eat and entertain myself. I got a lot of very bad advice, but at least one good tip for where to take my mother for brunch during her visit over Mother’s Day weekend: Sunset Grill in Hillsboro Village.

Years have passed since then, but I remember it very clearly. We sat in the pleasant atrium dining room, enjoyed the dessert trio (we loved not having to choose just two of the desserts), and my mom had her first celebrity sighting. As we were finishing up, she said, “Lesley, look! It’s Dan Miller!” Mom grew up in Paris, Tenn., where WSMV-TV was the NBC affiliate — and the news station of choice for my grandparents. So anchor Dan Miller was a familiar face, and Mom was mightily impressed that I had chosen a restaurant that was Dan Miller-approved.

I told that story not long ago to Randy Rayburn, proprietor of Sunset Grill during a dinner with a number of other Nashville Foodbloggers. Apparently, the late Mr. Miller was a frequent and beloved customer.

Things have changed recently at Sunset Grill, though. Lunch and brunch are no longer served on a regular basis (as of December), but the restaurant — open since 1990 — still serves dinner every night starting at 4:30 p.m. and continues to offer one of the best deals in town for night owls, the late-night special on Friday and Saturday, when the regular menu is half price from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Another big change at the restaurant, which has had a big effect on the menu is that the executive chef, Chris Cunningham is now also a managing partner. Actually “menus” is more correct, since the restaurant now offers two menus each evening: the “Classics” menu that includes the bestselling items that loyal customers have enjoyed for nearly 25 years and a nightly “Special Menu,” which features an extensive selection of soups, salads, and entrées made with seasonal, often local ingredients. The result is a bit like dining at two different restaurants at the same time.

During my visit, I struggled to decide between the Vegetarian VooDoo Pasta from the Classics menu and the vegan savory roasted chia seed and turnip green cake with blistered tomatoes and arugula from the specials menu. I opted for the vegan special as well as a green tomato salad, both of which had just the right amount of flavors and creativity to make them interesting and delicious. Both were reminiscent of the vegan dishes I’ve had at Etch and Zola, which makes sense when you realize Chef Cunningham worked for Deb Paquette for many years prior to coming to Sunset Grill.

Additionally, I sampled the cheese plate (a vegan cheese plate featuring products from Door 86 is also available) and the biscuits and corn muffins with sorghum apple butter, as well as a couple of the specialty cocktails, and enjoyed everything. The dessert menu — prepared by pastry chef Ryan Duke — was also large and impressive. A number of items were not to my taste (chocolate chip cookies with bacon, chocolate peanut butter cake, and a dessert with marshmallows), but I thoroughly enjoyed the cheesecake and a fresh strawberry sorbet.

Many gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan options are available on the extensive menu, which makes Sunset Grill perfect for groups and special events. And the cocktails and desserts (still available as a small or large trio and the “mirror” of ten desserts) are fantastic.

Sunset Grill
2001 Belcourt Ave.
4:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday
4:30 to midnight Friday and Saturday

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