Our man in the field Dennis Perkins takes a mini-tour of the soon-to-open, brand-new Sunspot location just down the street on the Cumberland Strip:
If you listen to restaurant gossip (and, really, you should consider doing that - it's a much happier pastime than keeping your nose in City Council's business) you'll already know that Sunspot is listed on the lease for the space formerly known as Old College Inn. And since we actually spotted and chatted with Sunspot's owner Randy Burleson alongside its chef Brandon Cruz and manager Mark Hawkins in the space, we're pretty certain the rumors are true.
The first stage of the restaurant's opening move won't include the actual OCI space - that will come later and is likely to be more of a reformed notion of OCI rather than another dining room for Sunspot. The Sunspot space is the eastern half of the building.
It's a big change for the veggie-happy and frequent Best of Knoxville winner as they move from their veritable closet of a kitchen to a comparatively baronial and state of the art facility. Truth is, the kitchen is so big that the new beer cooler and the dish room are nearly in their own county. The kitchen is an exposed one and is beautifully framed by stainless steel and glass: soon we'll get to witness Chef Cruz making the magic that keeps the peace between tie-dyes and neckties. There's a chance you might even spot him making his own ice cream.
But it's not all ultra modern gloss, though ladies and gentlemen will appreciate the upgrade in, er, the facilities, the walls are exceptionally well decked with reclaimed and time-weathered lumber from the country around Tellico Plains. It's a nod to the restaurant's local roots, and an outward and visible sign of the restaurants renewed commitment to showcasing local established and rising food producers.
You can look for more options from the menu--in fact, if you regularly feast on the daily specials at the current location, you'll have had a sneak peak at some of the new menu items.
Sunspot's place in the beer-lover's pantheon will only improve with the opening of the elevator-accessible upstairs bar and patio. There's a whole bank of big screen TVs and, most importantly, the new space will open with 50 craft beers on tap with more to come. The beer program's even more ambitious than ever--Sunspot invested in a beer engine and in some used barrels from the Knob Creek and Blanton's distilleries. Those bad boys were then shipped off to breweries (including Yazoo, Highland and Saw Works) to create some really special and limited edition froth.
Speaking of the patio, the space has two: one up, one down. Fun times await on the upstairs patio because it has its own entrance and so can be rented for really special, private occasions.
The restaurant is working with an eye to eventual Green certification, but until then they're taking the right steps with power-saving light options and a good recycling program.
So now, we'll just have to wait for the move to happen--but it's on our heels. Furniture is due to arrive on or about Feb. 8, and, once that's all settled and all the lights turn green, the spot will be ready for the rest of us to move in.
New, woodsy facilities!