Sunspot is always warm and welcoming

Doug Johnson and Carey Hodges enjoy appetizers and drinks at the Sunspot on Cumberland Avenue.

Photo by Greg Wood

Doug Johnson and Carey Hodges enjoy appetizers and drinks at the Sunspot on Cumberland Avenue.

Sunspot Restaurant

Sunspot’s proven to me over the years that it’s quite a diverse venue. And even though I’ve written about it several times I’ve found reason to swing by yet another time for a nightlife column.

It’s evident as soon as you walk in that Sunspot’s a different kind of stop on the Strip. It’s rarely overrun with college students (though they are there, and they are welcome). It’s calmer. It’s more low key. And it’s cozier, especially with its couches pressed up against the front windows — you can watch the mayhem of the Strip while still feeling like you’re at home.

While surveying multiple spots in the area, I found myself subconsciously drifting toward Sunspot. That walk past the cluttered line of Hanna’s and Jimmy Johns up to the darker, less active middle-section of the block and into Sunspot’s coffee-shop-esque atmosphere is something I’ve done dozens of times. It just happens on autopilot now.

And I’m happy it does.

Sunspot fills me with nostalgia because it’s one of the only places I’ve gone regularly in town. Living near campus, it was always an easy walk. Even while living farther away, a drive to the Strip is always worth it when Sunspot’s the final destination.

As far as a multi-purpose bar goes, it doesn’t get any better.

But what thrills me most is Sunspot hasn’t changed since the first time I went — its muddled Southwestern theme sneaks through with their walls painted earthy green, reddish-brown and blue, with kitschy stars hanging from the ceiling. If you’re there for drinks, this vibe comes off less as Southwestern and more as a unique color scheme that rests somewhere in your subconscious, kicked around by alcohol.

And even though it hasn’t changed in style or attitude, the place hasn’t stayed the same, either. They’ve experimented with live music, continuing an “Acoustic Friday” show. (For a while they had full bands on Saturday nights, which worked, but wasn’t ideal. I’d prefer to go somewhere else for a show.)

They’ve even added trivia on Saturday nights, which (in my experience) doesn’t have the largest turnout but is still a blast.

Sunspot gets it right in every capacity. And that’s why my girlfriend and I had no problem swinging by on a recent Saturday.

Unlike several spots on the Strip, Sunspot wasn’t exactly full to capacity. About 20 people, most of whom in their 20s, sat at various tables throughout the bar (the restaurant section was clearly winding down by this point), sipping drinks and talking. For years, Sunspot has had the best playlist in town, ranging from the White Album to Modest Mouse, and this evening was no exception. We took a spot at the bar and I ordered a Fat Tire and she got a glass of red wine.

Before we knew it, we had spotted several friends who had swung by our table to say hi before trekking on elsewhere — a common occurrence of such a popular bar.

Our evening didn’t escalate much past that, but it didn’t need to. We headed out, grabbed a drink, socialized with a few people, absorbed the atmosphere and ducked out before running too high a tab.

My tastes in the local bar scene have changed over the years, but Sunspot’s always remained in my top three favorites because of its versatility and attitude. I hope it never loses its touch, and that it keeps trying new things.

Photo by Greg Wood/Special to Knoxville.com

Doug Johnson and Carey Hodges enjoy appetizers and drinks at the Sunspot on Cumberland Avenue.

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