Sunset Kitchen brings a new kind of dining experience to University Circle

For many Case Western Reserve University students, Euclid Avenue is the prime destination for quick and easy meals. Home to our very own Panera Bread and Chipotle, and local favorites such as Chopstick and Indian Flame, Euclid Avenue serves its purpose of providing students numerous options when they want to go out for a meal. So, when a restaurant closes or a new one opens up, rumors begin to stir. No exception is the latest addition to the food strip: Sunset Kitchen.

Taking the place of Ninja City, Sunset Kitchen carries the same name as the restaurant that burned down before its opening. Owner Charles Hansford took this setback as an opportunity to rebuild, and Sunset Kitchen was reborn just two years later on April 24, 2024. Described as a “vibe dining experience,” Sunset Kitchen introduces globally inspired dishes and unique cocktails to the University Circle area. Unlike the other restaurants nearby, Sunset Kitchen offers what appears to be a more fine dining experience, with the added element of a bar/club-like scene. We set out to try their Sunday brunch menu, featuring classic items such as avocado toast as well as more decadent dishes such as shrimp and grits. Here is what we thought:

Avocado Toast 

Avocado toast is a brunch favorite, and Sunset Kitchen’s version did not disappoint. Creamy guacamole is spread over wheat toast and garnished with crunchy bacon bits and diced tomatoes to make for a filling meal. There was also a bunch of grapes on the side, which added a refreshing note to an otherwise rich dish. While the avocado did not seem the most fresh, the delicious bread more than made up for it.

Shrimp and Grits 

A southern classic, we were surprised to see shrimp and grits on the limited brunch menu. At first glance, the dish looked promising—a nice portion of grits garnished with a circle of shrimp and a side of toast. However, while the shrimp were well-seasoned and juicy, the grits were nothing to write home about. We found the consistency of the grits to be soup-like, and the flavor was not evenly dispersed throughout the dish.

Chicken and French Toast

Chicken and waffles—or in this case French toast—is great in name but deceivingly difficult to execute. Sunset Kitchen’s french toast was thick and sweet, and the cinnamony apple pie filling on top provided an elevated flavor profile. However, upon first bite we noticed that the toast itself had an off-putting aftertaste that we could only describe as being a bit bitter. Even with the apple topping and copious amounts of syrup, it was impossible to overcome this uncomfortable experience. In addition, the challah bread was itself a bit stale. And while the French toast overall was passable, the chicken wings on the side were quite underwhelming. They were well-seasoned with a peppery Cajun blend, but the meat itself was dry and difficult to chew. The combination of over-the-top apple French toast and chicken wings is still something we cannot fully wrap our heads around.

Build Your Own Omelet

To cap off our meal, we enjoyed a cheese and bacon omelet. While there was a sufficient cheese pull, the omelet itself was a little overcooked and flavor-wise was nothing more than your typical home-cooked breakfast. Furthermore, perhaps because of our selection of rich toppings, the omelet felt a bit heavy in our stomachs. Still, the most disappointing part of this meal was the lack of a potato side, something I think many brunch-goers would expect from an egg-centered meal.

Even more so than the food, the aforementioned vibes of the establishment confused us. Even after having an entire meal there, we struggled to determine if Sunset Kitchen is supposed to be a restaurant, bar or nightclub. As mentioned earlier, the restaurant itself looks like a club, with random mirrors, slick white walls and modern-looking furniture and accessories. At the front of the restaurant there was also a full bar. Yet in spite of all of those things, the ample amount of tables and chairs would lead you to believe it was a very sit-down restaurant experience. With the decor of a club or bar and yet accommodation for a fine-dining experience … what exactly is this restaurant? What niche is it fulfilling on the Euclid strip?

Even considering it a full sit-down experience, the restaurant’s finishings felt a bit tacky. This was from the cheap tablecloth to the uncomfortable bench seating—everything had a sterile plastic aesthetic. When we think of cute places to grab brunch, Sunset Kitchen’s atmosphere is definitely not what comes to mind—especially with many other cute bakeries such as Luna’s around campus.

All this being said, while Sunset Kitchen may not have soared to the top of our restaurant list, their food is decent. Especially if you are looking for a different ambiance in the University Circle area, Sunset Kitchen offers a sit-down dinner experience that won’t break the bank. Plus, Sunset Kitchen is still only in its opening stages, and we hope the experience will continue to improve with an expanded menu and customer base.

Additional reporting contributed by Director of Business Operations Khushali Desai.

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