Patrons in the Lebanon area can pride themselves in having a restaurant so ingrained into the fiber of the region. Right off the interstate on South Cumberland Street’s main drag, this restaurant is one of the city’s oldest. The way people reminisce about their time spent there would promote the idea that the experience, nor the food, has changed drastically over the years.
You can pop in and out of the Wilson County area, noticing the growth recent successes have afforded the county. However, things at Sunset Restaurant are just the way everyone remembers them. And that’s just the way everyone likes it.
The décor and staff make locals and out-of-town guests feel right at home. This isn’t some chain faux-regional nonsense. The tables are always filled with loyal patrons that support the little man. Fittingly, Lebanon is still a place where taking care of business in a personal manner still matters, even while the outside world may champion big-box commerce.
Look out for the lunch rush, the line of people packed in the waiting area might stall your one-hour lunch break, but surprisingly, things move pretty quickly. Sunset has a large dining room. Whenever a party got up, the next people in line would sit down. The staff would bus the table, and things would move along nicely.
What was interesting was the teamwork exhibited between people still on queue. Everyone was polite. When a big party needed a large table, someone in front of them would offer the big table up without thinking. Kudos to the customers who look out for one another.
I had one reason and one reason alone for doing the hungry crawl to Sunset that day…the liver n’ onions. Now I realize this isn’t a popular tummy tempter. There are few dishes in this world as polarizing as liver and onions. It’s love or hate, with little wiggle room. I belong to the former category. It’s a dish with which I grew up. As a child, my mom would fry up beef liver and sauté onions, and I could smell it from a mile away.
Sunset does this dish beautifully. The liver is gamy, with a slightly irony tang, and the sweet balance of rich caramelized onions and brown gravy I find immensely satisfying. When this delicacy is done right it can be delicate and tender. It’s also incredibly nourishing, rich in iron, protein, folate and vitamins A and B12. For these reasons, along with the increasing focus on “nose-to-tail” eating, there’s no better time to give this lesser cut of meat its due. I realize I’m in the minority with my enthusiasm for the dish, and while I may not win over die-hard liver loathers, hopefully I can tempt a few “on-the-fencers” to give this underappreciated meat a try.
Sunset offers many Southern downhome plates, but the only place in town I could find that actually has this childhood favorite of mine. It definitely won a place in my heart. Come join them for lunch or dinner, and you’ll feel instantly like you’ve been a Wilson County local all along.
Kristin Duncan is marketing and promotions manager for Lebanon Publishing Co. and writer of Eat Like a Girl columns that appear each Wednesday in The Democrat.