Photo by Chris Casella

Sugar and Spice

Visiting a friend lately, I mentioned that I was stopping by Sweet Carrot, a newcomer to the Grandview restaurant crawl. Before she had a chance to answer, her son piped up, “They have great macaroni and cheese!” with a big grin. I knew one thing I had to order.

Located in the gone-but-not-forgotten Riffe Market space at Grandview and Fifth avenues, it’s heartwarming to see a local take over the corner spot. The concrete version of the Sweet Carrot food truck, itself the public offering of the catering company Two Caterers, is a delightful slice of whimsy.

A word scramble of Two Caterers, Sweet Carrot introduces itself before you even step foot in the triangular building. The smoky smell of slow-fired meats hovers in the air and only intensifies walking into the bright restaurant. The interior is industrial chic by way of Alice in Wonderland, with its zip of lime green and orange accents.  After ordering at the register, take a seat and take in the sights—rabbity local art from the likes of Wallace Peck and Adam Brouillette, even a rabbit sign directs you to the bathroom. Tables are both large and small, including one topped with a clear sheet under which customers have shoved little bunny doodles, one with the couplet: “Did you order carrots? No, this bunny eats brisket.”

That toss-off doodle speaks to the cognitive dissonance for some who visit; the name implies vegetables, but the menu is all about smoked meat. Sweet Carrot does pull some stellar veggie food from its hat, however. The aforementioned mac & cheese is great. Tangy with flecks of black pepper, served by the scoop, with just enough smooth cheese sauce to hold the macaroni in place, but not so much that it becomes a gluey mess. The comfort favorite can be ordered as a side ($2.95) or topped with any of the proteins ($5.95-8.45). Still on the veg tip, the sparsely breaded, quartered, and fried artichoke hearts can be ordered atop a corncake, in a baby kale salad, piled on the mac & cheese, as a sandwich, or on their own. And that’s the deal here at Sweet Carrot—you find a dish to focus on, and then order it the way you like.

The corncake option stands out, for both its taste and uniqueness. Imagine cornbread, all its sweetness and cornmeal texture, stretched into a large gluten-free pancake popping with whole kernels. It’s filled taco-like with brisket ($7.95), the best-seller, Ohio chicken meatballs ($6.95), pulled pork ($6.95), or smoked turkey ($7.95). Whichever you choose, the dish comes with colorful coleslaw and corn salsa, the crunchiness of both a satisfying foil to the tenderness of the meats.

Everything is made in-house with hyper-fresh ingredients, from the bread & butter pickles to the carrot cake. The SC team is happy to explain the menu, doing so with an air of pride. While definitely part of the fast-casual cult, Sweet Carrot is an inviting place to linger—over the food, over a beer or glass or wine, and over conversation. My favorite table is tucked in a niché across from the bar—perfect for a tête-à-tête, but not so closed off that the energy of the room is lost. On a literal side note, I think I may have also found my latest guilty pleasure—the cheesy potatoes.

Since I’ve moved to the Midwest, every holiday meal I’ve attended has featured a huge pan of cheesy potatoes. Thinly sliced or cubed taters, drenched with a cheese sauce and baked. Now, with Sweet Carrot down the street, every day is a holiday. From a small pick-me-up ($2.45) to the large I-want-to-drown-in-these size, ($4.95), the cheesy potatoes are smooth and yummy and oh-so-comforting; a starchy lullaby after a long day.

Sweet Carrot is located at 1470 W Fifth Ave.