My Charlotte: Brian Sun
Brian Sun, owner of Chinese restaurant, Sun's Kitchen, shares his story and what he loves about the Queen City.
How long have you lived in Charlotte?
We moved back to Charlotte during the summer of 2020. This is my second time moving to Charlotte, though. I first moved here in 2011, but a job assignment in China called me away. Since then, we have visited Charlotte frequently as we have many great friends here. It's always felt like home, and being away from it, I really missed the place.
Earlier this year, when my wife and I were thinking about the places we've been and where we would prefer to live, Charlotte was at the top of the list. It seemed an opportune time to make this wish come true.
What makes Charlotte feel like home to you?
Over the years, we've made many, many good friends here in Charlotte. We've always looked forward to visiting and sharing their great company. People in Charlotte are always happy to see you. They're friendly and thoughtful. Neighbors are still neighborly, and that kind of friendliness is disappearing in many other places, but not in Charlotte.
Charlotte has a real sense of community about it. Over the last ten years or so, we've created many good memories here. As visitors, it was amazing to see Charlotte changing. We're proud of how it has grown, pushing back against adversity to become a thriving and inclusive community.
How would you describe Charlotte in one sentence?
Charlotte has a rich ambiance, fantastic weather, a vibrant culture, loads of positive energy, genuinely friendly people, and unlimited potential.
How has Sun’s Kitchen had to adjust during the pandemic?
Opening a restaurant during the pandemic isn't easy. The fine-dining industry is struggling, so we needed to adapt to the new environment by focusing on contact-less takeout and delivery. Implementing online ordering and a self-ordering kiosk seemed the way to go. We're extremely strict about the way we prepare the food. We practice strict COVID-19 health and safety processes to ensure our customers' wellbeing and high quality of food are top priorities.
Where do you get your inspiration for the food at Sun’s Kitchen?
Our menu borrows from my dad's family recipes. It's filled with secret flavors and inspired by China's street-side restaurants hidden down the back streets away from tourist centers. It's where the locals like to eat. When I was young, I lived in China, and I would often enjoy their genuine flavors. About a decade ago, I went back to China for work, and I had to seek these delicious meals. So, when I say each bite is an adventure, you know it's true.
What is your favorite item from the Sun’s Kitchen menu and why?
Many items on our menu are my childhood favorites and comfort foods. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be from the foods my dad would cook at home, such as Ja Jang Noodle and Beef Stew Rice Bowl. Ja Jang noodles is one of Beijing's most famous native food. The dish is steeped in history and culture.
If someone is visiting Charlotte for the first time, what should he or she do and see?
Charlotte’s got a lot! I’m still exploring too. I grew up in an artistic family and I also worked as a designer. My recommendations are more related to art and culture. The Mint Museum (both Uptown and Randolph locations), Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and Levine Museum of the New South are great places to discover. I also love the beautiful neighborhoods on the south side of the city.
What are some of your must-see attractions in Charlotte that you would recommend to friends and family?
Besides the art and history museums, I would recommend the U.S. National Whitewater Center, NASCAR Hall of Fame and Carowinds. You can take the light rail and explore Uptown and visit the restaurants and bars in South End, Plaza Midwood.
Where are your favorite places to eat in Charlotte (outside of Sun’s Kitchen)?
There are so many. The first one that comes to mind is Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar. My wife, Mandy, and I always go to the Dilworth location. It has incredible food with friendly staff who always make it a satisfying experience. Inizio Pizza, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Amélie's French Bakery & Café and Passage to India are also among our favorites.