The team at Sol is determined to ignite our passion for the flavors of Latin American/Spanish fusion, and we’re all in

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Sol owner David Bartulovic says he wanted to have the freedom to be creative, and introduce the public to something new. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)

By Mary Malik

The staff at Sol in Downtown Willoughby wants to feed you. Makes sense for a restaurant, right? But when Chef Brett Zubek is doing the cooking, he’s interested in more than just filling your stomach, he also wants to fill your soul.

“I’ve had a passion for food and have been working in restaurants since I was 14,” says Brett.

“Every job I’ve had, from kitchen staff to chef positions, has taught me something and prepared me for this job as head chef at Sol. I’m constantly studying, developing new dishes and expanding this amazing Latin/Spanish fusion menu.”

For Brett, the best thing about this style of food is that it allows him to be creative. For Sol’s customers, the best thing about Latin American/Spanish fusion is that we get to experience the fruits of Brett’s labor.

Dishes like Braised Pork Tacos with charred cabbage and peppadew relish with smoked paprika aioli, Octopus with fried sweet plantains, Chorizo Bolognese and Pan-seared Salmon made with pimenton creamed spinach and truffle & herb fingerling potatoes are just a few options.

“We didn’t want to offer food that people could easily find someplace else,” says owner David Bartulovic.

“We wanted to have the freedom to be creative and surprise the public with something new. With the incredibly diverse region of Latin America, that ranges from the northern border of Mexico to the southern tip of South America, including the Caribbean, comes a variety of flavors that compliment Spanish cuisine. We have combined several different influences in our food and it all works well together.”

Back in the 1920s, this Downtown Willoughby building served as a railroad power substation. Many locals remember the space as Gavi’s, one of the area’s most popular restaurants that closed in 2009 after 15 years in business.

In December of 2014, the renovation for Sol began, the building was completely gutted and new construction built, bringing new light into the space. The interior of Sol is unique with customized furniture and wood from Indonesia, unique lighting and a variety of texture and tiles, including a teak ceiling. Expansive bar areas and cozy booths complete the look.

“We opened in November of 2015 as an authentic Spanish restaurant,” says David.

“People didn’t respond like we had hoped, so we optimized and infused Latin American flavors into the menu. This was the turn we needed and the food has been a huge hit. It’s really the perfect menu.”

And what’s more perfect than a long, lazy, delicious weekend brunch

Sol’s extensive brunch menu goes well beyond bacon, eggs and omelets and recently captured the Cleveland Hot List, Best Brunch title for 2018. This distinction was no doubt due to dishes like the Jambo Hash: deep-fried brunch potatoes, house-made shrimp, andouille sausage and a sunny-side up egg with lime crema, the Avocado and Egg Enchiladas, and the Blue Corn Arepas Huevos Rancheros.

“Our brunch is pretty spectacular,” says David.

“It’s a fun and friendly vibe with music and unique food choices with classics squeezed in between. We’ve got your traditional dishes if that’s what you’re looking for, but we encourage you to venture and try our original popular dishes. Chicken and Waffles with bourbon maple syrup, a PB+J Stuffed French Toast or Smoked Beef Brisket Bennie to name a few. Don’t forget the drinks and bottomless mimosas. What better way to spend a weekend afternoon?”

And spending time with family and friends, enjoying a great meal around the table is exactly what David and Brett had in mind when developing not only the menu, but also the soul of Sol.

“These cultures of Spain and Latin America are really built around spending time with family and friends, leisurely preparing and eating home cooked meals,” says Brett. “That’s the feeling we’ve created here. Hearty, healthy eating that’s not too spicy, but full of flavor.”

But don’t be discouraged if heat is what you’re looking for. Brett is happy to turn it up if that’s what you like.

“The best part about Sol is the customers,” says Brett.

“I love talking with the customers every night and listening to their suggestions and ideas. That’s how I learn. One customer asked me where I got his grandmother’s recipe for a habanero hot sauce. It’s those kinds of compliments that let me know I’m on the right track.”

And Brett and the staff are also happy to honor specific dietary requests whenever possible. Sol’s menu includes vegan and gluten-free options.

“If you don’t see something that meets your needs, please ask,” says Brett. “I’m happy to work with you and tweak menu items.”

Sol also offers full catering for events both offsite and inside the restaurant. And be sure to check the website for dinner and drink specials and holiday special events.

“We love to celebrate,” says David.

“It’s been three years now and we really feel like we are a part of the Downtown Willoughby family. We love to see all of our regulars, and look forward to introducing new people to the sights, sounds and especially the tastes of Sol.”

Sol is located at 38257 Glenn Avenue in Historic Downtown Willoughby. For more information and reservations, call 440-918-1596 or check the website, Facebook Sol or Insta: sol_willoughby