2127 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21231 (http://www.salttavern.com/)
** and 1/2 (Good/Very Good)
For a decade now, the quiet neighborhood of Butchers Hill, located on the northeastern border of Patterson Park, has housed a small restaurant tucked away in a mostly residential area. Salt, which features brick walls, warm wooden tables, and a friendly staff, gives reason for searching out the remote location. My wife, ever the adventurer, happened to stumble across the restaurant a couple of years back. We’ve managed to dine there on several occasions over the years, but I wanted a chance to see whether Salt is continuing to deliver during its ten year anniversary.
We arrived early for our dinner, and grabbed a couple of seats at the hightop bar for a drink and some Duck Fat Fries, one of the claims to fame for the restaurant. The fries are hot and crispy, seasoned with salt and rosemary, and served alongside a trio of aiolis: chipotle, malt vinegar, and truffle. All three are nice accompaniments, but the truffle, with its decadent, earthy taste, is a must.
Once our companions arrive, we are sat at a table in the intimate dining room, full of
wooden benches, tables, and chairs. (The restaurant showed off its attention to customer service, offering to provide a parking spot when our friend struggles to find an opening in the neighborhood.) Service, following management’s lead, is polished, informative, and friendly. As we gloss over the short, one-page menu, we decide to start witha trio of appetizers: Grilled Carrots, Kale Gnudi, and Duck Kimchi Dumplings. The gnudi had nicely developed homestyle flavors; an herbaceous and upscale take on chicken and dumplings. The carrots were grilled nicely and kept some crunch, served alongside crispy lentils, and a beautifully flavored curry oil for some punch. But the real star were the dumplings, with their tender duck, crackling skin, and a savory bone broth that would have been great all on its own. A must order.
Salt keeps its menu streamlined, offering just eight entrees during our recent meal. This focus shined through with the execution of the dishes. Pan Fried Skate Wing allows the tender fish, which is lightly dusted in flour before a flash fry, to be the highlight of the dish. A touch more pepper would have been welcome, but the sides, including the baked potato agnolotti, pea shoots, and caper vinaigrette provide for a well-rounded dish. The Veal Ragu features hand cut pasta, tender veal, and a rustic sauce which plays well with the chilly weather. It’s a dish which would be right at home on the table of a Sunday family meal. The final addition to our table, the Grilled Creek Stone Farms Rib-Eye Steak, is perfectly cooked to medium-rare, with the kitchen using the natural fattiness of the cut to keep it juicy. Confit fingerlings make for an elevated take on the classic meat and potatoes combination, while bone marrow brings extra richness to a carnivore’s delight.
Desserts at Salt aren’t flashy, but are delicious all the same. Lemon Poppyseed Cheesecake makes for a light ending to the evening. The cheesecake – airy and mildly tart from the lemons – is served alongside a shortbread cookie, which adds needed sweetness and crunch. The cookie makes me wonder why more kitchens don’t use shortbread crusts. We also spring for the Goat Cheese Donuts, another balanced dessert, using the tang of goat cheese to contrast with the sweetness of the pastry.
While some established restaurants might rest on its laurels, great ones ensure that they change with the times. Now a decade into its run, Salt continues to bring solid cooking techniques along with new and interesting flavor combinations to its dishes. Bottom line: though Salt may be hidden amongst the houses of Butchers Hill, the restaurant is well worth searching out.
Atmosphere: Salt sits in a corner building within a largely residential area. The restaurant is home to a long, high-top bar, along with a small dining room, and a more laid-back atmosphere. Service is friendly, informative, and more than willing to accommodate to guests.
Noise: Moderate. Even during the height of dinner service, given the small size of the restaurant, the volume remained reasonable. Our party of four had no issues talking in a normal voice; a refreshing change.
Recommended Dishes: Duck Kimchi Dumplings, Grilled Carrots, Duck Fat Fries, Pan Fried Skate Wing, Veal Ragu
Reservations: Recommended. Though we were able to obtain a late reservation and there were some open tables, the restaurant is relatively small, with two small dining areas, and a hightop bar.
$$$ – $50 to $100 for dinner for two