Salty Sow has been generating a lot of chatter for a while now. I've wanted to try it since I first heard about the awesome new place with the pork theme that features local and sustainable ingredients... all things I can get behind. But you know, life and all. There are just so many worthy distractions, and sometimes I don't get around to trying the hottest-newest-coolest-place until it is just hot and sorta newish but still very cool. So one night when my friend La Bandita and I were getting gussied up for another event, we decided happy hour at Salty Sow was the perfect start to our evening.
Reservations were made (recommended if you want a spot) and drinks were ordered as we perused the happy hour menu. La Bandita went with the Blanche, one of their signature margaritas made with blood-orange juice. I chose the Rosemary's Piglet with pomegranate juice, rosemary syrup, and bubbles. Both were fantastic and pretty enough to be acceptable accessories to our fancy-lady clothes (note: fancy clothes not required).
We sampled a good portion of their happy hour food menu, with the exception of the tacos since we were going for sharable items. I'd heard great things about the Truffle Duck Fat Parmesan Fries, and they were pretty tasty but perhaps I had built them up in my mind. My brain wasn't blown open, and I preferred them without the cold bérnaise. The Crispy Brussels Sprouts Leaves with golden raisins and pecorino on the other hand rocked... dare I say these were better than the famous Brussels sprouts at East Side King? I'm going out on a limb and saying yes, yes they were. The Honey Rosemary Dipped Fried Chicken with Cat Head sweet potato biscuit was another favorite. Juicy and flavorful without being greasy, the honey just put these over the top. The sweet potato biscuit was really good, but just too much. We couldn't finish it, not due to lack of hunger just due to it being too much bread.
The hands-down favorite of the night for both of us though were the Warm Goat Cheese Fritters with tomato jam, served with crostini. Dear God. Get some of those in your mouth.
After our first round we decided to order a few more items off the happy hour menu... which by the way is an insane bargain at $4 per item. However, this is where our experience went a little awry. Our server was no where to be found, and we noticed finally that he seemed to have tables way, way, on the other side of the building. Having worked in restaurants, I know that A) this is the stupidest mistake that is far too often made, B) it sometimes happens when restaurants are unexpectedly short-staffed, and C) it is a good way to run a server's ass off and make it harder for them to provide good service which translates to lower tips. I tend to give servers the benefit of the doubt until they prove they are a dumbass or rude, neither or which was the case here. I think they were just over-whelmed for what ever reason, because when he did finally come back around and we ordered the Truffled Deviled Eggs and the Spinach-Artichoke-Asiago Fondue, we also realized the kitchen seemed to be struggling. It was 35 minutes after placing our order that our food finally came out (that's a long time for deviled eggs and spinach-artichoke dip), and that was after we flagged down our server and asked what was up. The tables near us were having similar problems (with different servers). No one ever came by to let us know things were running behind or apologize for it (rule #1, prevent customer complaints by acknowledging the issue before it becomes a bigger issue... if anything because you never know when someone is going to blog about it).
When we finally did get round two, the eggs were another immediate hit. La Bandita even declared them to be the best deviled eggs she has ever had. The spinach-artichoke fondue looked as if it had been sitting under the heat lamp for all that time, and I was surprised they served us something that looked that way. The flavor was fine after we stirred it up to disguise the not-so-pretty top layer that encased it, but it was a bit dry (from too much heat lamp?) and was not as good as similar recipes I've had elsewhere.
So, those bad parts were problematic enough that I'd feel remiss not mentioning them here, but I am willing to give them a break and assume it was a bad night. That happens, and I have not heard other reports of service or kitchen issues. But for the most part the food was really great, the price was good enough it was slightly confusing (their entrees all run under $20 too), and the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable. It was not a bad enough experience to deter me from going back or recommending it to people, which I most definitely will be doing.
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