I confess. It wasn’t my first time at Salut Bar Americain on Grand Avenue in St. Paul since it opened in June. I’ve broken baguette with Rose McGee of Deep Root Desserts; stopped for a quick lunch on the terrace with my partner, Chad, after a bicycle ride; and shared wine and supper with my PR person, Maria Manske.
As you walk into the restaurant from its fabulous terrace, you’re greeted by a quote on the wall above the bar: “With the right sauce, you can eat your father.” You know you’re in the right place.
Manager Krista Van Moorlehem and I sat at a comfortable booth, gabbing while Executive Sous Chef CJ Van Proosdy prepared several dishes for me to sample. Nice work if you can get it.
Van Moorlehem pointed out that the wine list is structured by the body of the wine. This fine wine selection includes a Riesling—Leonard Krensch, Mosal Saar from France ($24)—and a Gewutztraminer—Hering Alsace from France ($44). For red wine, incredible choices are a Sangiovese—Ruffino IL Ducale IGT Chianti from Italy ($42)—and a Nebbiolo—Ascheri Barolo Sorano 2000 from Italy ($130).
House wines are structured: Number 1—La Piquette (cheap), $6 a glass or $18 a bottle; Number 2—Acceptable (decent), $7 a glass or $24 a bottle; and Number 3—Bon (good), $8 a glass or $28 a bottle.
With specialty cocktails like the Jack and Ginger (my favorite)—with Canton ginger liquor, Jack Daniel’s, and soda with a squeeze of lemon ($10)—and Grand Avenue Martinis ($10), you will be set in the liquids department, and begin what I term “café life.”
Van Proosdy brought out a sumptuous crock of French Onion Soup, topped with melted Gruyère cheese ($8.95). It was one of the best such soups I have tasted in the Twin Cities and beyond.
Next, we were presented with a colorful and beautiful Grilled Ahi Tuna Niçoise Salad ($15.95), adorned with rare ahi tuna, green beans, olives, tomato, potato, hard-cooked eggs, then topped with a tasty house dressing.
Salut has some of the best burgers in town. I got to try the Burger Bar Americain ($12.95), with caramelized onions, blue cheese, and bordelaise sauce on grilled ciabatta. Along with a stack—and I mean stack—of hand-cut fries, you must order a side of béarnaise for dipping. “Don’t get saucy with me….”
A beautiful Chicken and Artichoke Crêpe ($9.95) was delivered to the table. It was divine. Herbed crepes were filled with grilled chicken, artichokes, spinach, roasted garlic, and goat cheese.
The next dish—presentation as big as Marie Antoinette’s hairdo—La Grande Salut Tower (serves 4 or more for $79), was brilliant. Two trays filled with ice on two levels held 12 oysters, 12 jumbo shrimp, succulent crab legs, a whole lobster, mussels, and tuna tartare.
I was speechless, but dug in. Everything was perfect. I would have called Chad, and told him to join me, but he doesn’t like seafood. So, I was fat and sassy, enjoying all the seafood I could eat—literally. Finally, I tore off the lobster tail, and stuffed the last bites of luscious white sweet meat in my mouth. If this were my last meal, I would be ready for the guillotine.
Before the staff rolled me out to my vehicle, Van Moorelehem told me about the fantastic Sunday Brunch. She advised patrons to wear maternity pants. Highlights are French Toast Treasure Box ($9.95), with warm blueberry compote and whipped cream, as well as Lobster Benedict ($19.95), poached eggs on toasted brioche with lobster and béarnaise plus a choice of Salut creamy hash or small salad.
On Mondays, Salut offers 10 different bottles of wine for $10 each. Beginning in December, on the first Tuesday of every month, Salut will host a Chef’s Tasting Dinner anywhere in the restaurant, with Executive Chef Jeff Anderson—it will be seasonal, but French-influenced. A Sunday Night Meal, $8.95 per person, is served family-style. The restaurant has two private dining rooms that hold up to 50 persons.
Salut has two locations in the Twin Cites, both similar, but each reflecting the neighborhood in which it’s situated. For example, the Grand Avenue venue has increased fish items on the menu, with a featured fish each night because of demand.
As I was leaving, I noticed that no matter what you’re wearing, you’re welcome at Salut, whether it’s flip-flops or business attire. No matter if you’re ordering an $8 hamburger or the Halibut à la Provençale for $16.95, the atmosphere is welcoming.
Out the door I went, blissful and satiated.
As French gastronome Brillat-Savarin’s Great-Aunt Pierette exclaimed, “I feel the end approaching. Quick, bring me my dessert, coffee, and liqueur.”
John Michael Lerma is a local chef, author, and Food Network personality. His company Garden County Cooking offers cookbooks, cooking classes, consulting, private events, and culinary vacations to Italy and the Caribbean. Visit www.GardenCounty.info. Visit his “Word of Mouth” Blog under Extras at LavenderMagazine.com.
Salut Bar Americain
917 Grand Ave., St. Paul