2011 Best New Restaurant: Salt of the Earth

The mark of a great new restaurant is that it engages you on many different levels, and that’s exactly what has made Salt of the Earth a hands-down success since it opened in September.

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Salt of the Earth, Best New Restaurant 2011

Communal seating makes up the majority of the downstairs dining area at Salt of the Earth, Garfield.

Photo by Laura Petrilla

 

The industrial-chic space with a high-ceiling grabs your attention by offering an immediate view of the open stainless-steel kitchen—and even a cursory glance reveals that the intensely focused crew in black T-shirts emblazoned with NaCl (the symbol for sodium chloride) are not just slinging hash.

Start to examine the chalkboard menu on the wall that’s divided into sections called Starters, Mains and End, and you’ll be drawn in on another level: figuring out what to order. Sousa wants to play with our expectations, and it shows. A venison tartare is served with flavors of blood orange, white chocolate and Douglas fir. A decadently creamy chestnut soup is enhanced with argan oil and pumpernickel. Arctic char is paired with couscous, pomegranate, coconut and sharp-white cheddar.

Part of the buzz here comes from the excitement of diners—even servers—as complex dishes are explained or first bites are taken. There’s also the sense of having a front-seat view of the city’s increasingly progressive dining scene. Yet for all the foodie intrigue, this is a casual place. The seating is communal at the three long, wooden tables or at the eight-seat kitchen bar. More seating can be found in the separate, quieter upstairs balcony—the only area able to be reserved.

You won’t find wine snobbery or fine-dining flourishes. What you will find is Sousa’s distinctive vision for a dining experience that brings something new and entirely fresh to Pittsburgh—and we couldn’t be happier.
 


Salt of the Earth, chef/owner Kevin Sousa; 5523 Penn Ave., Garfield. Info: 412/441-7258, saltpgh.com.


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