Seriously, Salud!

South of the border sophistication

Hanger Steak Asada, photography by Neal Bruns

Something new has come to town thanks to Salud! Tapas & Tequilas, something very tasty.

Make no mistake about it – Salud! Tapas & Tequila is not just Salsa Grille’s big brother. A better description is that it’s a cousin who’s lived and worked for several years in good restaurant kitchens in Mexico and Latin America and who has come home to share what he’s learned.

Salud is its own self, with its own look, its own atmosphere, its own menu and even its own tequila, one among the 69 and counting on the fascinating tasting menu.

People are going to enjoy this place, especially if they embrace the tapas spirit.

“We are trying to get people into the actual tapas style,” said manager and chef Cassie Petersen, by which she means she hopes people will be sitting around Salud’s tables talking and laughing and tasting from the variety of small plates everyone ordered. Tapas is a between-meal pick-me-up, rather than a meal in itself, something to enjoy with a drink or two.

“We want it to be a very interactive dining experience,” she said. “The way we plate everything really promotes sharing with the way we have set up how the experience goes for each guest.”

You can feel free to interact with your server, too. Servers are trained and tested before being sent out to work with customers. They should be able to answer your questions.

Salud’s original menu is based in Mexico’s food traditions and ventures deeper into the cuisine than even Salsa Grille’s recipes, which is not a surprise when you learn that local chef Matthew Nolot was chosen by the owners of Salud and Salsa Grille to create the recipes.

Petersen, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef herself who has worked for and with Nolot for many of her 15 years in the profession, is delighted to be running the Salud kitchen.

“We are all about daily freshness,” she said, and local ingredients and from-scratch cooking, too.

Salud’s menu has “more of the freshness, more of the seafood” than other Mexican menus in town, she said. A variety of salsas and vegetable-enhanced dressings enliven the food, which includes zucchini chips, a take on the classic Caesar salad and a house salad.

And then there’s the seafood! Two kinds of fish tacos (salmon and mahi) are on the menu, plus calamari, a shrimp cocktail, crab tostadas and a shrimp ceviche.

Petersen proudly remembers the fish-averse guests at the soft opening parties who tried the fish tacos and loved them so much they promised to order them when they come back.

No one will mind if you spend more time with the tequila menu than the tapas menu. After all, it is much longer. At opening, 69 tequilas were listed, and more are being added, so ask for the updates.

To help you find your favorite(s), the tequila flights would be a good idea. Plan on doing at least reasonably serious tasting because Salud is not a shot, salt and lime tequila bar, Petersen said. Patrons get sangrita to cleanse their palates between tastes, she said; it’s a blend of tomato and citrus juices (mostly orange) with spices.

“It’s like sangria, but Mexican style,” she said.

The reward is being able to detect the subtle but real differences between the varieties of tequila.

“There are so many more flavors and general concepts of tequila out there that are so much better than, in my opinion, even your Patróns,” she said.

Another fascinating way to explore tequila would be to try Salud’s craft cocktails. The bartenders have recreated familiar classic cocktails using tequila instead of whiskeys or whatever other liquor. So far the menu includes the Lemon Drop, the Cosmopolitan, a martini and the Manhattan. Ask about more.

The original menu will evolve over time and change seasonally, Petersen said. She expects to add more South American, Spanish and Caribbean dishes in the future. Early responses from patrons make her very confident that the staples of the menu will be the Hanger Steak Asada, the Oaxaca Mac & Cheese and the Pineapple Lime Upside Down Cake.


Salud Margarita from Salud! Tapas & Tequilas
Serves 1

1.5 ounces Salud Reposado Tequila
1 ounce Cointreau
4 ounces Margarita mix
¼ ounce Agave Nectar

Pour all ingredients over ice in shaker and shake well. Salud uses Tres Agaves Margarita Mix and Agave Nectar, which are organic. Strain into drink glass over ice. Garnish with extra-large lime wedge.

First appeared in the June 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.


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