It was 102 degrees outside when I finally found Sea Salt Eatery. It was back in May. There were four of us at a picnic table that day, slump-seated as if gravity was treating us differently than everyone else. All we could talk about was that heat. All we could look at on our phones was that temperature. It was a hyperloop of disbelief, wiping forehead sweat onto forearms, curse words, and back into disbelief. I imagine a lot of people went through something like this in the days after Blair Walsh missed that kick (you know which kick).
With slick forearms and drenched armpits, we reached over each other and picked at everyone’s food. We dismantled a pair of veggie tacos by hand, and robbed one friend blind of his calamari. His whole plate, practically, poof! If you want this calamari to yourself, don’t bring other people.
I had just emptied a bowl of crawfish etouffee, and I was squeezing a fried shirmp Po’boy like a child would a cherished plush toy. Inside of it was a heaping handful of lettuce and a nice pile of fried shrimp. Surely you’ve been hoodwinked by some restaurant’s “lettuce sandwich” before. There will be no concern of that here. You’ll have crispy shrimp, a hygge blanket of tartar sauce, and three tomato slices – the middle ones, too. None of that skimpy end piece bubkis.
A grill-kissed, super soft hoagie bun and voila!
If your friends want to try etouffee, tell them to get their own damn etouffee.
Surely you know at this point about Sea Salt Eatery, the destination restaurant tucked away in the confines of Minnehaha Park. Owners Chris Weglinski and Jon Blood worked for a combined 24 years at Twin Cities fish kingpins Coastal Seafoods before branching out and opening their own spot in 2005, per this Star Tribune story. Now, their opening day is treated by many people as a holiday. Do you ever hear people jabbering nonstop during March about some “Sea Salt Day”? Well, if you don’t know, now you know.
This year, Sea Salt opened on March 30 in defiance of a winter that hadn’t yet loosened its grip. The rebellion was short-lived: Sea Salt was forced to re-close five days later, then re-open April 12.
I attempted to take my wife and dog to Sea Salt a few summers ago, and failed to find the building it operates in. On one hand, Minnehaha Falls is not a small park; on the other hand, my inability to spot seemingly conspicuous landmarks is well past debate at this point. It was a running joke among my inner circle, one the folks at Sea Salt even got in on for a hot minute.
Would you call the atmosphere casual at Sea Salt Eatery? When Adele’s “Someone Like You” plays over the speakers and half the kitchen staff sings along, there’s your answer. Local breweries take turns slingin’ pints out of a tent by the entrance, which comes in handy when the line is long (it’s not unusual to see that line snake out of the building). You might pass by a life-sized cardboard cutout of The Rock while you inch your way toward the ordering station, and why wouldn’t you expect that?
I hope you catch the fine print next to the catfish basket on the overhead menu: 1 POUND OF FISH. It’s breaded in cornmeal, topped with a dash of sea salt, and its meat blasts you with steam on first bite and hides a hint sweetness throughout. It’s great, great fish. Have one piece on its own, then run to the hot sauce counter and find some XXXTRA HOT Mayan Recipe el Yucateco hot sauce. It crawls out of the bottle like lava and rocks you with smoky, peppery, “Whew!”-making heat.
The appearance of the crab cake sandwich might amuse you – the bun looks like something custom-made for an elephantine challenge burger, and the cake looks like an island there in the center of it. I loved it: clean flavor, good-looking, and bites like a luxury. You can get the crab cake basket without the bun and fixings for $1 less. I enjoyed the sandwich, but I’ll get the crab cake on its own next time.
Alongside the tacos, Po’boys, and sandwiches are daily specials (the crawfish etouffee was one). I’ve seen scallops, mojito shrimp, and Sri Lankan curry. If you’re rolling deep – or just really hungry – Sea Salt’s Infamous Oil Pan features 18 peel-and-eat shrimp, pickled herring, a dozen oysters, and a pitcher of beer/carafe of wine.
And I’m serious. If you’re not going alone, do not try it with just one calamari.
If you haven’t had your Sea Salt day this summer, you’ve got time. They’ve printed a helpful list on their website with ordering and line-management tips. They’re open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily for now, but they’ll begin closing at 8 p.m. after Labor Day. They close for the season sometime in October. You can find more information at seasalteatery.wordpress.com.
A lot of things are going to look good on your Sea Salt Day. I don’t suggest hesitation. Order it all, come back, and order the rest. I wish nothing but the best for you.