Let's just gloss right over the fact that you didn't see a "Dating in 2014" post for the month of June. We did, however, go on vacation that month and the picture below proves it, even if I never got around to posting it (In short, Michigan is awesome in the summertime and I am too busy to blog any details...maybe someday!). And yes, it's August now, but technically this is our July Dating in 2014 post because the date did actually happen in July (see above: "too busy to blog").After tossing around a few date night ideas, we settled on trying a fairly new BBQ place, Salt & Smoke. Given that we used to live less than a mile from the Loop, the neighborhood where Salt & Smoke resides, we had fun reminiscing about the early days of marriage and, quite honestly, felt a little bit old! Last month (errr May) we were all about the whiskey and vegetarian food, so cuisine-wise, we kind of jumped to the opposite end of the spectrum! Salt & Smoke definitely feels more upscale than our other frequented BBQ places in St. Louis (Pappy's and Bogart's). There are cloth napkins (checkered!) and glass tableware, but you still get a wet wipe to clean up post-eating! The atmosphere is busy and loud, or at least it was this Saturday night, but our server was attentive and our food took no longer to arrive than it would have at our aforementioned favorites. Forgive the dark pictures--we were tucked in a back corner away from any windows!
We'd be remiss to pass on drinks in a place that mentions them in their tagline. Ryan skimmed over the 100+ bourbons in their arsenal, but settled on the Vieux Carre (Rittenhouse Rye, Camus, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura and Peychauds Bitters), my brother's all-time favorite cocktail that Ryan had yet to try. I'm more of a recent bourbon convert and went with the Apple Barrel (Apple Jack Brandy, cinnamon walnut infused Bourbon, baked apple bitters, lemon, ginger beer), because I'm incapable of resisting any drink that features ginger beer. We were both more than satisfied with our selections and if I weren't such a lightweight I would've opted for another!
To kick things off, Ryan and I split the Chef's Special Salad, which on this night featured spinach, goat cheese, pine nuts, red onion, and homemade croutons. If you're thinking it sounds like a pretty basic restaurant salad and something I could easily make at home, you're right, but we were both craving a salad and it ended up surpassing expectations, thanks to the white balsamic vinaigrette it was dressed in. Knowing that my sister (our babysitter for the night) had homemade blackberry pie waiting for us at the end of the evening, we opted to split one of the larger plates. It ended up being the perfect amount of food--we were able to choose two meats and two sides, along with the cheddar bacon popover that accompanied the meal.
The pulled pork was definitely better than the brisket, which was much drier and tougher than it should've been. I didn't mind, however, because I slathered mine in loads of sauce, which I couldn't get enough of! Salt & Smoke has three sauces--a vinegar-based sauce (Ryan's favorite, I was left wanting more!), a mustard sauce (unique, vinegary, and my favorite of the three!), and a more traditional sweet BBQ sauce (good but nothing special, although really good when mixed with the mustard sauce!). There's a pretty expansive side dish menu and we had a tough time narrowing it to two. The green bean salad was definitely the healthiest of the bunch and it was nice to have something a little lighter amongst everything else. I'd read a number of Yelp reviews mentioning the pit beans with smoked bacon and customers seemed to either love them or hate them. We fell on the love side of things, eating up (literally!) the smoky goodness! The cheddar bacon popover was a bit of a letdown, more in appearance than flavor. It tasted good, but was small and shriveled, a far cry from the popovers we're used to. I plan to do some experimenting on my own to make a new and improved version of their popover!
We decided that even though Pappy's still has our heart when it comes to STL BBQ (that or Ryan's own ribs or pulled pork!), we would still return to Salt & Smoke for the cocktails and the side dishes (and, for me, that mustard sauce!). Prices were reasonable (about $50 for what we ordered) and it was fun to return to our old neighborhood!
One Year Ago: Odds & Ends