Sea Salt Eatery in Longfellow

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Wait no more! In Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Park, the falls are gushing, the trees are leafing out, and Sea Salt Eatery, the Louisiana-Cajun-style fish shack housed in the old concessions building and spilling out delightfully on the adjoining umbrella’d patio, has flung open its doors for the season. The wait was longer than usual this year. And, if you’ve been a fan of Sea Salt since it opened in 2006, you know know that long waits — at home over winter for the season to start, in the snaking line at the restaurant on a glorious summer day to place your order, and at your table for your food to emerge from the kitchen — can almost be the theme of a visit to Sea Salt.

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

But that’s all changed. Owners John Blood and Chris Weglinski delayed the restaurant’s opening three weeks this year to complete Sea Salt’s kitchen remodel. “We’ve expanded our kitchen in every way,” says Manager Jeff Erkkila, who previously worked at Coastal Seafoods alongside Blood and Weglinski. This means shorter wait times for customers, both in line and at the table, and greater flexibility for the restaurant to experiment with daily menu specials, particularly with soups and cold items such as salads.

According to Erkkila, the core menu is unchanged from last year. The daily specials are still driven by what’s fresh that day. And how fresh can the seafood be? “Fresh,” says Erkkila. “We get flights in every day.” Every day? “Every day, except Sunday.” Then Erkkila proceeded to recite, Bubba Gump-like, all the coasts from which the seafood hails: East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast… But, even on Sunday, says Erkkila, because of the owners’ long-standing relationship with Twin Cities-based Coastal Seafoods, which supplies 200+ area restaurants with fresh seafood (and has been doing so for 27 years, according to its website), the Sea Salt Eatery squad can get access to the warehouse to choose what’s best.

So, what’s best? The fried oyster po’ boy sandwich (also known in New Orleans as an oyster loaf), at $12.95, is a delightful study of contrasts of textures and flavors. Juicy oysters, eight to 10 of them, still plump with the taste of the sea, are coated with cornmeal and spices, then fried until crisp, and served atop cool, crisp shredded lettuce on a buttered and seasoned (Cajun-seasoning) grilled, white hoagie bun. Tartar sauce, sliced tomatoes and a shake of Tabasco complete the sandwich. I recall that in prior years, the sandwich was made with a spicy mayonnaise instead of tartar sauce, but my memory apparently isn’t what it used to be: Erkkila says that it’s always been tartar sauce, except that in the past the Tabasco was mixed into the sauce, rather than drizzled separately over the top.

Po’ boy purists might quibble that it’s the flaky-crusted Louisiana French bread that makes a po’ boy and the Block & Barrel hoagie bun doesn’t cut it, that tartar sauce is all wrong, and the customer should be asked how he wants his po’ boy dressed rather than having it fully dressed automatically, but I say it’s the oysters that make the po’ boy, and, way up at this end of the Missippippi River, Sea Salt does great justice to oysters.

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Other po’ boy options include crawfish, catfish, shrimp, or fried fish ($9.95). But there’s more than just po’ boys: tacos, from grilled veggie ($4.95 for two) to grilled marlin ($6.95 for two), on a corn tortilla with cilantro, onions, and a mild homemade salsa are a good bet, as are several of the appetizers: shrimp cocktail ($7.95), fried calamari ($8.95), or oysters on the half-shell ($2.50 each; $26 per dozen). If you’re a bargain-seeking seafood lover, then gather up a friend or three and order the oil pan to share: a dozen oysters on the half shell, 18 peel-and-eat shrimp, pickled herring, and either a pitcher of beer or a bottle of house wine. They even offer a vegetarian-friendly walnut burger ($7.95) for the seafood averse. And, don’t forget to consider the ever-changing soups and menu specials, in case something along the lines of the blackened catfish with red beans and shrimp or red Thai shrimp curry might call to you.

Beers on tap include Surly and Summit. Various and sundry wines are available by the glass. Save room for Sebastian Joe’s ice cream, which is available at a separate ice cream counter.

You waited for spring, but it doesn’t intend to wait for you. Round up the kids, hop on your bike, steer towards the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, and get over to Sea Salt Eatery before the season slips away. No bike? No problem. Rent one while you’re there.

Sea Salt Eatery

Rating: ★★★☆ (Excellent)

Seafood in Longfellow
4801 Minnehaha Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55417
612.721.8990
OWNERS: John Blood and Chris Weglinski
HOURS:
Open April through October
Daily 11am-8pm until Memorial Day; perhaps extended hours after that
BAR: Wine and beer
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $5-19

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

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24 Comments

  1. gromit 05/07/2009 Reply

    I have a hard time passing up the soft shell crab sandwich. Had one on opening day and it didn’t disappoint!

    -g

  2. Alicia 05/07/2009 Reply

    You make it sound s yummy. I want some. :)

  3. I am not a fan of this place at all, in fact I think it downright sucks. The wait time will still be there, the kitchen will be playing music so loud that you can even talk to the cashier…
    Best part, the ‘fish sandwich’ is served on day old hotdog buns.
    Not worth the time at all.

  4. I get the grilled catfish po-boy every time now. Love it.

    You guys should plan a Heavy Table outing to Sea Salt some night for happy hour. We could probably take over the pavilion or a group of tables just outside.

  5. A Heavy Table meet-up? So crazy it might just work. Sea Salt is actually a great pick. We’ll talk it over at the next staff meeting — good call.

  6. My vote=yes!

  7. perhaps a heavy table food & bev crawl and start & end at Minnehaha Falls. Sea Salt, Ted Cooks, Town Talk, Blue Nile, Keefer Court, Triple Rock, 112, barrio, bradstreet etc etc all within 3 blocks walk of a station.

  8. I didn’t know they had added vegetarian options to their menu. Nice!

  9. Mmm. I’m glad they expanded the kitchen. I love eating there!

  10. Firerev 05/07/2009 Reply

    Having recently enjoyed lots of oysters on a visit to Seattle, I thought I should try something different at Sea Salt the other day. So I went with the crawfish po’boy. It was really good! When you have such small pieces of meat, it’s easy for the breading to overwhelm. But I got lots of good crawfish taste!

  11. i’m so glad to hear about the expansion – i would wait ages for that oyster po boy, but my kids are a different story. they like the (excellent) fish fingers and veggie burgers, by the way.

  12. Author

    Sarah, just a minor point of clarification. The vegetarian options include the walnut burger and veggie tacos, which I believe were on Sea Salt’s menu in past years, also. (I just don’t want you to go to the restaurant expecting an expanded menu from years past and be disappointed.)

  13. Yes. Meetups are great. Lee, we have our spot and now Jim is on board!

  14. Last night, I had the crawfish po’ boy while Kat had the catfish special. Both were delicious.

    The place was quite busy but the kitchen did seem faster.

  15. Richard Pecar 05/08/2009 Reply

    For four years, I was a lobsterman out of the Florida Keys. I also seined mackerel and hand-lined grouper and snapper. I am really impressed with SEA SALT EATERY. I know the smell of fresh fish from a distance and this place has got it! As far as I am concerned there isn’t a better place around this neck of the woods. The fact is the ambiance at the EATERY is about the same as any costal fishing port. They may not have every species of saltwater fish, but what they do have is prepared just about the way it would be from Miami (Cuban influence) to New Orleans (Creole) with an emphasis on the latter…that’s good eating in my book!

  16. chris sanger 05/13/2009 Reply

    Does anyone know the story of how they got this place in a park? It seems like this city would be… wary of issuing a liquor license in such a setting and I’d love to hear how the owners finagled such a deal…

  17. chris sanger- They have a beer & wine license, not a liquor license. I don’t know if that answers your question at all, or if the park is more willing to let that fly, but just thought I’d throw it out there in case it clears anything up.

  18. Walgreen's Ross 09/19/2009 Reply

    I work right by this great little nook of a restaurant;the most pleasing and popular question I get almost every day(when I’m at work)is:Do you know where that “Salt-seafood” restaurant is??? Well, of course I do! Dang,I really,really need to go try it for myself before October is here…

  19. Crabby D 12/21/2009 Reply

    I have been a regular at SS since it opened and yeah while the music can be loud at times, it is usually good. You know you are in for something special when you walk in the door and you are hit by the clean fresh seafood smell.

    The crab cake sandwich is just amazing. But I noticed it varied in size a lot from week to week this year. Sometimes it was not even large enough to stick out from the sides of the bun. Other days it was as big as my palm and had a little peace sign in drawn on the top with mayo…heavenly.

Trackbacks for this post

  1. […] Kimmes is great — Oceanaire is one of the best places. My favorite place is Sea Salt. They’ve got great fish and the atmosphere is […]

  2. […] Clog-your-arteries-creamy oyster stew was a staple over the winter holidays, loaded with pungent flavors of garlic, shallots, and — of course — a load of my favorite bivalve. These days, we Twin Cities-dwellers have the good fortune of a few great seafood joints, among them the aspiring “best in the Midwest” oyster bar at Meritage (we chatted with chef / owner Russell Klein about this venture in December) and the Coastal Seafoods-stocked Sea Salt. […]

  3. […] in the Minnehaha Pavilion building within the Minnehaha Park.  Here’s a review by Heavy Table’s Lori Writer and more photos from Heavy Table’s Aaron Landry. Taken in late April when Sea Salt was […]

  4. […] Combine this with a visit to Sea Salt Eatery (though it’s not really walkable), though beware, there can be long lines at Sea Salt at peak hours. Here’s the piece I wrote on Sea Salt when I was at Heavy Table. […]

  5. […] rent a surrey or have a peek at the Falls. Here’s the piece I wrote on Sea Salt when I was at Heavy Table. The piece is a few years old, but the menu’s barely changed and the food is still […]

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