September 7, 2017
Somehow, despite receiving numerous recommendations from friends to try it, Salud! never hit my radar. I have been to Salsa Grille many times, even the one located in the same building as Salud!, and still, it never occurred to me to give it a try. A few weeks ago, a friend posted some photos from her recent trip for a birthday celebration and it finally sunk in: Salud! is a must-try, and now I wholeheartedly agree. The restaurant occupies one half of the building it shares with Salsa Grille on Falls Drive (off U.S. 24 in the Village of Coventry) and serves a variety of Spanish tapas-inspired dishes. It boasts a large bar area, with bar seating, tables, and booths, and a smaller family room area. We made a reservation through Yelp for a Friday evening and we walked right into the family room when we arrived. Our server was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. We asked her for recommendations, and she talked about the menu thoroughly and enthusiastically—I really appreciate this in a server. If her attitude is representative of the entire staff, they are doing something right.
Based on our server’s recommendation, which echoed a recommendation from a friend who raves about Salud!, I opted for the House Margarita. Even at some “authentic” Mexican restaurants, the margarita comes from a mix. That is not the case here. You can taste the freshness at first sip – fresh-squeezed lime juice and top shelf tequila. Yum!
While the menu is not large, literally every item sounded delicious. I had a hard time deciding, so again we took the advice or our server and ordered a few things to try, and she did not steer us wrong. Here are a few of my favorites from our trip:
Guac & Roll: A clever name for fresh guacamole prepared tableside with your choice of unique additions like pepitas, smoked bacon, chicharrons and grilled pineapple, to name a few. We are bacon lovers, so we opted for the smoked bacon and it was better than expected (and we had high expectation)s.
The Salsa Flight: Who doesn’t love chips and salsa? If you’re anything like me, it’s hard not to fill up on them before the meal arrives, and Salud’s flight is exceptional. All salsas are made in-house. Included in the flight were Arbol Fresco, Roasted Tomatillo Arbol, Creamy Jalapeno and Mango Chipotle. I typically steer clear of super spicy salsas, but I must recommend the Creamy Jalapeno. While extremely spicy, the taste was so fresh and green, I could not stop eating it. The Mango Chipotle was also surprisingly tasty. I wasn’t sure about a sweet salsa, but this one was done very well. The other two were delicious, as well, and all of them quickly disappeared.
Ceviche: It has been a long time since I have had good ceviche. In fact, I am not sure if I have had any since I moved to Fort Wayne 15 years ago. Salud’s ceviche is made with citrus-marinated tilapia and shrimp and tossed with red onion, bell pepper, serrano pepper and cilantro, served atop four crispy tortilla shells and topped with avocado. I am not kidding you, I would drive across several states for this ceviche, it is that good – fresh, well-seasoned and perfectly portioned.
Valentina Hot Wings: It seems a bit odd to order wings at a Spanish restaurant, but the server said they were great, so we took a chance. She was right. The dish comes with 10 wings that have been slow-cooked, deep-fried and tossed in Valentina buffalo sauce and served with cilantro lime ranch. While the quality of the wing itself was questionable (we had several broken wings) the sauce was top-notch. It is not too spicy, but not too mild, making it the perfect complement to the meat and the dipping sauce.
Carnitas Empanadas: This is a trio of deep-fried empanadas stuffed with slow braised pork carnitas, garlic ranchero beans, and queso blanco. Everyone who has ever recommended Salud! has raved about these empanadas. Even the family at the table next to us butted in while we were ordering to insist we try them. These empanadas lived up to the hype. Deep-fried to a crispy perfection and stuffed with perfectly blended spices and seasonings, this dish is definitely on my must-have-again list.
Oaxaca Mac & Cheese: I know I sound like a broken record, but everyone told me to get this dish. It is made with large shell pasta, tossed with slow braised pork carnitas and roasted chile poblano queso and topped with shredded queso blanco and chicharron chipotle gratinee. You can also add housemade chorizo. “Wowee!” is about all I could muster after my first bite. Savory. Gooey. And just a little spicy. It is the perfect comfort food.
We didn’t even make it to the “El Plato Principal” (the main course) section of the menu. The items listed above were more than enough to fill us up—and then some, and prices were fair as well. Dishes ranged from $8 to $15. The menu does change seasonally, so if you want to try the dishes mentioned in this article, get there soon. There are several mainstays like the Empanadas and Oaxaca Mac & Cheese – and the house margarita, of course. Salud! also has a full drink list that includes a wide variety of tequila (which you can order in flights!), signature drinks, a scotch and bourbon selection and margaritas.
If you do visit soon, be sure to check out the nice-sized patio. While we chose to dine inside on our visit, the patio was hopping and offers plenty of shade. It’s nice to know there is another outdoor dining option in our city.