First Bite: Salt & Olive + Ash & Oak

Salt & Olive has been open for over a year now. Located next door to Undercurrent, I spent years peeking through the windows to see if the beautiful vacant space had been filled. And then I somehow missed the opening. By a year. *Hangs Head*

First, let me go on record and say that I am always delighted when historical buildings are saved instead of torn down. They may not be register-worthy, but they do add value to our architectural heritage here in Salt Lake City. Originally a car service station, this gem of a building showcases the original arched wood ceiling and industrial space. When you walk in, you are greeted with a ‘gram-worthy photo wall, exposed brick, lots of light from oversized windows and skylights, and different nooks for seating. 

Somewhat confusingly, Salt & Olive is like four restaurants in one. The entire venue is well-designed and welcoming. However, they are still figuring out how to manage all the spaces (which are extensive). There is the S&O Cafe – which sits right in front and is a proper little coffee shop. The hours on the website say it is open from Monday – Sunday from 8:00 am – 9:00 pm. But it was closed both times I was there. I assume that the staffing troubles plaguing the industry also apply here.

Next is the “fast and casual Italian concept,” where you pop in without a reservation, sit in the front at communal tables, and enjoy the Salt & Olive menu. I DO love a communal restaurant, and when I was in, the shared tables were both packed and felt like a charming Italian-esque version of a beer hall. There was lots of clinking of glasses and sharing of pizzas going on. 

The kitchen is open concept and sits across from the bar which felt less communal/raucous and more like a place where I’d belly up to the bar solo with a good book and a martini. There is also a sophisticated lounge area with pink velvet stools to match the cherry blossoms on the wall. It shouted girls’ night out. 

Finally, there is the back of the restaurant, which is reservation-only, along with private dining space. Again, the setting is beautiful and well thought out. Fresh flowers were on every table, along with crisp white linens. From there, you can order from the Salt & Olive menu and the coming soon Oak & Ash menu, which is more of a fine dining approach. My server couldn’t quite explain what “coming soon” meant. But the menu was a selection of “La Carne,” which ranged from a NY Strip, Porterhouse, and Filet to a half chicken or lamb. This menu changes seasonally but has the coming soon label at the bottom. So we had to double-check that we could actually order off of it. 

Let’s chat about food. Chef Neza, the head chef, built his reputation in Italian restaurants around the city. And you’ll likely get a big grin from him as you pass by the kitchen. And while the space felt a little disjointed, the food was mostly on point.

We started with the Salt & Olive menu and ordered the House-cured Olives with fennel, lemon, and chili flakes. They came out warm, and we snacked on them the entire meal. I ordered the Salt & Olive Dirty Martini to pair with the olives, which was exactly as promised. I love a good savory martini, and this one is made with an in-house brine. Basically, I decided to go with olives on olives to start. And I wasn’t sorry. We also got the Beef Carpaccio, billed as black pepper-crusted beef loin, wild arugula, fennel, tomatoes, dijon aioli, and pecorino. This was the only dish I had an *ahem* beef with during the entire meal. The tomatoes were in absentia. And the dish wanted that brightness. But the real sorrow was that it felt more like a pecorino carpaccio with slivers of beef loin rather than the other way around. The flavors were good. The balance was off. 

For our main course, we split the difference and ordered off both the Salt & Olive and Oak & Ash menus. We got the Pizza Margarita, which sounds like a safe bet, but it is the pizza I always get when judging a good Italian-style pizza place. With three simple ingredients (crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil), there is nowhere to hide sins. And this particular Margarita was a delight to get to know. Crisp crust, slight char without tasting burnt, and an all-around joy to eat. The leftovers were just as good the next day.

From the Salt & Olive menu, I ordered the Bucatini, a type of long Spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running down the middle, almost like a thin ziti. Every popular in Rome and the surrounding region, I’ve seen it pop up much more regularly around town in the past year or so, including on grocery store shelves. I’d go as far as to call it a trending pasta shape if there is such a thing. And I can see why. It stands up to thick and hearty sauces much better than your average wimpy spaghetti. And it is much more fun to slurp. The Bucatini came with a sausage ragu, burrata, and cracked black pepper. The ragu was rich and salty, balanced perfectly by the sweet and creamy burrata.  

Off the Oak & Ash menu, we got the 10 oz New York Strip with grilled asparagus and a black truffle mornay. The steak was a pink mid-rare, and while I’m not usually a sauce with my steak kinda girl, the mornay added a special something. But, of course, as a sucker for any fire-grilled vegetable, the asparagus may have disappeared first. 

We couldn’t manage dessert, but you’d better believe that next time I will order the Semifreddo Affogato, a “semi-frozen,” Frangelico whipped cream dessert with warm espresso chocolate sauce poured on top. Remember to save room. 

I recommend making reservations if only to be able to order off either/or/both menus. 

If You Go 

270 S 300 E, SLC

PH: 801.906.8389

Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11 am to 10 pm | Friday – Saturday, 11 am to 11:30 pm


Lydia Martinez
Lydia Martinezhttp://www.saltlakemgazine.com
Lydia Martinez is a freelance food, travel, and culture writer. She has written for Salt Lake Magazine, Suitcase Foodist, and Utah Stories. She is a reluctantly stationary nomad who mostly travels to eat great food. She is a sucker for anything made with lots of butter and has been known to stay in bed until someone brings her coffee. Do you have food news? Send tips to lydia@saltlakemagazine.com

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