By Melissa de Valcourt
The Hilton Pensacola Beach has unveiled Salt, a beautiful new coastal Mediterranean restaurant that offers an elevated, fine-dining experience. Whether you want to catch up with friends over an al fresco lunch on the restaurant’s patio or are looking to celebrate a special occasion in the restaurant’s welcoming dining room, Salt is the perfect setting to create long-lasting memories over delicious food and drinks.
The first thing you notice is the welcoming decor, which features natural wood and stone complemented by gold tones and pops of coastal hues that evoke the Mediterranean yet feel at home along the Gulf. In fact, Gulf seafood plays a starring role in several dishes at Salt, where every menu item is made from scratch using fresh and local ingredients.
Vibrant Mediterranean flavors and culinary traditions come together in Salt’s homemade appetizer dips, which are baked in a stone oven with fresh garlic and served with warm grilled pita. Signature dips include hummus, baba ganoush, crazy feta (has a little kick), and tzatziki. The baba ganoush will win over diners who may think they don’t like eggplant. Creamy and smooth without any seeds or chunks of eggplant, Salt’s baba ganoush is a little smoky and very addicting.
Another winning appetizer is Salt’s braised octopus, which is flash-fried then slow-cooked to perfection in a citrus olive oil. Served with tzatziki, it’s a bold and fantastic dish that is already a customer favorite, according to Manuel Rodriguez, Corporate Director of Food and Beverage for Innisfree Hotels, which operates the Hilton Pensacola Beach. “You have this perfectly cooked octopus paired with the refreshing yogurt sauce,” he says. “It’s an excellent and different take on preparing octopus.”
Plant-based cuisine also has a place on any Mediterranean menu, and Salt celebrates local produce in ways that will please vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Cheesy polenta is cooked to a crispy golden brown and served with house-made mushroom ragu or rustic marinara. The Salt salad combines fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions, cucumbers, bell peppers, roasted artichokes, feta cheese and croutons, all tossed with a house hummus vinaigrette. Farm-fresh butternut squash was the base for a recent soup of the day with roasted butternut, mushrooms, garlic and herbs.
Salt should definitely be on the list of anyone looking for an amazing burger. Top-quality 1855 black Angus beef is the basis for these flavorful patties, which includes a Salt signature selection that comes on a toasted bun with cheddar cheese,arugula, bacon, tomato, pickled onions, and special sauce. “We play with different layers and elements,” Rodriguez says. “When you take a bite, I want you to have crunchiness, creaminess, textures, and different layers of flavors, so you’re like, ‘Wow, what’s going on?’”
The grill section of the menu also features filet, cowboy, tomahawk and other cuts of mouthwatering meat, as well as Duroc pork chops and other options. Can’t decide? A skewer combo brings one filet, one chicken, and one shrimp skewer with a choice of two sides like wild mushrooms, French fries or seasonal veggies.
For seafood lovers, a coastal catch of the day celebrates whatever is fresh and local. Guests at Salt have their choice of having their fresh catch grilled or pan-seared and served piccata-style with white wine, olive oil, butter and lemon juice, or salsa verde-style with olive oil, garlic, white wine and parsley. Salt’s crab cakes are also out of this world, showcasing the chef’s time living in Maryland with a spectacular pairing of remoulade and a touch of beurre blanc.
The Arroz a la Marinara has plenty of fresh seafood with Gulf shrimp, calamari, mussels and scallops, all cooked in a delectable seafood broth with saffron and sherry wine-infused rice. You’re going to get lots of seafood in every bite with this one. They like to call it “seafood with a little bit of rice.”
Salt’s full bar offers craft cocktails and an extensive wine list, including suggested food-and-wine pairings. Signature drinks include Salt of the Earth and Barbados Slim. Salt of the Earth combines Maestro Dobel cristalino tequila, Cointreau, sumac, and beet. The Mediterranean flavors of sumac and beet elevate the already excellent Maestro Dobel, a favorite tequila among local guests, and make this libation a highlight of any trip to Salt. Barbados Slim is based on falernum, a Barbados rum-based liqueur, and is a perfect summer sipper thanks to its relatively low alcohol content. The pineapple, orange, and orgeat blend seamlessly, creating a tropical treat that can’t be beaten.
No restaurant menu is complete without a craveable dessert section. Salt’s deconstructed cheesecake is made with goat cheese for a tangy, creamy twist on the original. Salt also rotates various desserts made in-house with the finest ingredients, such as berry cobbler and chocolate lava cake.
“When you sit down, I want you to feel like you are in my house and I’m taking care of you as a guest. I want you to feel welcome, and I want you to come back,” says Rodriguez. “It’ll be elegant, it’ll be fun, but the flavors that you’re going to get will remind you of your grandma’s cooking.”Salt is open daily for lunch and dinner, with the bar open until 11 p.m. For reservations and more information, visit saltpensacolabeach.com or call 850-343-6791.