By, Christa Ward
Salut! Kitchen Bar gives good meaning to the cliché phrase, don’t judge a book by its cover. Located on the east side of University Dr. Salut! is tucked away in a shopping center where the most prominent display is Tempe Yarn. This sort of nonchalance the the building seems to give off makes it seem like a brilliant hidden secret once its been discovered. I happened to drive by it on the way to work on day and dragged a friend along when he couldn’t decide on where to go for our friend-date. I thought it would be fun for both of us, who have lived in Tempe for a while now, to try something new. It was a good choice. I’ve been back twice since. The second time was after picking my mother up from the airport. Since she appreciates wine and good, healthy food I thought she would enjoy Salut!
Salut has an atmosphere of casual elegance. The bartenders inside wear ties, while the hostess and waitresses float around taking people’s orders and delivering their drinks in denim shorts and floaty tops. Advertised as a kitchen bar, it’s hard to define it as a specific type of restaurant. They serve Mediterranian-American styled plates, but their wine, beer and cocktail list have been crafted with the same attention paid to the menu selection.
To start, we ordered the hummus nachos. The restaurant’s specialty item and, according to our server, “the best thing on the menu.” The title of the dish is a bit of a misnomer. While one can see how Salut! may have been inspired by the classic Mexican fare these hummus nachos are a far cry away.
The hummus nachos are triangular pita chips that are baked to crispy perfection, topped with a generous portion of hummus. Olive oil is drizzled over the top of each one and a few pomegranate seeds add just the right hint of sweetness. The appetizer comes with six of these hummus nachos which is almost enough to feed one small person, like myself. Perfect for sharing.
For entrees we ordered the kale and quinoa salad and for me, since I had helped myself to a more than generous share of the hummus nachos, the quinoa fritters. Also found under the ‘shared plate’ portion of the menu.
I’m not a huge fan of kale to begin with, that order was my date’s option. She (in my opinion) has obsession with kale. However, this salad could make me change my opinion. While I’ll never be a kale-lover, I would order this salad again. The salad was drizzled with just the right amount of dressing with equal parts kale and quinoa so neither was overwhelming the other.
The quinoa fritters are probably the most unhealthy item you’ll find on the menu, other than, maybe, the fries. They are fried balls of quinoa wrapped dill havarti cheese. Crispy on the outside with soft cheese melted on the inside these quinoa fritters are a rich and creamy version of the average bar food mozzarella sticks. They are baked with a red pepper emersion so there is a little bite of spice to this otherwise plain dish but it is not overwhelming. It’s the perfect addition. Be wary, though. This is a hate or love dish. If you don’t love it, you’ll hate it.
Since we were at Salut! during happy hour I also took advantage of their discounted wine, pairing my meal with their house pinot grigio, only $5 a glass. Their house wines are nothing to turn your nose up either.
It features a dog friendly patio with long cushioned booths and shade, a necessity in Arizona. With good, cheap wine and craft beer on tap to compliment a Mediterranean-American meal, Salut! Kitchen bar is a perfect place to while away the day with friends or family.