Beckoning Your Palate

by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

As you enter the restaurant you are instantly brought into a nautical, chic environment, with clean crisp welcoming vibes. Although the name Saltbox brings to mind a traditional New England style colonial designed home, the interior here has sleek wooden walls, white columns and nautical lighting for ambiance and a comfortable bar area. Saltbox conjures a place to relax, meet with friends and enjoy fine food from its tantalizing diverse menu. Centrally located on the plaza in the center of town, diagonally across from the gazebo and in the building next to White’s Pharmacy, it is a perfect place for a Saturday or Sunday brunch, lunch, or dinner. Stopping in for a drink and a few appetizers is also a nice option.

Open seven days a week, Saltbox will also be serving food late night when you are looking for something at the end of the day to eat. Chef Alex Webber is at the helm in the kitchen devising intricate and appealing menu selections that are continually changing according to available catch and the freshest ingredients. We had a chance to chat with Chef Alex to learn a bit about his background, experience and how the menu choices are decided. With 25 years experience, 12 of which he had his own catering company in L.A, and then a move to New York City to work, it’s easy to see his finger is on the pulse of what makes a menu unique. In the city he worked in fine dining establishments and received most of his training there, before his recent move to Montauk. Chef Alex is British and said he has found ways to take traditional American dishes and “tweak them” into something that is exceptional. As the menu evolves, he plans to include more local fish and farm products into the ever changing menu options. When asked how he would describe what Saltbox is known for, he replied “we offer more healthy, vegan, fresh items and with a twist to make it our own style.”

Chef Alex noted that there will always be daily specials added to the menu and seasonal changes to take advantage of the freshest ingredients available locally. There is certainly an excitement when a new season begins and Saltbox seems to have plans to both excite and entice revisits to try the latest menu inclusion!

That evening we went with two friends and it was the perfect opportunity to taste a wide variety of menu items, with each of us four trying something different. With so many unique appetizers and mains to order, we decided on a sharing plan to sample from the choices. Our server for the evening was Bobby, friendly and attentive to explain the next course. On hand to help us navigate the menu, Dan Mundo, the General Manger, detailed some of the preparation methods, distinctive ingredients and future menu inclusions planned. Starting with the Avo Toast, mashed avocado, seven grain bread, arugula, alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes and chili, the pieces were generous enough to cut into four tasting sections. Fan favorites had to be the calamari with delicate graham cracker breading, sriracha aioli, followed closely by the crispy cauliflower with buffalo sauce, chives with blue cheese sauce for dipping. The cauliflower was light and hardly tasted fried and had enough kick to certainly wake up this normally mild tasting vegetable. The quinoa salad had a delectable combination of baby kale, sweet potatoes, red onion, and apple, coated with lemon garlic vinaigrette and was easily large enough for the four of us to have a helping to go with our appetizer sharing. Other appetizers on the menu were equally appealing, such as the Beet & Orange Salad with cashew nuts or the Hummus Platter, but will have to be tried on our next visit.

Naturally, with all this delicious food, one needs an equally impressive beverage to accompany it and the cocktail choices doesn’t disappoint. With catchy names like the Duck Dive, Ditch Plains Mojito and Sunshines Revenge, to name a few, deciding wasn’t easy. But what caught our eye was a fantastic combo that was an upscale touch for their Classic Bloody Mary. A menu notation said “Make it FAT with Lobster Slider, Bacon, Shrimp”. Who could resist this combo, so one in our party ordered it. What arrived was an eye catching presentation, with a tall bloody Mary, atop of it was a lobster salad slider, jutting out from the glass were elongated slices of bacon and a large crispy shrimp. It was almost a meal in itself! Another friend ordered the Drunken Yogi, which was a mango infused Spring 44 Vodka, Crème de Coconut, pineapple. First thinking this drink might be too sweet, she was pleasantly surprised at the smoothness, yet not overly sweet taste this tropical combo presented. Along with the many creative cocktails there is a list of local and classic beers, and a wine list. One would think with the appetizers we shared there wouldn’t be room for entrees, but with hearty appetites because of either a skipped lunch or light one, we were ready to order. Once again we shared, so we could try a multitude of plates. It was the best option since the descriptive entrees were all so enticing. Naturally, dining with four people, the preferences are wide ranging, which worked perfectly for ordering the Baja Tacos, Saltbox Fish N chips, the Ultimate Burger and the Local Day Boat Scallops. The scallop dish arrived with perfectly grilled scallops, with arugula, resting on a bed of farro (a whole grain, much like barley or quinoa). It’s written that farro gets an “A-plus nutritional rating. It’s nearly fat-free and completely cholesterol-free, making it a heart-healthy choice and perfect for vegetarians and vegans. It’s a great source of iron and is extremely high in fiber.” Each bite was tasty and the scallops quite tender. All four gave thumbs up to the Baja Tacos with grilled shrimp, tucked inside a soft corn tortilla shell, with tomato salsa, sriracha aioli. Plump, tender shrimp is just what you’d expect while dining in Montauk on an evening out. Local catch fish or tofu fillings were also available as tortilla choices, if preferred. Saltbox Fish N chips arrived tempura style skate, with homemade chips, spiced tartar sauce and two of us that picked away on that one, only offering a tad tasting to the others, it was so good. All in all, the entrée sampling was a great idea for us that night as now we know what we’d like on our return visit, and we will be back for the items we missed and to order our winners that night!

Live Entertainment: The Saltbox has an entertainment schedule that adds nicely to the ambiance of dining there. On Thursday and Saturday a DJ hosts the music and on Wednesday and Friday guests can look forward to live music. Visit their website for dates and artists appearances and read the Montauk Sun newspapers “Entertainment Page” for dates and schedules for their summer.

Saltbox is located at 99 Carl Fisher Plaza; Montauk, N.Y. 11954 631 668-5727 visit their website at: