3805 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
When I say “dayum,” I’m referring to this viral video, of a man whose contagious enthusiasm for a sandwich turned him into a meme, but we'll get to that in a moment. In terms of décor, the sausage-centric Salt & Cleaver is not my style. Super high ceilings, sparse seating ideal for singles, and giant TVs loudly tuned to the sports channel probably appeal to your average sausage and beer lover, but this gustatory gal was relieved to snag the one low table in the corner for a happy hour gathering of three.
When asking about items on the menu, I learned that the only sausages made in-house are the ones that fall under the “S&C Classics” section, where fixings are curated for you, and substitutions are not allowed. If you want to build your own, you can choose from meats that were procured off-site and cooked in house (smoked pork bratwurst, turkey brats, spicy Polish, chicken Florentine, smoked spicy Cajun, and a few others). The selection of “fixins” for your custom dog are the usual: sauerkraut, grilled onion, roasted peppers, relish; and you finish it off by choosing a sauce — smoked brown ale mustard, spicy horseradish mustard, S&C sauce (which is like a spicy fresh ketchup), or you can opt for regular ketchup and yellow mustard.
It was strongly recommended that we opt for an item under the classics section, and I’m glad we did. It was happy hour, so we began with a round of drinks and the $2 happy hour fries. For craft cocktails, Salt & Cleaver delivers. Well-balanced flavors, nothing too cloying or sour. I tasted both the Summer in Alcatraz (rye whiskey, St. Germain, lemon, “bruised” basil and orange) and, the one I preferred, though both were delectable, the Kentucky Schmoozer (bourbon, maraschino black cherry reduction, Domain de Canton, and ginger beer).
Along with the fries, which were fantastic, we also shared the stuffed piquillo peppers with shrimp crab curry. These were gone in 30 seconds — the shrimp crab curry stuffing was hot and crisped on the outside, and the brown ale mustard and balsamic glaze enhanced the fresh pepper and toothsome filling.
My man ordered the “Duck.Duck.Pig” classic, comprising duck and bacon sausage, duck confit, “bacon-aze,” and orange marmalade on a house bun. I was too infatuated with my sausage to bother tasting his. David reported that the “crispy duck confit” on top, in his words, “wasn’t unpleasant, but it didn’t add the duckiness” he’d expect of confit. Rather, it tasted more of frying oil, or whatever it had been cooked in, perhaps because it was too finely shredded. Both David, and our friend Mia, who was with us, agreed that mine was the best sausage on the table.
I'd gotten the IPA Bratwurst: smoked pork sausage, malted sauerkraut, roasted peppers, smoked brown ale mustard, on a pretzel bun. I was concerned about all the “smoked” descriptions because I usually don’t care for overly smoky flavors — that’s when I tried to substitute the sausage for one from the other list and was informed that I couldn’t do that, but in a nice, “please trust the kitchen” sort of way. And I’m so happy I relented. Upon my first bite, I said, “DAYUM,” and the others laughed, because they got the reference and knew immediately what it implied. Every bite was balanced, each unique ingredient was discernible yet harmonious with the others. When I shared with David and Mia, they too let out a little moan and nodded in agreement that this was indeed a dayum good sausage.