When we’re planning a last-minute group dinner with friends, we find ourselves either heading to one of these spots or inviting a bunch of people to a brewery and ordering something from a food truck. But what happens when we’re looking to go somewhere a little nicer than a place where everybody’s double-fisting pilsners and eating grilled cheese?
For this situation, Salare is a great option. This kind-of-upscale Ravenna spot always has availability (even on weekends), and even though the dining room isn’t packed like their sister restaurant Junebaby, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It makes Salare a useful spot for an important dinner you can easily pull together, even though a meal here won’t change your life.
The food’s influenced by the American south, the Caribbean, Africa, and Italy, so you’ll see everything from delicious fish fry with kohlrabi slaw to cavatelli with lamb bacon that’s so good it makes us wish lamb bacon came in breakfast sandwiches, too. The best way to order off Salare’s menu is to get some snacks, like plates of bread with Calabrian chile butter or a couple of salads, and a pasta or a main (like the tasty seared sturgeon with a coconut stew, plantains, and Haitian pickled vegetables). If you follow this template, and don’t mind spending around $50 per person, we guarantee you’ll have a satisfying meal that’s perfect for a low-key celebration.
Salare’s group dinner potential does come with some setbacks, mainly the price and portion size. The appetizers are really teeny, and range from $6 olives to a $31 charcuterie board. So in a larger-party kind of setting, it’s almost mandatory to order a lot of different dishes. It’s a great way to sample the menu’s diversity, but it also results in having to cut up your $12 palm-sized empanada into six pieces to share. And if you get two orders of the $15 falafel with beets and ricotta, it’s hard not to feel a little cheated over some chickpea fritters. Even if they are delicious.
That’s what frustrates us about Salare - if the prices made sense with the portion sizes, this would be a well-rounded restaurant that you wouldn’t just save for this ultra-specific, nice, last-minute-dinner scenario. You’d want to be a regular, going on dates, sitting at the bar solo, or popping in for a casual weeknight bowl of casarecce. But there are plenty of other places in town that you can go to without feeling like you just fed a bunch of money to a paper shredder.
It’s no wonder that most of the hungry people in Ravenna go to Junebaby over Salare. The food’s way more exciting - we’ve had their biscuits, we understand. But you shouldn’t ignore Salare. It’s one of those perfect back-pocket places that’s always available, even if you don’t use it all the time. Like a spare tire, or the Tamagotchi in the back of your desk drawer.
We have no complaints about this tangy, crusty bread with slightly-spicy butter. Order some for the table.
These light and crispy fish bites served with kohlrabi slaw and an espelette pepper aioli are Salare’s best contribution to the world. We only wish we could order an entree version - the portion’s really small.
Much like a party-favor bag or a haunted house, the success of an empanada depends on what’s inside. Salare’s version constantly changes. Once it was filled with duck alongside pickled onions and a quince sauce, and it had too many conflicting flavors for us to enjoy it. But another time, it was filled with tasty beef picadillo and came with a peperonata that worked well with the flaky pastry.
You’ll think, “Nice. Beets, castelvetrano olives, ricotta, falafel, and orange coulis for $15.” We thought that too before we ordered this dish. While each component is individually great, from the creamy ricotta to the crunchy falafel, it’s not a lot of food for a shareable appetizer. And the brininess of the olives is too much with the citrus in the sauce.
Here we have a perfectly fine caesar. It’s bitter from the chicories, but we like it with the creamy dressing and breadcrumbs. Still, you can find better caesars (and salads) elsewhere in the city.
The cavatelli, with creamy mustard-y sauce, lamb bacon, brussels sprouts, and grated egg yolk, is Salare’s best pasta. It’s almost like a carbonara that we have trouble sharing with other people, mostly because the lamb bacon is so delicious.
The sturgeon’s our favorite entree. It’s seared perfectly and served with pikliz (Haitian pickled vegetables) and plantain rounds underneath rundown sauce (Caribbean coconut stew). If we were in the neighborhood, we’d eat this for dinner any day.
You’re better off with pasta or fish - the steak at Salare is good, but nowhere near worth $30. It comes with forgettable roasted broccoli, and even though the single braised-beef ravioli on the side suffers from being incredibly boring, you’ll still be annoyed that you only get one.
This version of tiramisu might be better than actual tiramisu - it’s a chiffon cake with a caramel sauce infused with walnut liqueur, and coffee mousse topped with a lacy chocolate tuile, whipped cream, and an espresso macaron.