Salty Sow

Salty Sow

Salty Sow was hard to ignore. The drumbeat of accolades was constant and loud—especially from my most trusted foodie friends. Best pork belly ever, they gushed. Try the chicken thighs, they swooned. But I kept pushing back, wary that Salty Sow was just another trendy snout-to-tail, pork-centric restaurant. Boy, was I wrong. When I finally relented, I discovered a restaurant as delightful as its fans had promised.

I should’ve known from its pedigree alone: the management team comes from a long line of Austin winners like Hopdoddy, Eddie V’s and Z'Tejas. In May, they transformed a Manor Road revolving door (Red House Pizza, Stortini, John Mueller’s BBQ, et al) into Salty Sow, a charmer that I suspect will be around for a long time.

The menu is described as “modern farmhouse cuisine” and boasts predictable buzzwords like “nose-to-tail,” “sustainable,” “local” and “organic.” But that’s where predictability ends. Chefs Harold Marmulstein and Richard Velazquez are turning out food that is refreshingly original and delicious.

We started with the charcuterie and cheese board, a groaning platter of goodies that could be a meal in itself. The selection changes daily and on our lucky night included house-made, country-style pate and chicken liver mousse, served with whole grain mustard and pickled vegetables. There was also house-cured pastrami salmon and remoulade sauce. In another corner, La Quercia prosciutto and Fra’mani sopresatta. Cheeses included Cowgirl Creamery’s decedent triple-cream Mt. Tam cow’s milk cheese and Cypress Grove’s tangy Humboldt Fog goat cheese. Scattered among it all was toasted bread and nuts.

Next we dove into a beet salad, a lovely bowl of roasted organic beets tossed in vinaigrette and studded with creamy Pure Luck goat cheese and toasted pistachios. For our entree, the tender milk-braised pork shoulder, served with white beans and escarole, was a tasty and comforting choice.

Salty Sow has an extensive cocktail list, and our server steered me towards the Curly Tail, one of their signature margaritas mixed with tequila, cilantro, serrano peppers and blood orange juice. My companion tried the Porch Swing, a smooth blend of vodka, Earl Grey tea, amareno cherry syrup and lemon. Both drinks were fine but didn’t dazzle.

The wine list covers the globe with almost 100 bottles in almost every price range. Wines by the glass are served in stylish mini-carafes, and we enjoyed sampling a racy Spanish white, a lush Rhone red and a bold Napa cabernet. There are also a half-dozen, mostly local, draft beer options.

Salty Sow has been transformed into a rustic yet stylish "farmhouse.” Gone is the previous kitschy décor, replaced by cool lighting, wood accents, sleek concrete floors and an open kitchen. They seem to have remedied previous reservation grumblings, and we were greeted by a cheerful hostess and given a variety of seating options. Unfortunately, I was too full to sample all of the highly-touted items like the pork belly, chicken thighs, beef cheeks and Brussels spouts. But I’ll be back. My foodie friends insist on it.

Salty Sow
1917 Manor Rd.
(512) 391 2337
saltysow.com