Where sharing is caring
Remember when Lower Ossington was thought to be having too much fun, and a by-law was forced upon the strip? The bar-ban not only disallowed any new business licenses to the dismay of local business owners, party-goers and diners, but threatened to render the charmingly raucous strip stagnant.
In their relentless battle against that irksome red tape, Salt Wine Bar (Ossington/Dundas), purveyors of fine Iberian, Portuguese and Spanish tapas was truly a rebel force during the dark times of the “booze-ban.”
Since a business license was out of the question, Salt treaded carefully in loophole territory, using a catering license to serve both food and alcohol. The soft open was cheeky, but short-lived as the AGCO caught wind of their renegade operation and shut it down not once, but twice. Refusing to call it quits, Salt finally acquired a business license, and the resilient wine bar has hit the ground running ever since.
“Now we’re at the state where things are really humming,” says David Huynh, Salt’s front of house manager. “Our following is continuing to grow immensely, we’re making a huge impact in the restaurant community, and we’re getting a lot of recognition now.”
According to Huynh, the inspiration for the restaurant’s name is as plain as their intentions. “Salt is the most common seasoning,” explains Huynh matter-of-factly, “and like our name, we want to infiltrate every market and demographic – and we do so very well.” For those unfamiliar with tapas, Huynh stresses that the whole concept is ‘sharing is caring.’ “You’re going to order 3 or 4 dishes, and if you come with 4 people, that’s 16 dishes on a table – give me 16 different bites and 5 different glasses of wine and I’m a happy camper.”
While Salt specializes in Iberian, Portuguese, and Spanish dishes with a Canadian twist, chef David Kemp has a very strong background in French cuisine which adds another dimension to Salt’s culinary arsenal.
Along with Kemp’s back of house expertise, general manager Paulo Silva brings over 20 years of industry experience to the table and designed the wine list to reflect a very strong Portuguese core.
Since the moratorium buzz-kill, it’s palpable that the key to Salt’s success is in its people, and management has effectively built a unified dream team that operates like a well-oiled machine. “We have a great group of people who are in place taking care of Salt,” says Huynh proudly. “They really allow our people to have as much input as possible, and you can’t fail when you’re listening to good ideas – to me, that’s not a recipe for failure at all.”
Salt’s management also attributes a large part of its success to the support of Toronto’s tight-knit restaurant community, and they’re giving back with an industry night that features select $4 food and drink. On Taco Tuesdays, diners can choose from oxtail, lamb neck, grouper, pulled pork, and pork belly tacos until midnight, and can subsequently laugh in the face of the booze-ban’s past by throwing back $4 shots of Jameson and $4 brews.
South western cuisine fans can expect even more tacos with Iberian, Spanish and Portuguese ingredients in Salt’s near future as the wine bar revamps the food line-up every season.
Like its ever-changing menu, Salt is progressive, innovative, and certainly aims to add flavour. “We’re still growing and learning,” says Huynh meekly – “and we’re always going to try
to keep it interesting, relevant, and fresh.”