At Salted Edge, the popular bread board is just the beginning of the tasty, chef-driven menu

reviewed by Grow Omaha

Chef Joel Hassanali had absolutely no clue that the Salted Edge’s bread board was going to become the new Waterloo restaurant’s unlikely calling card.

Hassanali, the chef and partner in the business, along with owners Ashley and Gregg Young, all knew that they wanted bread on the menu in some fashion, but Hassanali said he had something well beyond the typical bread basket with pats of butter in mind.

“I wanted to take it to a different level,” he said.

Like several of the dishes we tried during two recent visits to Salted Edge, which is near 243rd & West Dodge Road, in a new development overlooking West Shores Lake, the bread board is a good example of how Hassanali has indeed taken not just that dish, but several others, in an unusual, flavorful and creative direction.

Pair that creativity with a kitchen that executes a wide variety of dishes on all levels, a solid list of creative cocktails and a well-composed wine list, and this critic isn’t surprised at all that Salted Edge has been such a hit since it opened in October.

Back to that bread. Hassanali said he’d done a bread board when he was a chef in New York that included a variety of breads sweet and savory, instead of just one, and it had been mildly popular. He revisited that idea for Omaha, but he pumped it up: four sweet and savory breads, but this time, paired with salts and compound butters.

“I had no idea it would take off the way it did,” he said.

It has — in fact, I’ve been asked over and over since the restaurant’s opening whether or not I had tried this bread board yet. I have. And I can say: it is indeed quite good.

A cayenne parmesan popover with a crisp, airy crunch and a custard-like center was my favorite, paired with sundried tomato butter and jalapeno salt. It’s warm and just spicy enough. Herb butter buns with a flaky, buttery brioche finish are paired with a smoky butter and chunky Maldon sea salt. Hassanali said the most time is spent on those buns, between the chopping of several herbs and the rising process of the dough.

The cornbread comes topped with a whipped goat cheese so thin it resembles frosting on a cinnamon bun, all of it topped with kernels of fire roasted corn and a drizzle of local Fathead honey. A sweet orange rosemary biscuit paired with a crunchy maple bourbon pecan butter and a hint of smoked salt is balanced and citrusy.

I know it’s a lot of words to spend on bread, but trust me, it deserves them.

Inside, Salted Edge is decorated in hues of navy blue and black, with a variety of seating and an open concept kitchen. I found the space comfortable and welcoming, and the service friendly and attentive, if a little heavy handed with description and suggestions one evening.

The menu at Salted Edge is big, including steaks, sandwiches, pasta, salad, a chilled seafood bar, a variety of shared sides and even pizza. In that long list, a handful of dishes stand out, in particular, the dishes inspired by Hassanali’s background — he is from Trinidad, and grew up in the Caribbean where his parents ran a restaurant.

The locally raised Plum Creek chicken is listed on the menu as “chef spiced,” and that’s because Hassanali uses his own spice blend, which starts with palm sugar and includes a dozen more ingredients, including cumin and curry. It’s warm and rich, and the high-quality half chicken comes served with herb roasted potatoes, a parsnip puree placed in dollops on the plate, grilled asparagus and a wild mushroom demi glaze.

The Vadouvan roasted cauliflower, on the shared sides menu, is a dish Hassanali described as “from my heart,” and is inspired by recipes he learned from his parents. Vadouvan spice, also known as “French curry,” has warming notes of cardamom and cloves, and Hassanali sets those notes off with brown butter, honey, mustard seeds, golden raisins, pickled shallots and a pistachio gremolata, adding crunch, sweetness and pleasant texture.

Two appetizers stood out: Asian-inspired blistered shishito peppers topped with the pleasant combination of yuzu miso dressing, furikake and bonito flakes; and crispy shrimp deviled eggs, a study in creamy and crunchy.

The shishito peppers, grilled to a pleasant char, are savory, salty and tough to quit eating. The deviled eggs have a super creamy, cool center topped with a hot and crispy fried shrimp, the creamy-crisp combination set off by a spicy pickled jalapeno and a savory smoked tomato bacon jam.

The shrimp cocktail, part of the chilled seafood bar offerings, describes the seafood as “colossal” and the five we received were fresh, oversized and meaty, served with a lemongrass cocktail sauce topped with fresh grated horseradish and a creamy green goddess dressing.

I tried a few bites of my niece’s bison bolognese one evening — made with both bison meat and dry aged wagyu — all the beef is dry aged in house — and house made pappardelle pasta, it’s appropriate for both grown-ups and sophisticated 11-year-olds alike. (There is also a full kids’ menu available.)

I tried one of the short list of pizzas, topped with broccoli, sausage and torn burrata cheese. It’s fine, with a thin crust, crispy edge and plenty of toppings.

But with so many other more inspired dishes, I probably won’t order it again.

Another night, we tried both the steak frites and the signature burger.

That burger, again made with dry aged beef, delivered on every level, and immediately reminded me of the savory, delicious burger at the now-closed Dario’s, in Dundee.

Cooked to a perfect, pink-centered medium rare, as ordered, the burger comes topped with black pepper bacon, melted gruyere, a roasted garlic aioli and a red wine onion marmalade and a handful of fresh arugula. It sounds like a lot of toppings, and it is, but it comes together nicely, with subtle spice, a hint of sweet and plenty of pepper.

The steak frites includes a Niman Ranch 14-ounce New York strip — mine cooked to perfection and well seasoned — along with a side of truffle bearnaise sauce, horseradish breadcrumbs and a bruleed half tomato with a crisp top and creamy center. Salted Edge’s French fries are fantastic, uber crispy, super hot and coated in Parmesan and Herbs.

Our group of four managed to sample several cocktails: a smoked old fashioned with hints of brown sugar and cardamom; a sidecar flavored with seasonal inspired cranberry and mulling spices; a “nieux” carre, a twist on the classic vieux carre made with pear brandy and molasses simple syrup; and a smooth espresso martini made with tequila and tawny port. While we didn’t dive into the wine list beyond the list of glasses, the selection is nice, and the staff is good at suggesting possible pairings with food.

Hassanali said his goal is for Salted Edge to be modern and contemporary but also to include a taste of his own past — where he’s from, places he has worked and traveled and chefs he’s worked with (Emeril Lagasse is on that list, by the way.)

When he moved back to Omaha in 2020 — he lived here in 2014 and 2015, working at Crave in Midtown Crossing — he quickly realized that much had changed.

“I wanted to bring out west what a lot of people go downtown for,” he said. “I knew the clients were going to know food and be willing to spend money for that great experience around food, wine, atmosphere. That was the goal.”

Salted Edge is creating an experience on the edge of the city I think many would travel for. Omaha is growing up and out, and its food scene, particularly when it comes to chef driven, locally owned restaurants, is expanding beyond where it’s been before, too.

Salted Edge

https://www.salted-edge.com/

110 South 243rd Street, Waterloo

(402) 625-3343

Hours:
Tue – Thur:
4p – 10p
Fri & Sat: 4p – 11p
Sun: 4p – 8p
Closed: Mon
Tuesday through Friday the bar opens at 4 p.m. and the kitchen opens at 5 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, the kitchen opens at 4 p.m.

image of tupelo honey biscuit for a cause
image of the tupelo honey fried chicken sandwich

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