Salt & Cleaver | A Sausage Party in Hillcrest

October 16, 2013

By Ryan Bridge | SanDiegoVille Contributor

When I heard that a spot in Hillcrest had opened up in May that served artisan sausages, featured a killer beer selection, and cooked using local, Suzie's Farm organic ingredients, I had to check it out. Salt & Cleaver, located on 5th Street between University and Robinson, brings a new perspective to the age-old craft of sausage making. Executive Chef Carlos SanMartano, who for the last couple of years had been working closely with local celebrity chef Brian Malarkey, demonstrates his ability in the kitchen and brings a global and sumptuous twist to elevate our meat-stuffed favorite pastime.  After scanning the menu several times online in anticipation for our dinner at Salt & Cleaver, I had developed a serious craving for sausage that I was eager to satisfy.

Salt & Cleaver's neon-white sign stood out on the dark Hillcrest avenue, and drew us in like moths to a flame. We opened the door and stepped into a décor reminiscent of 19th century industrial Chicago (admittedly a cleaner, fancier, and less gangster-ridden Chicago than I imagine). The walls were lined with bricks and separated by large steel beams, with a U-shaped bar as the focus in the center of the room. We stumbled in just in time to catch the end of Thursday night football and a bar full of patrons sat merrily with pints of beer and a variety of aromatic bar food before them.

Our host greeted us cheerfully and sat us against the wall to the side of the bar. I immediately discovered their extensive drink menu, which boasted unique house cocktails (including a Moonshine Mule), twenty different types of bourbon (and ten more of scotch), and even a selection of Absinthe and Mezcal for the ambitious drinker (hold the gusano, please). Even though a glass of single barrel bourbon sounded appealing, my date and I decided to go with what we thought would be best in a sausage house: beer. From the huge selection of 20 draught and 30+ bottled, we settled on two of the chalk-board's hoppiest Belgian style ales, The Bruery's Mischief ($7) and Green Flash's Le Freak ($8).

With beer in hand, we moved on to our first course. Following the recommendation of our host, we went with the Meat Plate ($10) and sampled three of Chef Carlos' favorite sausages. Between the pork bratwurst with cheddar, the turkey bratwurst, and what our server referred to as the "Danger Dog" (alluding to the presence of a certain ghost chili), we had a plate packed with flavor.  Each sausage came paired with its matching house-sauce, which included brown ale mustard, spicy horseradish mustard, the S&C Sauce respectively. We enjoyed mixing and matching each sausage and sauce, and found the cheddar bratwurst with the S&C sauce to be a clear favorite.

After some much needed water refills (spicy!), we proceeded to our entrees. We turned down the tantalizing option to customize our own sausage sandwiches and went with two of the house creations. The first, which seemed too good to pass up, was the Duck.Duck.Pig ($10). A part-bacon, part-duck sausage topped with a crispy duck confit and orange marmalade on the house bun, sounded like something we had to try. The sandwich was delicious and sweet, and the confit that I surprisingly refrained from picking off and indulging in immediately added a wonderful crunch.

The second entrée however, stole the show. The ribeye ($10), which quickly became our favorite dish of the night, was a beef ribeye-stuffed sausage, topped with a hefty portion of goat cheese and flash-fried Brussels sprouts. The combination of the rich, creamy goat cheese and the beef sausage was something I won't soon forget.

By recommendation of the Chef, we tested the limits of our stomachs and ordered the dessert special, a Thai-peanut flour-less chocolate cake. This beauty was a layered creation composed of Thai peanut ice cream on top of a soft chocolate cake, drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with crunchy butterscotch. This sweet treat was a fitting end to our culinary experience.

We left S&C with our bellies full, and our sausage cravings satisfied. Next time we'll make sure to swing by during happy hour to try out some of the more adventurous libations.

3805 5th Ave., Hillcrest
(619) 756-6677

Sunday-Thursday 11:30AM-Midnight
Friday & Saturday 11:30AM-2am

Happy Hour:
Mon-Fri 2-6pm and 10pm-close
$5 wells
$2 off beer and wine
$7 craft cocktails
$6 custom sausages

Salt & Cleaver on Urbanspoon