Salt Great Pond Restaurant brought new life to St. Croix’s south shore when it opened in March. Renovations and a twist of the menu gave lovers of the former South Shore Cafe a reason to make the trek to Estate Petronella overlooking the beautiful Great Salt Pond.
The sunrise menu caters to the breakfast crowd; locally inspired soups and salads are ideal for lunch – fish and meat-inspired dishes are offered through the late afternoon.
Salt is open daily except Tuesday, with Friday happy hour and Sunday brunch. Fresh squeezed cocktails, locally crafted beer, and homemade desserts are always available.
Chef Chris Booth and his wife Kelly share the joy of attracting patrons to this spot they’ve always loved.
“It was right over there,” Chris said, as he pointed to the spot where he and Kelly sat on their first date after she moved to St. Croix in 2012.
The couple met in 2008 at Baltimore International College – he was in the culinary program and she was in hospitality.
“We took classes in both programs,” Kelly said. “We were literally next-door neighbors in the dormitory.”
Chris has 20 years of culinary experience with a background in basic French cuisine. He worked as a chef for two years at Savant in Christiansted and about five to six years at Duggan’s Reef on the east end.
He and Kelly traveled back and forth from St. Croix to the Hamptons in New York, working in restaurants there during St. Croix’s off-season.
“We always knew we wanted our own restaurant,” Kelly said, “but we wanted to learn as much as possible. Our friends pushed us to open this restaurant. We love it,” she said. “It was a good choice.”
Kelly is Salt’s bartender and server; her warm smile and gracious manner draw patrons in and keep them coming back, said a regular patron.
“And the delicious food is the icing on the cake,” the diner added.
The diverse cheese board offers Maytag Blue semi-hard and dense, Purple Haze Goat, Soft, Fennel Pollen and, Lavender. The Stilton Blue and the Humboldt Fog Goat are both semi-soft with “added excellence.”
Chris said they are proud of the work they were able to do, considering how long the property was vacant and all that went into getting the plumbing and electricity redone.
“It was a lot of work,” he said.
“The concept is very different from the previous owner’s fare,” Chris said. “We love that everyone supported it for all those years and they came regularly. We felt like we could do it justice.”
Salt’s seafood comes in a variety to pique the palate and please the eye, with the lobster omelette enveloping Fontina cheese, cherry tomatoes, arugula, basil oil and tomato marmalade, or the fish tacos with a wasabi soy marinade, cabbage slaw and your choice of a side dish.
When asked how he felt about his patrons’ praise, Chris replied, “I want it to taste good and look good. The eyes are half the battle. What you see and how you see it governs how the rest of your senses react to it.”
The falafel is Salt’s version of quinoa, whole chickpeas and spices on a bed of local cherry tomato and greens over a homemade grilled pita with a spicy mango chutney to top it off – a dollop of tahini yogurt on the side completes the vegetarian delight.
“The community has given us their love and we hope to keep people happy and put a smile on their faces when they come to our restaurant,” Chris said. “We feel good walking in here every day.”
Despite the small budget, Chris said they want “to give people great stuff without having to break the bank. We just hope that everybody keeps supporting us.”
Salt sources locally, with produce from Art Farm, Fiddlehead Farms’ goat cheese and Sejah Farm’s rabbit. Jimmy Nelthropp provides lamb during the season.
The best seller, Kelly said, is a compressed watermelon salad topped with whipped feta mousse and a jalapeno slice.
“It’s popular here at the restaurant and always a constant request when we are catering,” he said.
Dining inside is a homey, yet open atmosphere – patrons see the preparation of the meals and the cocktails – with the kitchen and the bar in view.
Chris’ mother, Cathy Booth, is a local artist whose works are on several walls of Salt and in the restrooms. Her mosaic “Great Pond” hangs on the wall above the bar and was inspired by the view from the restaurant.
“We put cement board on the wall and I drew the design on the board. I used construction adhesive for the tile pieces and grouted it,” she said. “My biggest challenge was finding enough tiles in different shades of blue for the pond, the bay, the ocean, and the sky.”
I’m very pleased with how it turned out and how well it enhances the bar area.”
The outside view is strikingly beautiful, with the pond on one side, blue skies overhead and a row of palm trees on the other side.
“Mother Nature has given us a beautiful breeze on our terrace with her natural air conditioning,” Chris noted.
The location was a dairy farm owned and operated by the Gasperi family from the 1940s until the wrath of Hurricane Hugo closed it down in 1989.
Dick Ridgway leased and operated the farm as Mountain Mint through 2005. The dairy occupied both sides of a very dangerous road with 50 to 100 cows crossing daily, Ridgway said recently.
“My daughter Alyssa was 8 or 10 at the time and had the bright idea to draw a ‘crossing sign’ to alert drivers of the blind curve and the cows traversing the road. Drivers removed the sign so often that Alyssa was constantly creating new signs. Folks looked at it as a conversation piece,” Ridgway said with a laugh.
“Alyssa’s drawing of a cow was captioned by the words, ‘Slo Mon’ at the top and ‘Crosin’ at the bottom of the sign. Everyone knew us by that sign. It was our logo and the attention it drew made us famous.”
Salt offers catering at their clients’ homes and will rent out the restaurant to cater in-house. Weddings are in the plans at the restaurant.
Salt’s newest addition will be a wine club every second Thursday, with a date to be announced. Salt is on Facebook or can be reached by calling 340-718-7258 (340-718-SALT).