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Sea Salt (MSP)

I have to disagree with almost everyone on here. I took a group of 6 there last night after so many glowing reviews and wow were all of us disapointed. From the minute we walked in and heard the horrible rock music blaring till we threw our mostly not eaten food in the trash bin. Funny thing is my friend noticed right away how unhappy all the employees looked. Its busy and they are stressed I said. Lets stand in line for 30 minutes and see how the food is because the food is really what matters. The food was as good at the attitude of the employees. I am from the Gulf Coast but went with a MN born and raised and his wife and kids. My partner is from NY so we cover a good demographic. I will say that was some of the worse food I have had in the Cities. Our total bill was over $60.00,just food no alcohol and what I would give to get that money back. We tried tacos,poboys,salads,fishbaskets and even hot dogs for the kids and there was not one single thing worth the money. The Park and Falls were beautiful and the evening was lovely spent with people I care about. Next time I would get take out from any number of places and just grab a picnic table. Again I have to say some of the worse food I have had in the Cities without a doubt and all of my party agreed. In fact we all kind of laughed at ourselves for even going as we strolled the trails and enjoyed the great MN evening.

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  1. I too had a bad experience at Sea Salt last summer and will never go back. The place was dirty, the oysters were warm and not fresh, in fact inedible and should not have been served. When this was brought to an employee's attention, all I got was a shrug. I was embarrassed as I had friends from New York with me and wanted to impress them with some Minneapolis food and atmosphere. That did not happen at Sea Salt.

    3 Replies
    1. re: seahag

      I've had 2 disapointing visits to Sea Salt. Honestly I don't understand what all the hype is about. You wait in line for 20 to 30 min for lousy over-priced food and horrible service. Alot of people around here seem to love this much over-rated joint and I can't for the life of me understand why. I'm sure people will be quick to defend this place with the typical "Must of been an off night" but I went back again and had the same results.

      1. re: EricShawnSmith

        Couldn't agree more. We posted the following review for Sea Salt and got a bunch of hate mail from people that love this place. I didn't have a bad experience there, but nothing memorable and not something I would really go back for.

        From our experience we have realized that people are very passionate about eateries in their neighborhood and will go to any extent to defend their turf.

        Sea Salt Eatery
        4801 Minnehaha Ave
        Minneapolis, MN

        Category: Seafood

        Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
        Food: 6
        Service: N/A (counter service only
        )Ambience: 8

        Recommendation: Good. We had mixed feelings about our visit – a great location in a picturesque setting by Minnehaha Falls, but the food isn’t spectacular, even by casual eatery standards.

        Sea Salt is literally a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Minnehaha Falls. The place is little more than a concession stand and gives you the feeling that you’re in San Francisco’s Fisherman Wharf instead of Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Falls. If you’re in the area, it’s a good place to grab a bite to eat, along with a cold beer while enjoying music in the nearby bandshell or just lazing in the park...the only thing the experience is missing is a beach! Plenty of outdoor seating is available and a few seats are also available inside the eatery. Sea Salt redefines summer picnics in the park…gone are the burgers and hot dogs; in are oysters, fish tacos, calamari, and Po’Boys. They also serve wine and beer. Sea Salt serves a handful of flavors of Sebastian Joe’s ice-cream, a perfect companion on a warm summer day.

        The lines are terrible on weekends so we visited on a weekday night and didn’t have to wait at all. Unfortunately, they were out of the oysters, which we were really looking forward to trying – the guys at Sea Salt are ex Coastal Seafoods (an excellent local fish market) employees so they really know their seafood. We got the Grilled Marlin Fish Taco ($7), Crab Cake Platter ($10), and a Crawfish Po’boy ($10). While the experience was great (where else can you eat seafood sitting right by the waterfalls?), the food didn’t quite wow us. The Fish Taco came with two corn tortillas, grilled marlin, and red salsa topped with onions, cilantro, and a side of lime. We have to give this place points for serving an authentic taco…there was no shredded cheese or sour cream in sight. The flavors were ok…the fish was pretty bland overall and the salsa was watery and didn’t have a kick to it. Some shredded cabbage and white sauce would have done the trick. The one Crab Cake the platter came with was good…although the word “platter” was misleading. Apparently a small slice of honeydew and a little plastic container with bland dry coleslaw made this dish a “platter.” We would have been just as happy to have paid a little less ($10 for one crab cake?) and got just the crab cake. The Po’Boy was also ok. It came in a soft bun with fried crawfish along with creamy tartar sauce (no sign of the hot sauce that was supposed to come with the dish). Overall, we thought the meal was good for a summer day in the park but not if you are looking for great seafood. Yes, we know it’s a casual eatery (and we given them points for fresh tasting seafood), but they could benefit from a couple of tweaks to take the food to the next level. If you’re looking for seafood, we’d recommend Stella’s Fish Café or Oceanaire over Sea Salt.

        $$. We paid $38 for 3 dishes and a drink. Open April-October from 11-7 Sun-Mon and 11-8 Tues-Sat. Paid parking lot close to eatery. Light Rail access.


        1. re: MSP Foodies

          Well I was planning on trying this place out soon, but now I can see I shouldn't be in such a hurry or expect much. Thanks

    2. I've only been once, and it was on a Saturday afternoon. While I agree the wait in line was excessive, I thought the food and the ambiance were quite good. Now, I'm from the NE suburbs and I wouldn't drive across town for it, but if I'm in the area I'd stop by again.

      It should be noted that I am not much of a seafoodie, so my expectation of what is good might be a little lower than most. But, my sister's boyfriend was born and raised in Virginia and North Carolina, and he was pretty impressed.

      1. Thank goodness for your post. I thought I was the only one who didn't like this place. I grew up in New England and was hoping for the seafood shack of my youth. No sir. Seafood didn't taste particularly fresh and it didn't seem as if there was a lot of care taken with the food. I really, really wanted to like this place. Maybe it's just not possible to do this kind of place in the midwest. I'll just have to wait for my visits back east.

        1. Piling on... Two disappointing visits. Long waits were expected, but chaos in the "kitchen," unprofessional service, similar to what others have written. Perhaps when it first opened and wasn't well-known things were better.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Brad Ballinger

            I think the experience is much different depending on when you go. I only go at odd times--like, on a rainy day early in the season-- when the wait isn't long and the kitchen seems less overwhelmed. I've never been happy with the attitudes of the staff at the register and the blasting of the music, but I still think the chow is good and the fish is fresh, though, I more or less stick with the oysters (po boys or on-the-half-shell-appetizers). I’m afraid, it’s not the same as buying them and shucking them yourself at the oyster farm, but I think it’s as fresh as you can get for seafood flown 2000 miles. And, given that the focus of the chow is on serving food that comes from the sea, I think they do a pretty decent job of featuring some local products, like the walnut burger, Sebastian Joe’s ice cream, local beer, and Rustica’s bread.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I"m chuckling a little. The best time to go to a restaurant that features outdoor dining and is in a park where you have to walk a bit from your car to the pavillion is when it is raining.

              1. re: Brad Ballinger

                That is funny, isn't it?

                Well, I'm not made of sugar. ;-) and am a bit of a cry-baby when it's too hot and sunny. So a nice, sleepy rainy day is a good day for doing the outdoors thing in my book. Last time I was there in the rain we had the place to ourselves, practically, and we lounged all afternoon. They even put on the Twin's game for us. And, the rain keeps you nice and cool on the long bike ride over. Plus, drizzly and overcast approximates the authentic oysters from the oyster bed experience you get in Northern Californi, anyway, so it has that going for it. And Minnehaha Falls is nice and gushing and the park is at its greenest when it's raining.

                But, there are other times I go, too--like, at odd hours on Memorial weekend where the Twin Cities empties out because everyone's up at their lake cabins and such. It's hard to define when an "odd hour" is, but whenever I think the Cities seem particularly empty or the weather is just a bit off (for everyone else): that's when I think--hey, let's go to Sea Salt!


              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                Why make excuses for bad food? Even if something has to be flown in "2000 miles", if you are serving seafood, why not try to serve it fresh and make it the best possible? Why shouldn't a restaurant serve something "the same [if not better} as buying them and shucking them yourself at the oyster farm". That is what restaurant are for! I am constantly amazed that doing a "decent job" keeps restaurants here a float.
                I couldn't agree more with the posters who thought the food was bad. We waited 40 minutes and all the fish was fishy.

                1. re: kbgray

                  I'm not making excuses for bad food. I think the oysters in particular at Sea Salt are good and are fresh.

                  Just because you've not shucked it yourself at the farm, and therefore it is not as good as shucked-at-the-farm, does not mean it's bad. That's like saying all strawberries you eat at restaurants are bad bcause the strawberries you pick yourself at the farm are better.

                  I think a lot of people from the Midwest ( including from Chicago) have this fantasy that people on the coasts are eating substantially fresher oysters than you can get at Sea Salt. I think, for the most part, Sea Salt's oysters have only been out of their beds longer than about a day. I don't think that's a significant difference when you're talking about oysters as I explain in my post below.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Not a fantasy. I lived in Newport, RI for three years and am now forever spoiled when it comes to seafood since I do know the difference. Granted, yes, many places on the coasts serve no fresher, but when you live right on the coast in a seafood town and know your sources there is a major difference.

                    1. re: Davydd

                      I called the source. They told me the difference is about a day.

                      I'll never get into a pissing match over who lived closer to the "source" as a means of knowing or not knowing something because there will always be people who know more than me and people who know less than me. It just seems pointless to me. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/541245


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        A day is a day and that does make a big difference especially in sea food. Dig clams on the beach and have a clam bake right on the beach or snorkel for your lobster and you might understand. Yes, corn picked and shucked a minute before going in the pot is going to be better than anything you can get in the store providing of course it is quality corn. I've never tasted store bought strawberries as good as I picked in La Crescent last month. Cherries picked near Harbor Springs, MI last week can't be bought in a Minneapolis supermarket. When you experience it then you know.

                        I have nothing against Sea Salt and it may be as good as you are going to get in the Midwest. It is relative but don't assume it may be as good as you can get anywhere. Like I said, it is not a fantasy. It is a fantasy believing you are getting the best there is. Sea Salt is unique in the Midwest. Kudos for that. I am not sure you can get the equivalent in any other Midwest city. At least I have not heard of an equivalent. But I would prefer sitting on the wharf in a New England or Middle Atlantic town and sampling fresh caught that day and would prefer to pursue that opportunity. Just the smell of the sea makes that much difference.

                        1. re: Davydd

                          I disagree. Oysters are transported live, unlike certain other kinds of seafood. If handled properly I believe they can be exceptionally good for several days after having been farmed and when I called and spoke to the folks at Coastal (who supplies Sea Salt) and then to the folks at Hog Island (who supplies Coastal) I was told the difference was about a day to get them here.

                          My point was that there is obviously no substitute for shucking the oysters yourself right at the farm as I personally have done at Hog Island dozens of times [hmmm...have been thinking about this stat; am editing down from "dozens" to "easily over a dozen times"] over the past 6-7 years. So, yes, just like the best strawberries are the ones you pick yourself, so are are the best oysters. But, strawberries start a rapid decline immediately, whereas oysters do not. Even so with strawberries, I think it's unreasonable to say that all strawberries that you didn't pick out of the field yourself are bad. On the contrary, I think there's a small window of time within which the strawberries will still be outstanding if handled properly, and I think the same of oysters. Surely we must think that of all kinds of highly perishable foods or none of us would eat at any restaurants at all, except those located in the middle of the field. And, I'd hate to eat at that restaurant where they'd have to butcher the cow right in the middle of the strawberry patch so there was no degradation or time elapsed whatsoever between harvesting and cooking. Obviously freshness matters, but there are certainly some parameters within professionals who know what they are doing can successfully work.

                          So when people say the oysters they get at Sea Salt are bad simply on the principle of it, or because we can't get good oysters here, I say hog wash, or, more appropriately, Hog Island wash. And if you're so jazzed out by the oysters, then by all means, order the catfish. Sea Salt makes a great catfish po boy.

                          Photo of Hog Island's oyster farm attached. I'd attach some photos of some actual oysters, oyster shucking, and oyster grilling, but, unfortunately, those photos all have recognizable people in them.

                          P.S. davydd, I admire and share your passion for the smell of the sea. :).


                          1. re: Davydd

                            I haven't read all the posts yet, but wanted to mention that there is another similar option to Sea Salt, right here in the Twin Cities. It's called the Tin Fish Refectory, located in the old refectory on Lake Calhoun. (http://www.thetinfish.net/LC-MN/index...) I haven't been there, but it might be interesting for people who dislike Sea Salt to try it and compare the two.

              3. As a Sea Salt lover, I think some of these critiques are ridiculous. First, guess what, the fish isn't fresh. We live in MN, fish must be flown here. It is NEVER going to be as good as the seafood on the coast. If you expect it to be, you just shouldn't eat it. You are not going to get fresher seafood anywhere in this state.

                Second, "horrible rock music." Seriously? To some people, like me, we think "awesome rock music." You just sound like an old 'get off my lawn' man when you say that.

                Now, warm oysters and bad food is not okay, nor is bad attitudes by the staff. I agree completely. But, everytime I've gone we have gotten large, cold, tasty oysters, beautiful po' boys and excellent catfish. The service has been cheerful and we were served beer in line while we waited.

                And the price is high. But the fish is flown in from the coasts daily. That's expensive. Go to Costal Seafoods or the Oceanaire, they also get thier fish flown in, and it is expensive. You pay because we are in the middle of the country.

                24 Replies
                1. re: churchka

                  Go churchka, go!

                  Ha! I would argue that in same cases the seafood at Coastal Seafoods/Sea Salt is fresher than you'd get on the OTHER coast after it was shipped over "fly over" country en route... Or, than at a little farther down the same coast if it was driven there, or, even waiting a little while to be flown down the coast. Honestly, if it's handled properly, and I believe that the Coastal Seafoods folks know what they're doing, it really doesn't take that long to fly it to MN (the flight itself is only 3-4 hours, so, layer on top of that inspection and transport to and from the airports, etc. but, still, we're not talking about shipping it halfway across the globe) from one of the coasts.

                  P.S. I'm afraid I do disagree with you on one point, though. I still do think the music is too loud. I'm not questioning the choice of music, but sometimes it is so loud it's nearly impossible to have a conversation. And that's a long time to listen to loud music if you have to wait in line 30 minutes just to order...


                  1. re: churchka

                    I love it churchka. The other day I stopped in to refill my water bottles on a bike ride and Loverboy's Greatest Hits came on. I haven't heard that in forever. The staff was all smiles (especially when "Everybody's Working for the Weekend" came on) and I had "Turn Me Loose" rocking in my head for the next 25 miles. I guess some folks' "horrible rock music" is someone else's trip back to childhood.

                    It was a beautiful Sunday evening, the long line moved fast and everyone was having a great time.

                    I'm always disappointed when people don't like a place I do. I respect all the opinions posted and feel bad for those folks especially if my posts have influenced them to a place they ended up hating.

                    That said, the effort/time spent by the OP to post extremely scathing complaints in multiple places on the internet makes me wonder if there isn't some other motive involved.

                    But for what it is, and with clear expectations set, I won't stop sending people there.

                    1. re: churchka

                      Churchka, I can't back you up on the topic of the music volume.

                      It's not okay -- even when it's music I like -- when the counter staff can't hear me well enough to take my order. Whether my tastes are cool enough to hang with you and MSPD is irrelevant when my dining companions can't hold a conversation. And coolness is even farther off the mark when other clients are noticeably uncomfortable as they wait in line, unable to escape the noise level.

                      Along MSPD's lines of knowing the expectations, I won't recommend it to anyone with a sensitivity to background noise or to folks who want to catch up in conversation.

                      1. re: KTFoley

                        For the record, I actually consider myself quite uncool.

                        And you're spot on...not at all a place for quiet conversation. I hope some of my tongue-in-cheekness was evident in the first part of my post above. I'm actually finding this whole thread pretty sad.

                        1. re: MSPD

                          Me, too, because I really do love the place -- yet still have to be pretty frank with myself about when & how it works best. Like any other restaurant, yes?

                          Would also like to add that I have only good things to say about the crew there. My mini-rant is just for the music volume, knowing full well that it's my task to let somebody know if it bothers me. Again, like any other restaurant.

                          ... and cyclists ARE cool even if the "form over function" clothing is as geeky as it gets.... :)

                          1. re: KTFoley

                            Part of my frustration about the attitudes of the staff have to do with how they respond (or don't) to complaints about the volume of the music, actually...


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Git off my lawn!!
                              Seriously though I like it for what it is, a snack shack in a city park. I like that the interior is all about the staff, as they do so much volume in hot conditions, some blaring rock (regardless of quality) can really help keep the plates moving. If it is too noisy inside, go outside.

                              I cannot imagine what good prices/quality is for some of the haters though?

                              1. re: bigchow

                                Yeah, I'm seriously turning into my mother.

                                I love the snack-shackness of it and that I can ride my bike there and feel comfortable lounging about with my beverage and not worry that I'm interrupting everyone's else meal because I'm all sweaty in my bike clothes. I think it's a fantastic venue.

                                The problem with your recommendation of "if it's too noisy inside, just go outside" is that sometimes you have to wait in line for a half hour just to place your order and, unfortunately, the waiting to place your order must be done inside. I'm not saying the place has to be a library, I'm saying it would be nice if they turned the music down just a smidge, so you can converse with your dining companions while waiting in line.


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Wear earplugs and practise sign language.....C'est dommage re the noise. There is lots of noise in modern urban life. Get over it. If you want quiet go to Stella's or some other quiet, civil little, white tablecloth place and enjoy your meal. If you want fast, fresh, and informal go to Sea Salt. Easy

                                  1. re: cheleb

                                    Well, simplistic at least. There are multiple posters here pointing out that their experience was neither fast nor fresh. If you've lucked out every time you've been, then bully for you.

                                    There's a lot of ignorance about sound levels and the damage excessive sound causes to eardrums. Slowly though, people are starting to learn more about this issue.

                          2. re: MSPD

                            I'm glad you clarified the tongue-in-cheekness in your post, MSPD, as I confess, I missed it the first time I read it. (Hazards of reading too quickly, I suppose).

                            I have to say, I haven't encountered a really long, unbearable line at Sea Salt in about a year (including most of last season). As I said, part of it is that I time my visits carefully to avoid "peak" hours, but, I pretty much do that for every restaurant. I'm an impatient person in general and don't really like to wait too long when there are so many great places in town to eat.

                            It makes me sad, too, when people don't like the places I love, but I'm glad people feel comfortable expressing their well-thought out opinions about a place, even if I disagree with them. The diversity of opinion is what makes chowhound interesting. It's also how I learn some things that I didn't know or may have overlooked or whatever.

                            But, I agree, setting expectations is key.

                            I really do wish they'd turn the music down a smidge at Sea Salt.

                            EDIT: P.S. I don't understand the "Sea Salt is too expensive criticism." I think it's quite competitively priced. Look at the price of the Walleye sandwich or Walleye Basket at Tavern on Grand, for instance (both 10.95) http://www.tavernongrand.com/ I don't really see how Sea Salts sandwiches or fried fish baskets are priced so much worse than that. The fried fish (not walleye) basket at Sea Salt is $8.95, two bucks under the walleye basket at Tavern on Grand. Seems about right considering one is walleye and one isn't. Sea Salt's haddock, shrimp and catfish sandwiches are all $9.95, again, priced about a buck under Tavern on Grand's walleye sandwich at 10.95. About right, I'd say. Sea Salt's Oyster po boy is $14.95 compared to Tavern on Grand's walleye sandwich, about four dollars more. A smidge high, but, again, not awful considering oysters typically command a bit of premium, even on the coasts, and have to be shipped (and handled carefully) from afar...


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                I'll agree with that.

                                I've only ever eaten oysters and po'boys (and pitchers of Surly) there on the 3 or 4 occasions we've been, and the prices for those items are what they are for the same or similar product elsewhere in the city. Hell, the oysters are actually $1.00 - $.50 cheaper than Oceanaire, Barbette, Salut, or Lurcat.

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  $17.00 for a half dozen lack luster oysters is more than a smidge high. And a $15.00 catfish basket is just wrong. I think I've said my piece here but let me just warn everyone who hasn't yet been to Sea Salt. Stay away unless you enjoy over paying for ambiance because where it really matters (the food) this joint falls flat. I wonder how long this place lasts after they do away with the falls? My guess is not very long.

                                  1. re: EricShawnSmith

                                    Perhaps for Nantucket, but re-read my post. Where are you getting oysters for less than this in Minneapolis?

                                    Lurcat $3.50per
                                    Barbette: $3.00per
                                    Oceanaire: $3.50 - $5.00per
                                    Stella's $2.25 - $2.50per

                                    Anyway, you get it. I will not disagree regarding the quality as I have had both good and not good oysters @ Sea Salt, however the price is in line with cost, depending on they're overhead. Not sure what rent looks like in that pavilion and the fact they're open 5 months of the year...but yeah.

                                    1. re: Foureyes137

                                      Oooo! Stella's has one oyster for $2.25 per.

                                    2. re: EricShawnSmith

                                      I don't quite understand why Sea Salt's catfish basket is $15--I'm assuming it's because of the quantity of catfish in that basket, which is one pound. I've never ordered it, though, so, I can't really say whether I think it's reasonable or not.

                                      Is a pound of catfish is a lot? (I just can't visualize it right now)

                                      RE: $16.95 for a half dozen broiled oysters. I guess the extra buck ninety-five you pay at Sea Salt for a half dozen oysters compared to the $15 you'd pay right at the farm there at Hog Island Oyster Company in Bodega Bay just north of San Francisco is the price of shipping and handling. http://www.hogislandoysters.com/templ...

                                      But I agree, $16.95 would be too much for lackluster oysters. But, if I ordered that and they were lackluster, I'd refuse them. But, I've never had that experience at Sea Salt, thankfully, which is why I continue to eat there and recommend it to others, with caveats about the noise and the possibility of a long wait. I don't dispute your experience EricShawnSmith (may I just call you Eric?), but I have to say, I've never had that kind of experience at Sea Salt. Perhaps that has to do with the way I time my visits when they aren't swamped--but, I just don't know.

                                      Anyway, different strokes for different folks.


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        And, P.S. I really need to remember to add one more caveat when I recommend Sea Salt and that's to make sure people don't go expecting a full-service restaurant. It's almost more of a snack shack than a restaurant, really, and that's hard to communicate to people who've never seen the venue...


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Catfish is going up in price because the cost of catfishfood has gotten so high that many cat fish farms are emptying the ponds and shutting down. The industry in the south has been devastated.


                                          As for those that have had bad experiences at Sea Salt I am sorry for you but at least my line may be a little shorter next time. I am not worried about them going out of business anytime soon.

                                          I do think their service regularly seems disorganized and a little clueless. Sometimes it looks like they send a van down to the youth shelter and ask "who wants to work today? " In many respects I kind of hope it is something like that.

                              2. re: churchka

                                This is for churchka since my last post was removed by the lovely staff here at chowhound (keep up the good work guys).Of course everyone knows Sea Salt's fish isn't fresh hence the recent backlash. We all know a restaurant in Mn can't compete with those on the coast. I myself however have had fresher and tastier seafood from the following places. Manning's, Red Lobster (seriously),Stella's, Kincaid's, I could go on but I think you got the idea after Red Lobster. My last visit to Seasalt I received warm flegmy oysters and a limp and tastless fish basket. The lone highlight was a pitcher of Summit beer and I for the life of me can't believe they even got that right.

                                1. re: EricShawnSmith

                                  are you talking about the shrimp platter at mannings being better than sea salt? i guess i find that very hard to believe. it's not like they serve any other seafood, so the comparison is pretty silly imo.

                                  your post makes it sound like all of the fish in msp is driven from maine in the back of a pickup truck instead of being flown in fresh several times daily. do you think all the msp sushi places are serving 1 week old fish? the idea that no restaurant in mn could compete with anything on "the coast"-- (do you mean left or right coast btw?) is ridiculous, but choosing a seasonally open seafood shack in a park to go up against permanent seafood restaurants in sf or nyc-- c'mon-- really?

                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    Actually I'm talking about Manning's Walleye dinner. It easily trumps anything I've had at Sea Salt. It doesn't sound to me like you have even been there so to me that is a bit silly. And you totally misunderstood the second part of my post but it's impossible to detect sarcasm on a message board.

                                    1. re: EricShawnSmith

                                      1) i've been to mannings (lived a 1 1/2 blocks away-- i was a regular), and i've been to sea salt (not a regular customer, it's off the track for me). it is hard to figure out which establishment you are referring to by:

                                      "It doesn't sound to me like you have even been there so to me that is a bit silly."

                                      2) you were commenting about freshness of sea salt's products and stated that any restaurant on "the coast" is superior to sea salt (or indeed any MN restaurant), i was assuming in terms of freshness of seafood. . . now it appears you're lumping freshwater fish in with seafood (how walleye would be fresher in nyc or sf is still beyond me, but okay. . .). my point is that i think it's important to compare apples to apples. nice that mannings has a walleye dinner that's up to snuff, but it's not a seafood restaurant by any stretch of the imagination, it's simply a neighborhood bar with a fried fish special. it's also not fair to compare sea salt to the oceannaire, or a permanent seafood restaurant on either of the coasts--it's a seasonal set up in a park-- so i don't get the kvetching about paper plates and a line on the weekend, etc. there are going to be pros and cons that come with establishments like this, if a customer can't deal with it it's not like there's nowhere else to go-- kind of like the state fair, yeah cheese curds are expensive, not served on china, and there are crowds. . . nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to eat fish and drink beer outdoors in a public park next to a waterfall while listening to "horrible rock music." sounds like a terrible ordeal which nobody should have to endure, though-- hey i know-- let's knock the fish shack down and replace it with a taco bell with no beer license.

                                      3) i don't think i even commented about the second part of your post. i wasn't there & didn't sample your oysters-- how should i contradict your own experience?

                                      i guess there are some things i would order at sea salt and some i would prefer to order at a place with real plates. i wouldn't order oysters at sea salt. i think it's totally possible to have a bad experience at this place, and it's possible to get some really good fresh fish too. the quality is up & down and you need to order carefully, same as any other non-chain seafood restaurant in town.

                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                        Almost all restaurant walleye in MN is from Canada and I would bet the majority of it has been frozen, even that which ends up in good restaurants.

                                        There is a lot of seafood on both coasts that is flown in. I'll bet you with few exceptions in major cities that the seafood at high end restaurants in Minneapolis is less than a days difference form the coasts and that the vast majority of middle market restaurants there is absolutly no difference in freshness if the restaurant is in California, New York or Chicago (insert your favorite midwest metropolitan area here).

                              3. this place is horrible. After a 1 hour wait to order last night and 30 minutes waiting for our food at a dirty table, which i can handle for truly delicious food, the food was so BAD! My fish sandwich was actually served on a stale grocery store hot dog bun, which was the only funny part of this pathetic restaurant.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: kramer1

                                  Ok-I need some answers from anyone who has posted on this thread. Many of the reviewers are from people whose opinions I trust from other threads (TDQ, KTFoley, FourEyes, etc)...and I have yet to experience Sea Salt..mainly because I am actually allergic to shellfish (at least the preservatives they are packed in) because when I'm out East, down in Florida or out in Cali--I can eat the shellfish like crazy (I bring that epi-pen, I do) and I get a smidge of the symptoms and then they dissipate and I am in heaven. Ranting now.

                                  I have wanted to take my best friend here, and other friends that have come in to MN for vacation-and I thought it'd be nicer, and less stuffy/feeling at all formal like I feel when I am off to Kincaids, M & S Grill, etc. --- but now I'm really hesitant. (I can still eat fresh fish products).

                                  In noting some of the opinions, I find it interesting that there are sooo many complaints about service and attitude. I think we all agree that it is for the chow itself, but considering how hard everyone works for their dollar-I care about the service-snack shack or black tie. When I'm in California-we know the surfer-service attitude and it's laid back and fun - but not rude and apathetic. Even though we expect great service at Nicollet Island, Vincents, Alma, 112... if the service continued to be poor-I don't think there are a lot of CH who would remain loyal-even after mild complaints. Now, i too-realize, I'm comparing apples to oranges--(Sea Salt to the Biggins here) but I don't want to be waiting in line for 30 minutes to get mediocre to potentially poor food, with super loud music and rude staff? If that were the case, I'd go to HH at Stella's and get better service.

                                  As for the expensive aspect, I have to agree with most on here. $60.00 sans alcohol (I'm guessing some drinks for the kiddies at least?) is pretty darn decent for 6 people--that's $10 a person including tax. And it's fresher seafood than you're getting elsewhere. While I agree it's not taking a week to get fresh fish--people in the midwest still have to pay higher prices for fresher seafood..just like those in the West pay more for dairy products.

                                  So, in making this even longer-here are my questions. (They may or may not have any effect at all on the big picture here...)

                                  When are most people going time wise? Lunch? Dinner? Weekdays, weekends?
                                  Is the ordering itself that takes the longest? Or the actual receiving of the food?
                                  As TDQ mentioned, do you order and then pick it up yourself? Or do you find a table (I have been to the Falls and know the SSE layout) and they bring it to you?
                                  When are most people going weather wise? I know it sounds corny--but if the people that are posting are eating in 90 degree, humid weather-there's a chance they're not going to represent the same 10 minute time span of eyeing, and enjoying those oysters, etc. as when TDQ goes on a cooler, slightly rainy day..not an excuse, but perhaps a potentially contributing factor to some of these lackluster reviews?

                                  I believe that for the most part, the guys at Coastal Seafoods knows what they are doing-but unless I am missing something, there really aren't any other places giving them good competition to compare it against either...is there? I'm not judging-since I plain don't eat shellfish in the Midwest due to the allergic reaction-but there is NOTHING that compares to right out of the water, onto my plate in Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, San Diego, or up in Monterrey. And I agree with individuals who claim that you cant really compare the two. While we try hard here in MN--there will be a slight decrease in quality and freshness.

                                  I am hoping for detailed answers to my questions-because I don't want to waste any of my friend's time if this place isn't worth it.

                                  1. re: snoboardbabe77

                                    Hi snoboardbabe--since I've given tons of opinions elsewhere in this thread, I'm just going to chime in with some of the facts. RE: ordering. You stand in line to order (which I've had take as long as 40 minutes, but not recently). Then, you give them your name and pay. They give you your beverages and then you go find a seat. They bring your food order out to you. I've had to wait up to 25 minutes for the food order to come out.

                                    Personally, (whoops--brace yourself for an opinion)--I think it's a great place to take visitors because then you can have a peek at the falls while you're there. Also, they rent bikes there (you know the surrey with the fringe kind?) which is kind of a kick if you want to make a day of it.

                                    I would eat the sea salt at Sea Salt ANY DAY over the chow anywhere on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco (except that I'm a sucker for Boudin's chowder in a sourdough bread bowl). Of course, I'd eat the chow from Half Moon Bay, Bodega Bay, or at Hog Island's outlet at San Franciso Ferry Plaza any day over Sea Salt... But, the last round trip ticket I bought to SF was $300 and that's a Sun Country red eye, so, I'm grateful that Sea Salt brings the chow to me, for a small premium, so that I don't have to shell (no pun intended) $300, rent a car, and drive to Bodega Bay for some decent oysters.


                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Whoops, I meant to say, I would eat the CHOW at Sea Salt any day over the chow at anywhere on Fisherman's Wharf...


                                    2. re: snoboardbabe77

                                      I've found that 75% of the wait time is in line, with the remainder waiting for the food.

                                      I've had very good food experiences and not so good, nothing terribly bad, but I HIGHLY suggest not going on a Sunday, especially later in the day, because all of the "fresh" seafood is gone and all that remains are frozen items they have on hand.

                                  2. Sea Salt is an extremely disappointing place to eat. One would anticipate that at the end of an hour long wait, the food would be amazing or at least palatable. I ordered the shrimp po'boy and my friend had the fish sandwich. My po'boy was flavorless and left a bad taste in my mouth for several hours afterwards. Her sandwich was served on a stale hot dog bun. It's a shame that a place with such a great setting serves such horrible food.

                                    1. I come down in the middle on Sea Salt. I like the concept and being able to eat in the park. Some of the food I've had there has been pretty good (but not great). I'm frustrated by the menu, which doesn't really describe any of the specials (and the long line to order discourages asking questions). It would be much improved for me if they upgraded to real silverware and plates (less flimsy and likely to blow away on a breezy day) and put some effort into the condiments, sides, and buns.

                                      1. I like the Sea Salt. I think the food is good. I accept the wait as part of the experience. If I don't want to wait, I go somewhere else on a weekend evening. I love the fried oysters. I like the po boys. I would like to request more vegetables of some kind - any kind - to go with my fish. Are you reading this, Sea Salt dudes? More veggies please!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Cassandra

                                          I love Sea Salt-especially the calamari tacos. I usually do go at a funny time, like two or three in the afternoon. I think about it as going to Minnehaha Falls for an outing or hike, and if there is no wait, or less than five people in line and tables available, then we go for the Sea Salt experience as a bonus to our day. Otherwise we just call it a day, or get some ice cream. I don't have the patience to wait in that line-it makes me crabby.

                                        2. My wife and I biked out to Sea Salt this Wednesday and had a really pleasant lunch. The fish tacos were of the classic Tapatio "two-small-tortillas + onions + cilantro" variety and at $5, a really decent buy. The crab cake was surprisingly moist and flavorful. Service was friendly, the wine was good, the outdoor dining space was incredibly pleasant. It's one of the few places in the Cities that reminds me of Madison's Memorial Union Terrace, which is my favorite outdoor dining venue in the world.

                                          That said: the music was loud enough that I was bitching (inaudibly) about it throughout the wait. I like loud music. I go to shows, crank up the Replacements / Modest Mouse / Pixies / at home, whatever. But there's no need for 85 decibels of rock when you're standing around waiting to order lunch. Everything has a proper time and place.

                                          Speaking of which, I don't tend to eat oysters unless I'm on the East or West coast. Call it pure prejudice (and I'm sure Oceanaire does a great job), but the oysters I've had at even reputable Midwestern joints like Barbette leave something to be desired. So I'm not at all shocked to hear Sea Salt oysters talked down -- makes sense.

                                          1. For those who have said they wouldn't eat the oysters at Sea Salt and haven't tried them, I honestly think this is a mistake. I worry that you might be denying yourself (and your readership) the opportunity for some great chow.

                                            When Dara interviewed the Sea Salt team awhile back, they told her that, because of their long-standing relationship with Coastal Seafoods, they get first pick of every shipment that Coastal gets in (fifth paragraph page 2). http://articles.citypages.com/2006-07... I guess that would even make it ahead of the exhaulted, premium-priced Oceanaire, which Dara says works with Coastal Seafoods to get its specialty items. http://www.citypages.com/2005-06-01/r...

                                            So, assuming you trust Coastal Seafoods' sourcing, the odds that whatever Sea Salt is getting from them is pretty darn good and has been handled well. Coastal Seafoods told me they get their oyster shipments 2-3 times a week from the West and East coasts. I asked him how long it had been since those oysters had been farmed. He told me four days. I called Hog Island Oyster Farm in Bodega Bay, CA (specifically mentioned in Dara's article on Sea Salt) who ships their product all over the country, including flying it over us all the way to the East Coast, and she told me that 3 days is what they recommend and is realistic, but that five days is still very good (obviously 1 is ideal), so, what Coastal is getting is certainly well within the "very good" range. Sea Salt gets the first pick of that, which puts it a smidge ahead of Oceanaire, bless its expense-account little heart.

                                            As long as they know how to handle live oysters, and I think Coastal Seafoods people and the Sea Salt people, having worked for Coastal for so many years, do, I think Sea Salt's oysters are as fresh or fresher than you'd expect to get most places in the Midwest (thank Northwest airlines and the MSP hub for that) and even some places on the coasts (Have you done that drive from Bodega Bay to San Francisco? That gnarly traffic would put the whole unweave the weave on 35E to shame). Oysters are shipped live, right? Ideally, you'd want the ones that had been awakened and plucked from their briny little beds yesterday or the day before, but if you're getting a shipment of oysters that were farmed 4 days ago and you get those shipments every two to three days, then the oysters are going to be no more than a week old. You can keep oysters alive for a couple of weeks, as long as you handle them appropriately, and in this case, it would seem like Sea Salt's oysters barely reach a week old.

                                            And the point about Sundays being when Sea Salt drags the frozen fish out, well, first of all, I haven't seen them do that; nevertheless that wouldn't apply to oysters anyway...

                                            I would say oysters should be the one thing you DO order at Sea Salt. If you haven't tried them, I think you should.

                                            P.S. I also agree with the point one of the newcomers (welcome to Chowhound!) made somewhere up-thread that they could do a better job of clearing the tables at Sea Salt. True, true. Again, I think it's important to keep in mind that this is not a full-service restaurant. At least, that's what I keep telling myself as I grumble (to myself, course, as no one could hear me over the music anyway); wipe down my own table; enjoy my beverage while wearing my obnoxious spandex bike shorts and keeping a watchful eye on my bike chained to the railing; and appreciate the low, low prices and the lovely park setting while waiting for my food.


                                            1. Well, since we're piling on, and I have a feeling that the People Who Matter read this (they do link to this board on the Sea Salt Website), I'll add my two cents.

                                              We're chowhounds.

                                              We've all been dumpier places than Sea Salt. (Uh... Saigon?)

                                              We've also waited in longer lines. (Big Daddy's anyone?)

                                              My issue is with inventory control. I can deal with loud music. I can deal with long lines. What I can't deal with is waiting on line for 45 minutes thinking, "Waiting in this line sucks, but it will all be better once I sink my teeth into that Dish X" - only to see Dish X covered by the dreaded "OUT" post-it with only a few customers in line in front of me.

                                              There's not a more dissapointing restaurant feeling than The Sea Salt Sell-Out. It sucks, and I'm not taking it any more. They've been open long enough that they should be able to somewhat predict demand.

                                              If they can't get that right, I'm not going back.

                                              1. Setting is a lot about what makes Sea Salt feel special, certainly not the food. The park has a sacred air about it (probably the ions from the falls). Sea Salt's counter staff and food runners are always friendly and personable. The kitchen staff has a "too cool for school" air about them, and on a hot day none of them are really sweating, which may be part of the reason the service is so slow. The menu is too broad to be executed properly. The kitchen equipment to cooks to menu ratios are not well synchronized. This is definitely a case study for a equipment/kitchen designer and chef to collaborate on the issue of through put and quality. It's crippled in its current state, but still a lot charming. A fresh local beer under an oak tree, with enough time to let your appetite get torqued up, and the food goes down fairly painlessly.

                                                1. No one has mentioned the clam fries. Yum. Also, the fried fish basket (as opposed to the catfish basket) is not so expensive and quite generous and is made up of whatever fish looked good that day, fried well. The service is quirky, usually friendly but sloooow. Grab a beer (Furious) and people/dog watch. Re: Danny. I think one way they can keep things tasting fresh is that they don't make too much of one thing. I also avoid weekends. Had the green curry with shrimp the other day, and it was quite good. Not authentic, (not spicy enough nor aromatic enough), but still fresh tasting, with large and plentiful shrimp. I think the complaint about prices may stem from a disconnect between the snack shack look and setting and the resultant expectation for price. Now if they only made chips....

                                                  1. Just ate at Sea Salt for the first time today. (1 hour ago) Pretty terrible. Went at an "off" time. No line and plenty of seating. I ordered my Tilapia tacos and took a seat. After 10 minutes I got up to order a beer, accepting that I was in for a wait. Then when said beer was almost gone I got up to ask where my lunch might be. turns out the staff could not discern between a man and a woman and had given my lunch to a man and his lunch had been marched around the patios three times (after he was already gone as he had eaten my lunch--BTW his was an order of Fried fish tacos-not tilapia) I waited another 7 minutes for my food so approx a total of 35 minutes wait for a single taco order. then the tacos were pitifully small and without any taste what-so-ever. I added salt, hot sauce and lime just to make them taste like something. I am writing this as I prepare something else to eat for lunch. --will not go back and will warn others