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Jul 9, 2008 10:28 AM

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.


                        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. ( I haven't been there, but it might be interesting for people who dislike Sea Salt to try it and compare the two.