Monday, September 30, 2019

First Look: Salt Traders in Zilker is Open!

I generally shy away from new restaurants the first couple of months they are open for obvious reasons. But Mad Betty strongly suggested the just-opened Salt Traders next to Zilker Park for our Friday night happy hour, as she has loved their original location in Round Rock. Yet another brainchild of owner/chef Jack Allen, Salt Traders is all about coastal life. And proves to be very sea worthy.

They took an old steak house on the east frontage road of Mopac at Bee Caves in that tree-lined office park with the IHOP and transformed it. (The southwest side of Zilker, past the Botanical Gardens.) Lots of windows, full of light, lots of light-colored wood accents. The bar at the front is three-sided, and the television was mounted on the interior header so as not to be a distraction to those in the dining area (genius!).
Salt Traders Zilker interior
You can sort of see the bottom edge of the television from where were sitting but I was thrilled it wasn't mounted on the outside of that header piece.
Salt Traders sources sustainable seafood from around the American coastlines, with a keen eye on the Gulf Coast. For the non-seafood eaters, there are burger, steak, and chicken offerings, but clearly the stars of the menu are the fruits of the sea.

We got there just before 5 pm on Friday, which might have been their second official full day of business, and we were lucky to snag a table when we did.  Fortunately were were seated on the far wall, opposite the door but we could soon see people starting to pile up around the entrance.  We took advantage of their lovely happy hour specials.
Salt Traders Zilker cocktails
The Grapefruit Rita and Dripping Springs Vodka Lemonade.
Salt Traders Zilker chowda fries
Chowda Fries. OH MY! Basically clam chowder poured over fries. YES, more please! 
Salt Traders Zilker snapper collar
Snapper collar with slaw and tartar sauce. You do have to pick at it a little, but the flesh falls right off and was very tasty. 
Salt Traders Zilker mussels
These mussels were done with fennel and tomato and had a luxurious broth that we wanted to drink.
Salt Traders Zilker hush puppies
Hush puppies were dense but not at all greasy.
Salt Traders Zilker key lime tartlet
This key lime tartlet was the one miss for me. Very little key lime flavor, the crust was over-toasted and completely fell apart as a fork got near it. I did provide constructive feedback to our waitress who said she would notify the kitchen. A friend of mine went the night before we did and had the coconut cheesecake mousse, which she said was excellent. But for this to be the only miss at a restaurant during opening week, I'll take it!
Given Jack Allen's experience in the restaurant world (aka Captain of the Ship), it's no real surprise that Salt Traders has started out on the top of their game from the get go. Service from the wait staff was excellent and apart from the key lime tart, all of the food was great and are items I will order again. They are open daily from 11 am - 10 pm, and won't even need the excess traffic from Austin City Limits music festival the next two weekends, as I think they'll be packed as it is.

A very welcome addition to the area, and I imagine Salt Traders will stay afloat for a long time.