Chef Alex Stratta’s Take on Southern Cooking—Salt ‘N Pepper
Just days after Chef Alex Stratta shuttered his Tapas by Alex Stratta in Tivoli Village, the renowned chef reopened the restaurant with a new name and concept. The new name, Salt ‘N Pepper Southern Comfort Bar & Grill, explains it all and represents simplicity and the only type of seasoning needed for the Southern comfort food dishes. Regarding the transition from Tapas, Chef Stratta said, “Although Tapas did well, I thought we missed the mark, as the concept’s appeal didn’t quite fit our demographic, both in style and pricing.”
Chef Stratta’s resume lists accolades that would fill several pages, including having been honored with the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef Southwest in 1998; while at Alex at Wynn Las Vegas landed two Michelin stars, a AAA Five Diamond Award and Five Stars in the Mobil Travel Guide; and defeated Chef Marcus Samuelsson on the Iron Chef USA TV program in 2011. Chef is definitely not afraid to delve into new cuisines, and as he’s known to do, Chef Stratta researched everything while managing not to complicate it. The result is dishes done with finesse and simplicity, with extra touches such as toasting all the spices used. Chef Stratta said, “I want to have fun and replicate dishes as authentic as possible, while keeping it simple.”
Chef’s finesse shows in the menu, with fried pickles with spicy ranch dressing nicely done with just the right amount of spice and batter that doesn’t fall off; warm honey butter biscuits with molasses; and the very addicting breaded and fried mac ‘n cheese bites. The apple and pecan salad with goat cheese is a meal in itself and at only $7 quite a bargain. My favorite was the smothered fried pork chops topped with collard greens, kale and a white bacon gravy and served with homemade cornbread. You don’t get any more Southern than that! Also, you can’t go wrong with the fried chicken ‘n sweet potato waffles, which is accompanied by maple syrup and a honey hot sauce for dipping. The sweet potato waffles are for sure unique and provide just the right amount of sweetness and grainy texture. Finishing touches are a banana pudding, red velvet cake, sweet potato pie with maple whipped cream and lemon meringue ice box pie with graham cracker crust.
The drink menu has plenty of Southern charm, with cocktails such as S ‘N P Lynchburg Lemonade made with lemonade, Jack Daniels and a splash of ginger beer and Eva’s Mint Julep with Jim Beam, Apple Whiskey, Honey Whiskey and infused mint syrup.
As for the prices, I can’t imagine going anywhere and being able to experience a world renowned chef’s mastery at the price points you’ll find here. Most of the appetizers run $4-$9, sides are all $6, burgers and sandwiches are $8-$13 and main courses are $12-$18. And, portions are large enough that there’s no chance you’ll be leaving hungry.
The Smashed Pig Now Open in Fremont East Entertainment District
Martin Swift and Linda Rodriguez have opened The Smashed Pig at 509 Fremont St., sandwiched in between The Griffin and Flippin’ Good Burgers. The husband-and-wife team have some pretty good chops, having trained with Nobu Matsuhisa before working together at Hachi at Red Rock Resort. After nearly a yearlong hiatus in Paris, they have returned to grace our city with another of their ventures, this time their take on an English gastropub.
The 1,860-square foot space features a six-seat bar by the entrance with TVs that will be tuned to English Premier League soccer games. The dining room has a relaxed vibe, and is decked out with artwork, framed mirrors and shelves filled with knick knacks inspired by Swift’s English heritage.
Chef Swift utilizes his sushi training, offering a daily sashimi special, which during my visit was a spicy tuna poke. Who doesn’t like deviled eggs, and the ones here have a variety of textures and a unique presentation, with Italian-style breading and lightly fried. French bean tempura presents layers of flavors, with chipotle mayo, toasted almonds and kecap manis Indonesian sweet soy sauce. The shrimp sliders, offered only for lunch, have the consistency of crab cake and are good enough to make you want to dine early. The beer menu is worthy of the gastropub designation, with 20 choices including locally-brewed Joseph James Citra Rye and Tenaya Creek Hefeweizen. The dessert menu includes a sticky toffee pudding with whipped cream and caramel sauce, which is quite moist and one I prefer over that of a famous Scottish chef who has three restaurants on the Strip.