Saltie Girl

By Molly McDonough · 06/30/2017    Back Bay · Seafood · $$$

At Saltie Girl, meals begin quickly. The gentle marinating of sardines in lobster-infused grapeseed oil—that happened already, back in Brittany. Chefs here simply crank open the pretty Groix et Nature tin and place it on a platter with bread and a sprinkling of zingy accoutrements. Wash it down with a savory martini-esque Saltie cocktail with caviar and pickled onion—and voilà: utmost class.

Tinned mussels from Saltie Girl

That’s how meals should begin in one of America’s tinned fish-craze epicenters. Skeptical? Let go. Imagine you’re in Spain or Portugal, where tin connotes nothing negative. Goodbye, gray tuna steeped in briny water; hello, hand-packed mussels in escabeche sauce. This seafood isn’t stuffed into a can and then boiled—it’s been carefully cooked and then preserved, left to mature gracefully alongside Mediterranean ingredients: EVOO and lemon, sun-dried tomato and piquillo peppers, seaweed and squid ink.

Fundamentally, the best tinned fish is all about capturing the bounty of the sea when it’s in prime form—and the rest of Saltie Girl’s menu expresses the same philosophy. From yellowtail crudo with peak-season stone fruit and ponzu to deep-fried lobster over fluffy waffles, the menu does right by any sea creature. (Or landlubber; we’ve got nothing against that cube of marbled, dry-aged steak tartare, either.)

Interior of Saltie Girl

Owner-chef duo Kathy Sidell and Kyle McClelland may not have anticipated a deluge of Newbury Street tourists seeking out tinned sardines during chain-store shopping sprees—as a result, this spot squeezed into a side-street brownstone is just about as big as a submarine. And that’s okay. Leave the very large, very American-sounding bar-grill neighbors to everyone else. Arrive early, get on the list, and then dive into the best of the sea—whether it’s from across the ocean or our own little coast; whether it’s baked, fried, torched, smoked, raw, or tinned.

food from Saltie Girl

If you’re lucky, you’ll dine here when the giant five-pound ball of cultured butter is in stock. It’s made by Marisa Mauro at Ploughgate Creamery in Vermont. Order bread and cut off a hunk.

Those little bagels on the smoked fish platters get wolfed down fast. Feel free to ask for an extra (it costs $3).

  • No reservations accepted in this tiny place, where both tables and bar seats are on the same waitlist. But give your name and number to the friendly host before strolling down Commonwealth Avenue; they’ll give you a call.

Must Haves

  • We love La Brujula’s mussels in escabeche sauce, but we also don’t want you to pass on sardine or cockle options, either. Ask your knowledgeable server for suggestions.

  • This dainty-yet-meaty dish gets a silky sheen from truffle aioli and a quail egg, while Parmigiano Reggiano, brioche, and a healthy dose of marbling lend it a buttery boost.

  • From king salmon dusted in pistachio to red snapper in yuzu oil, you can't go wrong with any of these fresh, meticulously crafted choices on frequent rotation.

  • Nothing wrong with fresh deep-fried lobster, but the real star of the show is the corn butter: When it drenches the waffle, even those perfectly crisp batter edges stand no chance.

Fun Fact

In Australia, a “saltie” is a crocodile that lives in salt water—but we prefer the “salty” slang that arose in the 19th century, which refers to a racy, saucy lady.

Tastes of Saltie Girl

So good we can't stop writing about it. Read more about Saltie Girl!

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