Salt & Cleaver’s renovation

Posted: April 12th, 2013 | Communities, Food & Drink, Hillcrest, News, Top Story | No Comments

After extensive remodel, owners bring unique dining concept to Hillcrest

By Frank Sabatini Jr. | SDUN Reporter

A new Hillcrest restaurant that underscores many of the world’s favorite sausages is slated to open the week of April 15 in a dramatically redesigned space that formerly housed St. Tropez Bistro and, more recently, Cote Sud.

The week before opening, staff works tirelessly to complete renovations on the new Hillcrest space. (Photo by Anulak Singphiphat)

The week before opening, staff works tirelessly to complete renovations on the new Hillcrest space. (Photo by Anulak Singphiphat)

Stocked with a full bar featuring 20 beer taps, Salt & Cleaver is marked by an illuminated 600-pound wrought iron wall on its front patio along with backlit signage set against knotted timber.

“At night, you won’t be able to drive by without staring at it,” said co-owner Galen Zanetakos, who ran Liberty Pizza in Pacific Beach before developing Salt & Cleaver with two friends.

“I was getting tired of seeing so many burger places in San Diego,” he said in deciding with his partners on a restaurant model. The trio eventually ended on sausage. “It’s a concept that nobody else was doing,” he said.

The team recruited Chef Carlos SanMartano, who earned his culinary chops at San Diego’s high-profile Searsucker and Gabardine restaurants. His opening menu focuses on nearly 25 different types of sausages and several house-made mustards and sauces.

Char-grilled and served on various artisan buns, some of the sausages are original recipes, such as one made with claw and knuckle meat of locally trawled lobsters. Others encase rib eye steak, pork belly and chicken.

“I live, sleep and breathe food. I love to devise new recipes and try them out on my friends and family,” SanMartano said in a press release for the new restaurant.

The chef will augment his selection with sausages sourced from local, national and international purveyors. Toulouse sausage, made with pork, garlic and wine, will be imported from France. Diners will also find paprika-spiced Portuguese Linguiça, curry-infused Nuremberg-style bratwurst and smoked Cajun sausage.

“Sausage-making is one of the oldest forms of preserving meat. Every culture has its own versions,” Zanetakos said. “There’s a whole world of them out there that we’re tapping into.”

There will be vegetarian dishes available too, including a brown rice and eggplant sausage wrapped in cauliflower leaves.

Customers either build their own sausage sandwiches or choose from approximately six specialty sausages the chef pairs with specific toppings and breads, such as pretzel and steamed poppy seed buns. The array of garnishments includes spicy yellow peppers, sauerkraut, pickled mustard seeds and lemongrass-ginger relish assigned to the pork belly sausage.

Chef Carlos SanMartano (Courtesy Alternative Strategies)

Chef Carlos SanMartano (Courtesy Alternative Strategies)

Located at 3805 Fifth Ave., the 2,500-square-foot space received its makeover from Aaron Anderson of Studio Anderson Architects in Hillcrest. The award-winning designer has also put a fresh stamp on such local properties as Kensington Café, Vespa Motorsports and the former Aubergine nightclub.

For Salt & Cleaver, Anderson incorporated redwood, metal and brick for achieving a modern rustic motif, thus completely eradicating the previous faux-French bistro theme of past tenants. Among the prominent appointments is a 19-foot perforated metal light feature running the length of the bar, and a large steel-legged communal table constructed from barn wood.

“We’ve made the building stand out,” Zanetakos said, whose team invested “a solid six figures” into the business. “Eventually, we’d like to open more Salt & Cleavers in San Diego, and who knows, maybe someday go national with it.”

With the final City inspections nearly completed, he said, “We’re shooting to have the doors open on April 15.”

For more information visit or call 619-756-6677.

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