When a restaurant deems the first day of the week "Moonshine Monday," it makes a favorable impression.
Riverside's Southern-style gastropub, The Salty Fig, is celebrating six months in business as a brick-and-mortar restaurant. It began amassing a following about a year ago as an upscale food truck serving Southern favorites like creole shrimp and cheese grits, ratatouille sliders and cochon de lait.
It's obvious that owners (and brothers) Jeff and John Stanford have put a lot of thought into the interior. The softly lit bar area features a long community table crafted from the restaurant's rafter wood. Exposed brick walls and high ceilings are found throughout, and there are some spots near the kitchen to watch the chefs in action.
While simple, the edamame tossed with hickory-smoked sea salt is oddly addictive, as are the crunchy homemade chips topped with a rich gorgonzola fondue, balsamic glaze and chives.
My go-to lunch is The Melt: basil pesto, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, peppery arugula and melted provolone pressed between two slices of buttered toast, accompanied by your choice of salad or fries.
Another favorite is blue pear salad: mixed greens, sweet d'anjou pear slices, juicy blueberries, Maytag blue cheese crumbles and slivered red onions, tossed in a tangy lemon thyme vinaigrette.
For dinner, start with a cup of the signature gumbo — it's thick, slightly spicy and full of okra, shrimp and Andouille sausage, then topped with rice and scallions.
Mayport shrimp, creamy stoneground goat cheese grits, Creole trinity (onions, peppers and celery) and New Orleans barbecue sauce make for a flavorful dish — and one of the best versions of this Southern specialty in town.
Consider ordering one of the daily specials Chef Jeff whips up. The recent lamb wontons were unforgettable: braised lamb shank with parsnip puree, butternut squash, shiitake mushrooms, arugula and a slightly sweet pear-port gastrique.
The can't-miss-it dessert, espresso "coffee and doughnuts," is a fun take on New Orleans beignets.
If you're thirsty, try a watermelon jalapeño margarita (the simple syrup is infused with fresh jalapeños) or the Dark Moon (Catdaddy moonshine, lemon, agave nectar, apple juice and ginger ale served in a Mason jar).
The Stanford brothers will soon offer at least one vegan option, as well as gluten-free items.
The Salty Fig is open daily for lunch and dinner and brunch on the weekends ($10 bottomless mimosas available 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays). Happy hour is 4-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and all day Monday, when moonshine cocktails are $6 and moonshine is half-price.