WASHINGTON — This summer, there’s no need to make the 12-hour trek to New England for a waterfront meal of lobster rolls, fried clams and blueberry pie.
Washingtonians can find it all just a few feet away from Nationals Park at The Salt Line, the latest business in a lineup of dining and shopping options to open along the Anacostia River in D.C.’s Southeast neighborhood.
At the new restaurant, chef and co-owner Kyle Bailey abandoned the meat-heavy menu he was known for at Birch and Barley and, instead, opted for a focus on seafood. A culinary trip through New England was the catalyst.
“I thought I was pretty familiar with the food [of New England], and then you get there and you get the steamers. It’s just the freshest, best seafood,” Bailey said.
“I ate so many lobster rolls, I ate so much chowder, just trying to get the feel for what New England was about.”
Inspiration for The Salt Line may stem from the culinary traditions of small coastal towns up north, but many of the menu’s ingredients come straight from local waters. In fact, Bailey is the first chef in the D.C. area to join the growing seafood sustainability program, Dock to Dish.
The organization, which initially launched in New York, operates like a CSA for restaurants and fishermen. Chefs pay a membership fee and, once or twice a week, receive a box of fresh, local seafood. Similar to a CSA where the bounty is based on the season, Dock to Dish deliveries are based on what’s caught that day, meaning often times, it’s a surprise.
Bailey says the mystery element has been a fun challenge — like when a box of eels showed up and he and his team had to research and experiment with different methods of preparation. Since becoming a member, he’s also received more familiar species, such as soft shell crabs.
“I’ve been cooking soft shell crabs since I was 14. I thought I knew what good was, but I’d never seen anything like this,” said Bailey, who added that the fresh catches delivered to the restaurant through Dock to Dish will be worked into the menu or end up as specials.
Bailey says the best part about Dock to Dish is cutting out the unnecessary steps it takes to get local seafood from the boat to the kitchen.
“We’re removing six or seven touches in the chain. We’re cutting all these middlemen out, who are just adding money to their pockets and adding days onto the product,” he said.
“It’s fast and the quality is unmatched.”
At The Salt Line, Bailey is also working with local oyster farmers and other sustainable seafood sources to round out the menu, which includes an impressive raw bar, as well as non-seafood options such as a barbecue half-chicken, a 22-ounce rib eye and a crispy farm egg on top of farro salad.
Diners can expect an expansive outdoor dining patio and bar — both of which overlook the water — plus plenty of beer and a robust cocktail program.
Tiffany MacIsaac of Buttercream Bakeshop, who also happens to be Bailey’s wife, designed the dessert menu, which includes a Maine blueberry pie, a banana split (with ice cream from D.C.-based Ice Cream Jubilee) and an indulgent Fluffernutter milkshake.
There’s no doubt the location will attract baseball fans before and after games (Nationals’ first-baseman Ryan Zimmerman is even an investor and part-owner of the restaurant, run by Long Shot Hospitality), but Bailey says the deck and dining room were built to accommodate both drinking and dinner crowds.
The Salt Line is now open at 79 Potomac Ave. SE, Washington, D.C.
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