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Fire and Ice. Thunder and Lightning. Wood…an...

Fire and Ice. Thunder and Lightning. Wood…and Salt?

Written and Photographed by LillyAnne Rice | @awriterwhoeats

You’ll see what I mean. Some things just go together, and you better believe that wood and salt are some of those things.

I recently returned to Wood and Salt Tavern on Atlantic for the third time, although all three visits have been under very different circumstances. The first time, in fact, the location was a sushi spot. The second time, it was during Wood and Salts’ September 2020 grand opening week, made a little less grand by COVID-19, but still grand all the same.

This third time, I was pleased to discover things had changed yet again. Indoor dining was open for business, a new patio had been added to the back, and, like the main mechanism they use for cooking, their food was still fire.

This particular location, where the name Wood and Salt now hangs its hat, has lived many lives. A sushi joint, another aforementioned sushi spot, a gastropub, a Mexican food establishment, a French eatery – nothing stuck. Unsurprisingly, Bixby Knoll locals began to call the spot cursed.

So, when Wood and Salt moved in, you can only imagine that people looked at with raised yet hopeful eyebrows. But the owner was taking no chances. Like any professional restaurant connoisseur would, he gave the place a nice, proper saging, fighting that supposed curse with a taste of its own medicine.

Speaking of taste – the food. Whether you believe in a curse, or whether you believe a restaurant simply needs good food to survive, the answer is always: good food.

The focus here is on handmade pasta, along with seafood, and meat prepared on their wood fired grill.

I started with the charred corn croquetas, which are business in the front (crispy, crunchy) and party in the back (savory, creamy, and delightful once you bite in). I was also treated to the Santa Carota beef tartare. If you’re like me, you’re not accustomed to such exquisite (yet surprisingly affordable) cuisine, so I’d say try it at least once. It’s served up looking like the work of a fine architect, topped with crispy baby artichokes, smoked egg yolk, capers, and chives.

The same architecture comment applies to the red & gold beet salad, a cheesy and zesty mix that’s like biting into the sun, if the sun were served cold and carefully curated by a chef.

We then moved on from the enticing prelude to the stars of the show – the handmade pasta and the woodfire grill. I could taste the painstaking work that went into each pillowy lobster ravioli square. It’s rich, bright, and accented with balsamic vinegar.

Then, the grand finale: Beeler’s Farm bone in pork chop, made in the wood fired grill. The fire that powers the grill is reminiscent of the fire that I’d light while camping, except instead of heating up a packet of top ramen and chicken, it’s an artful combination of baby sweet potato, cipollini agrodolce (balsamic glazed cipollini onions, for us laymen) and hazelnut picada (hazelnut blended with lemons, salt, and olive oil, for us again). The result is a balanced, flavorful blend of herbs and expertly prepared meat that’s way beyond glamping level status.

I also cannot fail to mention the actual plates themselves that you receive your food on. They’re an eclectic mix of vintage China. One matched a plate in my own home that my mom proudly thrifted – made in England. I asked the owner where he came up with that treasure – also thrifted. All their dishes are locally hand-picked, creating a homey, cozy experience that you can’t help but sink into, which I’d recommend to Long Beach locals and out of towners alike.

I myself am from out of town, but work takes me to this city often. Honestly, if you took a quarter to my skin and scratched me like I was a gas station lottery ticket, you’d probably find 562 underneath. And the main prize would be food, glorious food.

So, thank you for letting me be part of your city, and your dazzling, expansive food scene. I’d tell you to direct your complaints to my address out of town, but I know you wouldn’t want to travel that far. For now, just head on over to Wood and Salt.


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