Kept under wraps for several months, Rick Erwin Dining Group has announced the name, menu, and leadership for its newest restaurant under construction at Haywood Mall.
Named Saltwater Kitchen, the new seafood restaurant will be under the leadership of executive chef Josh Thomsen, also exec of Rick Erwin’s Eastside, and general manager Mark McCalmont, coming from the group’s Level 10 rooftop restaurant in Spartanburg.
The name follows a naming trend RE Dining Group started with The Standard and Level 10, dropping the founder’s name for the most recent restaurants as the brand expands.
Saltwater Kitchen will be informal enough for the every day diner without sacrificing quality of service and food, says Michael Ivey, the dining group’s CFO and partner.
“It was never our intent to make this white linen concept fit in the mall,” Ivey said, referencing the formal dining style at Rick Erwin’s Eastside and most of the other locations during a tasting for the new menu.
Sales and marketing director Daniel Lovelace reiterated that Saltwater Kitchen would not be a divergence from their core strength of high quality service and experience while catering to a broader demographic.
Saltwater Kitchen is on track to open in the spring in the nearly 6,000-square-foot former Palmetto Moon retail space fronting the parking lot on the lower level, to the right of the mall entrance nearest the Apple Store.
Craig Gaulden Davis Architecture has designed the space to feel less like a restaurant in a mall and more like a destination with expansive outdoor patio bar with sailing and rigging-inspired details that flows into the interior space.
Architect Ed Zeigler said a main challenge was converting a shotgun retail space into a restaurant without disrupting the tenants above.
“We wanted to be bold but wanted to be really sophisticated,” he said.
The restaurant will have both an exterior and interior entrance into an open reception and bar area. To the right will be the all-weather patio and bar. To the left will be two distinct dining areas with large booths and banquettes as well as traditional tables that will allow for flexibility with larger groups.
The decidedly Southern menu will highlight chef Thomsen’s strength of showcasing fresh, seasonal ingredients in an approachable way.
Founder and owner Rick Erwin said the menu items, including sides, will total 30 or fewer, allowing for more creativity and quality control from the kitchen.
Thomsen has been working on the opening menu with the group’s corporate chef, Jason McCarthy, and said it’s about 90 percent complete.
A staple at all RE restaurants is in-house baked bread. At Saltwater, the bread option will be fresh buttermilk biscuits served with butter and local honey.
Shareable plates include a savory warm crab and pimento cheese dip; a Crab Louie salad with a red bell pepper syrup, blue crab, green goddess dressing, avocado, tomatoes, and grated hard boiled egg; and breaded rock shrimp served out of a Chinese to-go container with chopsticks.
Entrees will feature a cedar plank roasted Atlantic salmon with house succotash, salsa verde, and a grilled lemon; an open-faced BLT sandwich with pickled fried green tomatoes, root beer glazed pork belly with aioli and micro greens; Southern crab fried rice; and what Thomsen jokingly called the “Almost famous” lobster roll – poached Maine lobster, a touch of Duke’s mayonnaise, butter lettuce, and Old Bay fries.
Additionally, oysters on the half-shell will be a mainstay.
Current dessert options are pecan pie, key lime pie, and a cast iron baked chocolate chip cookie.
Saltwater Kitchen will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and specials may include weekly oyster roasts, choose-your-own lobster night, and fried chicken Sundays for post-church lunches.