Salt Fork Kitchen Review Waitstaff: A Decor: A- Menu Size: A Quality of ingredients: A++ Local Sources: A++ Taste of food: A Price vs quality of food: A+ Overall rating: A+
Vivi and I took advantage of the warm weather this morning (30 degrees!) and made the trip to Solon, Iowa to test out Salt Fork Kitchen. Salt Fork Kitchen is owned and run by Eric Menzel who also owns and operates Salt Fork Farms. Jeff (Jay) Schworn is also an owner and runs the daily operations of the restaurant with the help of a truly lovely Liz Sanders who runs the front end of Salt Fork Kitchen with a constant smile. It is very obvious when a restaurant is led by a strong team of hard working individuals who also share the same vision. From our arrival to departure everything ran smoothly like the well oiled machine that it is despite being a relatively new establishment and I give much of that credit to Jay and Liz. Vivi and I were very lucky to be joined by Eve Menzel (Eric’s wife) and their sons Milo and Charlie. We got the inside scoop on what to order and a look into the life of the family who is truly doing their community a great service by opening this restaurant. In fact, the bar has been set insanely high for next restaurant I review as I’m not sure that I can find a place more dedicated to serving not only organic produce, but also local and seasonal foods and quality ingredients. True, it does help that the owner literally has a farm in his backyard, but he also supports other local farms and oversees the entire process including the cooking! I would say that the only negative about how this restaurant is run is that I left feeling incredibly lazy in comparison to how hard both Eric and Eve work at the restaurant and farm on a daily basis!
Salt Fork Kitchen is in a large space with 2 open rooms with tables and booths. There is counter seating as well and all are serviced with very friendly and knowledgeable staff. Once our waitress knew that coffee was much needed, I never had an empty cup. And if you are a coffee drinker like me, that is a very appreciated detail! The decoration is sparse but authentic and true to the space. I would like to eventually see some large photos on the walls of the farm and the lovely family! The reason to come to Salt Fork Kitchen is the food, so let’s move onto the menu!
The breakfast menu is extensive without being overwhelming or to point where you know things are just being thrown into a microwave to heat up. We waited the appropriate amount of time for our food too which is a good tell for if something is being made fresh or not. The menu is not vegan friendly but the staff is and I’m sure you could make substitutions and not go hungry! It is very vegetarian friendly and in fact the omelette I ordered (The Rabbit) is vegetarian and it satisfied this carnivore just fine. Although in my mind there is no such thing as too much fresh mozzarella and I am usually left wanting more, the balance of cheese to greens in this omelette was perfect. Make sure to get some of the delicious aoli with each bite as it the source of flavor for the omelette. The slaw served with the dish is a nice change from the standard toast and butter. The only thing I would have wanted would have been a bit more flavor to give the omelette a more memorable finish on the palate. It was cooked perfectly however- no rubbery eggs here!
What makes Salt Fork Kitchen’s menu unique? Aside from knowing that your ingredients from the syrup to the pork are local, it’s the dishes. I don’t remember the last time I had the choice of ordering lamb sausage for breakfast. Or saw this on the menu:
Egg-fried-rice & Greens: Sesame oil, tamari, onions, garlic, braising greens, egg, kim chi slaw (add any meat for $1.50)...$6.50
The kim chi slaw was the best I have had! If you are stuck in a breakfast rut, this dish is the way to go!
Or how about grits and greens? Just want some good old fashion buttermilk flapjacks? This is the place to come! The pancakes are huge and delicious and sure to please a pancake lover no matter the age!
Vivi had bacon with hers while Milo had the sausage. The bacon was done just right (crispy but not burnt) and the pancakes are not loaded with sugar as I snuck a few bites without a large impact on blood sugar levels!
The prices are incredibly reasonable and competitive considering the quality of the ingredients! Please don’t go to a chain restaurant and pay the same amount of money for industrialized and processed food products when you can come here have have eggs from chickens who get to roam around outside like a chicken should. Meat from cows who ate grass and lived down the road vs in a factory farm in another state. I love knowing that I can order sausage or bacon for Vivi here and know that the quality is the same as what I serve in my kitchen. Here you eat vegetables that even in the winter time come from the midwest and not from another country. Your maple syrup is real Iowa maple syrup-nothing artificial or corn syrup based! Your coffee beans are roasted locally from Wake Up Iowa City.
Try doing this at a chain restaurant or even other local nonchain restaurant: Ask the cook where every ingredient in your meal came from. And watch their reaction. I did just that. Not only was Eric Menzel able to tell me where every ingredient came from, he also was happy to tell me and with very good reason as he should be proud that he is running a restaurant where there is no shame when it comes to the food being served. It’s not often that you find that. The furthest away ingredient was the kale and arugula which came from Alberts Organics which sources from regional farms (in the summer the produce comes from Salt Fork Farms and other local farms). In fact, here is a list of just some of the local farms from which the food is sourced straight from their website:
- Salt Fork Farms – eggs, chickens, vegetables, fruit, herbs
- Pavelka’s Point – pork, lamb, beef
- Muddy Miss Farm – vegetables and fruit
- Echollective – vegetables
- Kroul Farm – pumpkins, vegetables, flowers
- Wild Woods Farm – vegetables
- Rebals Sweetcorn – sweetcorn
You can also buy pastured eggs on Saturdays that come from Salt Fork Farm’s very happy chickens. There is a 2 dozen maximum, but I am happy to have an excuse to come back often for breakfast! For those who choose not to eat meat or even eggs because of concern about how the animals are treated- you can feel good about buying these eggs. The Menzel’s care about their animals and expressed genuine concern about how the recent cold weather was impacting the chickens-concern about the chicken, not the bottom line as factory farmers would be. (Actually, the weather wouldn’t be a concern for factory chickens who never are outside- this includes many “free range/cage free”chickens.)
I am very careful about how I spend my money, I want to feel good about where my hard earned money goes and Salt Fork Kitchen is a restaurant and business that I am very pleased to support. They have a great looking lunch menu as well along with farm table style dinners twice a month. Treat yourself, your family and your stomach to a good for you breakfast or lunch the next time you head out to eat. Remember, an egg-white omelette is NOT healthy. However, an omelette made from pastured eggs and organic produce and quality cheese is just what your body needs to get a start on the day!
Don’t take for granted this little gem of a restaurant in your backyard and come support Salt Fork Kitchen!
Salt Fork Kitchen 12 E. Main St., Solon, IA 319-624-2081 Hours: 7 AM – 2 PM Tuesday - Sunday