Salt Kitchen & Rum Bar Review (Ipswich, MA)



I have two words for you: Rum bar.



That alone should be enough to get through the doors at Salt Kitchen and Rum Bar. Forget the impressively delicious, stick-to-your-ribs food, the laid-back atmosphere, the totally on-point staff.


When I posted on Facebook that we went here for dinner, one of my friends took a look at the menu online.

“It’s like all my dream food in one place,” she said.

Yeah, it’s kind of like that. With rum. (Did I mention there’s rum? 🙂 )

The Little Black Cat and I liked this place so much, we went twice. Both meals are covered in this post.


By the time we left the first night, a little after 6 pm, all the tables were filled and the bar was already standing room only. They don’t need me to tell them they’re doing a great job. All they have to do is walk out on the floor and look around.

About Salt: Local and Awesome

Salt is owned by Dave Gillis, an East Boston native who’s formerly of Finz in Salem.

He’s super down-to-earth, and told us a little about the place on our second visit.

How he got a lot of the restaurant’s interior wood from reclaimed barns. How he sources many of his ingredients locally. How he can’t wait for all the area farmstands to open for the season.


Dave Gillis, owner, Salt Kitchen and Rum Bar

His whole concept is based around the idea of great hospitality: inviting peeps into your house, making them comfortable, and stuffing them with all sorts of delicious food and drink.

From what we saw, he’s doing it 100% right.

On the way to Ipswich

A little about the area for you guys who aren’t from around here.

The Little Black Cat and I headed North from Salem, and wound our way up the back roads. It’s a really pretty ride.

Lots of horses. Lots of cows. Dotted with fields, antique shops, and little farm stands, most of them not open yet. Antique shops with pricey, super-legit antiques—and stuff that would scare you at a church rummage sale. Like this fancy, flying mermaid mirror with sparkly candle holders…


…or this terrifying poodle candle. (Don’t move. I think he can see you.)


We hit the only farm stand that looked open, and debated if it was too early to start buying plants. They already had some very hearty looking herbs out. We were feeling pretty disorganized, so we passed.


The homemade cheese bread was very difficult impossible to resist. Which got us thinking about dinner again. Which got us hustling back on the road…


By the time we crossed the border into Ipswich, we were starving.



Ipswich is a really pretty New England town with a ton of character. (This is my kind of move. Missing summer greenery? Improvise until it starts to grow on its own.)


Love the little shops around Market Street.


As tempting as it was, I resisted the urge to buy all sorts of little shiny things I don’t need. Probably because many of the stores weren’t open.




The toy shop was already closed, or one of the little people in my life would likely have a new friend by now.


Alright. On to the food.

What’s the vibe at Salt?


Salt is the cooler older brother of the Gastro Pub. (Doesn’t have anything to prove. Not remotely pretentious.)

For a place with darkly painted walls, it’s remarkably warm inside. They’re doing great things with mirrors and light (natural, candlelight, Edison bulbs). It’s really very welcoming.



The bar is separated from the dining area by a hip-height wall. Which was perfect when the bar started to fill up.




THIS makes me want to get gallons of blackboard paint and go nuts in our kitchen. Just saying. They have a great selection of rums, many of them local.




Visit #1: What did we eat?

Crane Cocktail

From the menu
“Ipswich greenhead spiced rum, st germain, muddled lemons, rosemary & soda water”




What did we think?
The Little Black Cat ordered this, but I kept pecking at it. Drink sizes are definitely generous. Loved the fresh rosemary & floral St. Germaine combo. The bartender definitely knows how to balance a drink. Dangerously easy to consume.

We were eying the menu and muttering about how, yeah, we’ll definitely be back soon. And that was before the food showed up. Always a good sign.

Grilled Oysters

From the menu
“Char-grilled, herbed butter, parmesan, crispy prosciutto.”



What did we think?
Tasted like they just hopped out of the ocean. Sweet. Briny. Buttery. We slurped up every last bit of sauce and fought politely over the bits of crunchy prosciutto.

Crab and Cheddar Bisque

From the menu
“Lump crab, garlic crema”


What did we think?
Heh, take a guess. If it were socially acceptable to lick a bowl clean in public, I think we would have. Deep crab flavor. Creamy but not over-the-top rich.



From the menu
“Saffron and lobster cream, prosciutto, mashed potato, spinach”



What did we think?
These would make Gordon Ramsey proud. The scallops were perfectly seared and sweet as hell. Just the right amount of food. Creamy mashed potatoes. Loved the little lobster claw garnish.

Pan Seared Red Snapper

From the menu
“Sicilian crab salad, lemon parsley over mashed & asparagus”


What did we think?
This was supposed to be cobia, but the kitchen ran out. Red snapper was a great substitution that our server without skipping a beat. Moist and flaky. Piquant crab salad. Tender asparagus. And more of those amazing mashed potatoes.

Our server put on a fresh pot of coffee for us. We skipped dessert (this time).


Visit #2: What did we eat?

We went back a few weeks later.

In the interim, I had hooked up with Dave, the owner, on Twitter. He was kind enough to offer us a few small plates on the house—and brought them to our table himself. (Thanks, man!) That’s love. This guy definitely cares about his business and it shows.

Haymaker Cocktail

From the menu
“Privateer Cask rum, muddled lemons, dark molasses, cane syrup & ginger beer.”



What did we think?
Really good when it came out, got even better as it mellowed over ice. Brown sugary sweet. Earthy molasses. Laced with spicy ginger beer.

Fried Oysters

From the menu
“Fried Oysters with Tendercrop Farm Cobb smoked Bacon aioli and chive oil”



What did we think?
Good fried oysters are tough to find. And these were great. Soaked in buttermilk then perfectly fried (not at all greasy OR waterlogged). Crunchy coating dotted with bits of white cornmeal. Drizzled with chive oil made from the chives that Dave’s kids brought him earlier that afternoon from their garden at home.

SALT Block Scallops

From the menu
“Roasted scallops, vanilla brown butter, candied orange, micro greens”



What did we think?
Totally easy on the eyes. Perfectly cooked (again). Sweetness from the candied orange peel was a great contrast to the mellow saltiness from the Himalayan salt block. Surprising combination, totally worked. I dug around to find every last scrap of orange peel. We would have ordered a double for an entree. 

Lobster Wellington Bites

From the menu
“Fresh lobster, grilled corn, brie cheese, puff pastry”



What did we think?
Crisp and buttery outside. Creamy and packed with fresh lobster flavor inside. Very different take on the Wellington concept and absolutely delicious.

Maine Mussels

From the menu
“Chorizo, shallots, white wine, charred leeks, fresh herbs”



What did we think?
Heaping bowl. Definitely enough for one as an entree or two to share as an app. Spicy, smoky chorizo gave it a slow heat. Uber fresh, super clean mussels. Lots of broth for dipping. Our server was great about swapping out our full shell bowls.

Tuna Hot Pot

From the menu
“Ramen noodle dish with maitake mushrooms, daikon and seared tuna steak”



What did we think?
Before you mention it, let me tell you: We ordered the tuna well done. Both of us prefer it that way. (Fight me, I know.) I believe it normally comes medium rare, per tuna convention nowadays. Despite floating in a delightfully salty broth, the tuna was really crisp on the edges and melt-in-your mouth tender. Lot of contrasting flavors and textures. Generous amount of miatake mushroom. Slightly crunchy veggies. Soft rice noodles. All the marks of a great Asian-inspired dish. Perfect for slurping.

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

From the menu
“Vanilla bean ice cream and salted caramel drizzle”



What did we think?
Definitely big enough to split. Buttery crust. Warm, chocolate, melty deliciousness inside. Studded with hazelnuts. Vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce melting slowly.


This place is comfort food on crack with one of the most anti-hipster approaches to local food I’ve ever seen. The minute we left—both times—we started talking about when we were coming back. Great addition to the North Shore. We need more places like this. If you live in the area: Go. Tell Dave that The Hungry Mouse sent you. You won’t be sorry.

Salt Kitchen and Rum Bar

1 Market Street
Ipswich, MA 01938
(978) 356-0002

*If it needs to be said, I wasn’t compensated for this review in any way, outside of the couple of surprise, sample apps on the house from Dave. I eat out a fair amount, and want to share some of my better meals with you guys. Inspiration comes from a lot of different places. And if you’re wondering, I usually only write about stuff I like, because I truly believe in sharing the love. ;)

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. Wow, this place is right up my alleyway! Every dish you mentioned is something I want to try. I guess I’ll be adding the Salt Kitchen and Rum Bar to my road trip this summer! Yum!

  2. On our vacation in Maine last week and based on this recommendation we looked up the Salt Kitchen and Rum Bar and headed there for dinner. I only have one thing to say. Stop what you are doing and go there right now! The food was amazing – seriously, amazing, the atmosphere was relaxed and sophisticated in a “less is more” kind way, the servers were wonderful and friendly and the owner came out and spoke to us for a bit. It truly was a wonderful experience for all in our party (4) and if I am ever even remotely close to this restaurant (within 2 hrs) we will make it a point to go. We loved it!