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While living and working in his native Boston, Dustin Brien, chef at Salu on Magazine Street, met a girl from New Orleans. That girl, who later become his wife, brought him to the Crescent City. And he’s very glad she did. When Dustin came on at Salu two years ago, he switched the focus from strictly Spanish tapas to a broader range of Mediterranean small plates. “Now I’m not confined to just one style,” he said. “I can do Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or any variation.”
Salu’s menu has some great twists on familiar dishes, including a BLT flatbread and 10 types of mussels. But Dustin’s personal favorite menu item is the whole grilled Mediterranean sea bass. “It’s cooked with lemon, thyme, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper. You don’t need anything else,” he said.
I asked Dustin for advice on how to approach the menu at Salu. “Let’s say you come with four people,” he said. “You should get at least one flatbread and one order of mussels to start. Order drinks, then take your time with the menu. Everything here is built for sharing.”
Dustin and the staff at Salu are also more than willing to work with food allergies and sensitivities, such as celiac and seafood allergies. “I have a lot of food allergies in my family,” Dustin said. “I never want anyone to feel like they are inconveniencing us with special requests.”
Go visit Dustin and check out the menu at Salu. Starting in August, diners can now add pasta to any mussel dish. Salu has a daily happy hour from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., which includes half price drinks, mussels and flatbreads.
20 Questions with Dustin Brien
1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?
My wife, Loryn. She’s also the assistant manager here at Salu.
2. What first brought you to New Orleans?
My wife was born and raised in NOLA. We met in Boston, and it was actually my idea to move down here. We wanted to get away from the cold weather, and now it has been two years!
3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?
Faubourg St. John. It’s right near the bayou, and so close to all the Mid-City bars and restaurants.
4. City Park or Audubon Park?
5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans.
I’ve had a lot of good meals, but the best was probably at Cochon. I order all of the appetizers, and we’ll just sit there and eat through them one at a time.
6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?
Katie’s – they do like five or six different types of eggs Benedict. I’m a sucker for Benedicts.
7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?
The gator po-boy from Parkway Bakery.
8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?
9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?
Finn McCool’s. I love Irish bars. I worked in one for a couple years.
10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?
I’m not huge cocktail drinker, but I like beer. I love Avenue Pub on St. Charles. Their list changes often. They’ve got local brews, and great beers from all over the world. They even have cask beers.
11. Snowball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?
Definitely a daiquiri. I just like plain old strawberry.
12. Best spot to see live music?
You wanna see great music? Go to Frenchmen Street. Walk up and down the block, and if you hear something you like, go in! Most places don’t charge a cover, but if they do, it’s always worth it.
13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?
14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?
15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?
16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?
Rouses or the Whole Foods on Broad Street – their seafood is always super fresh.
17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?
The National World War II Museum. I’m a wicked history buff!
18. Where do you go to watch the Saints play?
Preferably the Superdome!
19. Describe New Orleans in one word.
20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?
A month ago when my parents came down for a visit. They hadn’t been down since our wedding, and we finally got the chance to show them what New Orleans really is and how accepting this city can be. It made me realize I am probably never leaving.
*Food Photos by Emily Reimsnyder