Saltie Girl has been a mainstay in Boston for the past seven years, known for its seafood towers, lobster rolls, and impressive tinned fish collection — and on December 20, it’ll spread its wings to West Hollywood. In a completely revamped space that formerly housed Wahlburgers at 8615 Sunset Boulevard, the new Saltie Girl is a portal to classy East Coast seafood bar vibes.
It’s the high-end details that make Saltie Girl stand out on a bustling Sunset Strip that has restaurants like Mel’s Drive-In and the Butcher, the Baker, the Cappuccino Maker. Styled in collaboration with Jessica Schuster, some of the most impressive elements include the cold appetizer station covered in emerald green quartzite and emblazoned with the word “oysters” in gold; it’s a place where customers will get to watch executive chef Kyle McClelland in action preparing crudo and raw oysters or torching salmon belly. Behind it are shelves displaying tinned fish cans of tuna, sardines, eel, and mussels from around the world. Customers can choose from over 130 tinned fish varieties to create their own charcuterie boards complete with salts, butter, pickled piparra peppers, piquillo pepper jam, and French bread. It joins in on the tinned fish trend that has been percolating in LA at places like Downtown LA’s Kippered and Silver Lake’s Bar Moruno.
“I remember going to my team [seven years ago] and saying, ‘I just got back from Spain and Portugal and these tinned fishes are fantastic,’” says owner Kathy Sidell. “Boston is a particularly difficult place with food because people aren’t that adventurous, but we sold 250 tins [that first] week.”
A long bar also made of green quartzite wraps around the room, with one side for wine and cocktails, and the other for raw seafood. Polished teak walls, stools, and brushed brass give the room ship vibes. The mirrors on the wall are overlaid with oceanic artwork, and the bar is adorned with carved wooden mermaids salvaged from old shipyards. Plush seafoam green banquettes surround the space indoors, which seats 90, while a long patio out front with white banquettes gives folks a chance to dine while watching the city in action.
There will be many similarities to its Boston outpost, especially in its menu. “I think the concept is very much the same in that we serve every iteration of seafood, so that’s tinned, fried sauteed, raw, and poached,” says Sidell. “Anything you can imagine with fish, we do.”
McClelland, who’s been Saltie Girl’s executive chef since it first opened in 2016, will be bringing some of his Boston favorites to LA. His fried lobster is dredged in buttermilk and coated in corn flour and is served alongside waffles, sweet corn butter, and spicy maple syrup. There’s even some lobster bisque hidden underneath the waffle. Its popular lobster rolls will be served with a beurre blanc sauce and lobster-infused butter.
A fan of caviar, especially after working at Caviar Russe in New York, McClelland will have a small caviar menu with high- and low-brow dishes. He plans on making a caviar roll with buttered brioche buns, creme fraiche, and green onions, with the option of adding lobster on it too.
“I want to bring some of this East Coast stuff here,” says McClelland, who will be working with fishermen and fishmongers back home, getting fresh bay scallops, lobster, oysters, and fish flown in. Still, he’s excited about working with West Coast suppliers and procuring dry-aged fish from Sherman Oak’s the Joint, as well as Santa Barbara sea urchins from Sea Stephanie Fish.
There will also be a small menu of wine, beer and cocktails, like a pineapple-forward libation with tequila, lemongrass, and yuzu; and a mezcal drink with cinnamon, grapefruit, amaro, and Amontillado.
Sidell has long been planning a West Coast outpost and it’s finally coming together just a month after she also opened a London location. A film producer turned restaurateur, Sidell, had spent her career between her hometown of Boston and Los Angeles. Her love for seafood grew out of spending time sailing up and down the East Coast with her father Jack Sidell, a banker who financed celebrity chef-run restaurants. Opening in LA was a chance for her to be physically closer to her grown children, three of whom moved to the area. One of her most poignant partnerships is with her son, Ben Sidell, who will be the pastry chef of LA’s Saltie Girl. It’s the first time they’ll be working together as he’ll be making desserts like a lemon yuzu tart and apple tarte tatin.
Ben Sidell is an actor who launched a cottage bakery called SweetBoy amid the pandemic three years ago after casually selling some cookies to friends. His business quickly took off. “Somebody ended up gifting cookies to Busy Phillips and she posted them,” he says. “I woke up the next morning and I had 200 orders, and I was like, ‘Well, I guess I’m starting a business.’”
After Saltie Girl opens, Ben Sidell will be using the space on weekends, where he’ll be selling his SweetBoy sweet buns (his take on cinnamon rolls) and his cookies.
“I’m really excited on a personal level to also have the opportunity to work with Ben professionally for the first time,” says Kathy Sidell. “The fact that he’s kind of the sweet to my savory is so awesome and just to have him here every day is so incredible.”
Saltie Girl’s kitchen will be open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sunday until 9 p.m. Its bar will be open on Tuesday to Wednesday until 11 p.m., Thursday to Saturday until 1 a.m., and Sunday until 10 p.m.