Image: Halibut

Last Updated: September 2023


The experience at BlackSalt depends on where you are.  As you enter, the first section of the space is set up as a small fish market with large pieces sitting over ice and a few shelves stocked with related dry goods.  As you make your way back, the bar and a casual dining room open up.  Locals gather along the bar, and groups of friends and families sit around tables and in booths creating the low din of a watering hole.  But there is more to BlackSalt.  Make a proper dinner reservation for the formal dining room and you will go up a couple steps in the back, through the glass door of the wine storage area, and into a room that is like an oasis of white tablecloth dining. 

The space may be varied, but the focus is on one thing: seafood.  After years of practice, they do it well.  As executive chef and fishmonger Jeff Gaetjen explained to the Georgetowner in 2017, “Our fish market makes us unique. We source the best fish from all over the world with a focus on sustainability.”  It gives them flexibility to shift to what is good that week and reliability to stay stocked on core items.

It is something of an old school restaurant with traditional appetizers and mains, plus raw bar choices. The menu is anchored with some classics like the mussels, but also includes specials.  On our last visit we focused on the specials and were very happy.  A snapper tartare was creamy with a layer of avocado and crispy rice on top.  Halibut with gnocchi prepared with a slightly crisped herb crust over leeks and a creamy sauce.  From the main menu, the tuna in curry offset the warm, thick sauce with the coolness of the seared tuna and the sweetness of mango.  When composing a dish with multiple elements it is a fine line between balanced and busy.  BlackSalt’s kitchen keeps them balanced.  As for the more casual plates, the next table over had a big pile of crispy calamari that we resisted asking for a sample, but it looked good.

Dessert has long been an attraction here.  Over the years, Washingtonian is a fan of butterscotch pot de crème, Michelin of the key lime pie.  We had peach cobbler served loose with a breaded base and diced fruit and not disappointed.

The service matches the polish.  The staff picked up that we were sharing dishes and divided them up (when possible) when plating. The wine list is long on whites pulling from multiple regions.  Keep in mind it is a fine dining restaurant focused on seafood.  Prices can escalate quickly.  It may be a neighborhood spot, but the neighborhood is the Palisades.

Other Guidance: It is located at street level with no steps in, but possible interior steps including for bathroom.  Opentable says it is wheelchair accessible.  There is no need to dress up, but you can if you want.  It is classic cooking, so GF and Vegetarians might find some items, but, obviously, pescatarians are going to do best.

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Cuisine: Seafood
Neighborhood: Palisades
Address: 4883 MacArthur Blvd NW, Washington DC
Reservations: Opentable

Other Critics/Voices:

Washington Post: Plug during the summer of 2020 with high praise. Dining Guide 2014 – 2 Stars.

Washingtonian: Top 100 2017; 2016; #99 in 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; 2011; #73 in 2010; 2006; and maybe a few more not online. – lots of comments over the years until pandemic.   

Michelin – Not sure they got the full picture, sounds like they ate at the bar once.