Having just returned from Spain, I thought this would be a good time to tell you about Spanish River Grill, the New Smyrna restaurant and wine bar owned by Henry Salgado, who is also the chef, and his wife, Michele.
Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed Spanish River Grill, though technically it is.
Let me explain.
The first time I visited SRG was in 2002 when it had been open for nearly three years. It was a revelation. The Salgados were consummate restaurateurs and Henry was eventually recognized twice as a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef – South award. They also introduced Txokos Basque Kitchen in 2014 in the then just-opened East End Market, but sold it in 2015. (Domu now occupies that space.) At the time, the Salgados said they wanted to concentrate on Spanish River Grill.
But they sold Spanish River in early 2017 and it closed permanently later that year.
Well, maybe not that permanently, because the Salgados have brought it back, albeit in another location and with a slightly different concept. Still Spanish, of course, but with more of a concentration on tapas.
In fact the majority of the menu is made up of small plates. But all of them with big flavor.
My dining companion and I started with an amuse bouche (aperitivo in Spanish) of anchovies skewered with olives and peppers, and we nibbled on some fried garbanzos.
The gambas was a favorite, grilled shrimp topped with a creamy and garlicky aioli, served with toasted bread.
We also ordered the swordfish picadillo, but sadly swordfish wasn’t available. Instead, dense and tender chunks of tuna, nicely seared and served with a piquant sauce, were substituted, so not so sad after all.
SRG’s version of menestra, a vegetable stew, was less stewy but featured an assortment of veggie cubes topped, optionally, with a fried egg whose yolk added some richness.
Grilled pork collar, an infrequently seen cut, had plenty of meatiness from the pork itself but also from the chorizo gravy, thick and pulpy, that covered it.
For dessert, there was olive oil cake, moist and delicious.
Spanish River Grill occupies a small standalone building that was probably originally a fast food restaurant but has been home to other businesses over the years. (The front window has phantom lettering that seems to have read “no guns.”) The two-tone terrazzo flooring would suggest that an outdoor patio area was enclosed at some point. There is a bar along one wall and conventional seating throughout the cozy space. (If you’re seated on the wooden banquette, do avail of one of the pillows for a back cushion.)
Service was attentive and speedy – as with most tapas concepts, the food comes out as it’s ready.
And at the heart of the experience was the hospitality of the Salgados. It’s good to have them, and Spanish River Grill, back.
Spanish River Grill is at 1518 S. Dixie Freeway, New Smyrna Beach (map). It is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday. There is no website. The phone number is 386-957-4788.