The grill marks are for show, but still a quality bun.
  • The grill marks are for show, but still a quality bun.
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Salt & Cleaver

3805 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest

(No longer in business.)

When a restaurant describes itself as having "a new dining concept based on the ancient art of sausage making," a lot of thoughts pass through my head, but two words that don't leap to mind are "dog friendly."

So when a friend tipped me to the idea dogs were allowed, not just on the patio but actually inside Salt & Cleaver, I doubted it enough to call ahead.

"Oh, we're very dog friendly," said the girl who answered the phone, "come on by."

Don't need to tell me twice. I leashed up my dog, Loki, and we braved the midday traffic and parking nightmare otherwise known as central Hillcrest in search of locally made sausage.

It's cool for dogs to hang out here.

On a typical sunny day, the large sliding garage doors on either side of the entrance would be open to the patio seating, so the concept of inside or outside might be up for grabs. Since we showed up on a drizzly afternoon, they remained shut. The patio still looked pretty inviting, but I still wanted to see how they responded to having a dog saunter in.

Pretty well, it turns out. The bartender offered to produce a water bowl, and couple of other patrons even came over to pet Loki, who responded with her usual crowd-pleasing tricks.

On the downside, there weren't many tables offering enough space for a dog of any reputable size to lie down beneath. It's not a huge negative, but I definitely prefer being able to keep my pup under the table and out of the way of foot traffic. At Salt & Cleaver, with restrooms on one side of the bar and the kitchen door on the other, someone's always walking by, wherever you happen to sit.

Of course, any dog will make room when your server brings out a plate of Nürnberg bratwurst. An authentic, German Nürnberg typically run the size of a breakfast sausage. Here, it's scaled up about 800% to fill out a grilled bun. This actually makes them hard to compare to the real thing, which is arguably the most popular würst in all of Bavaria. It tasted great though, so I'm going to call it close enough for San Diego, in competition with the brats of Ocean Beach's Kaiserhof, and the grill-your-own links of Seisal's/Iowa Farms.

Of course, here you get the benefit of local craft brews on draught. I didn't try any on this midweek afternoon — Loki and I had further adventures ahead that day — but I did appreciate that one tap at least was given over to a German beer, the world's oldest brewery, Weihenstephaner — an obviously ideal sausage pairing.

As for being dog friendly, sitting inside will do on a rainy day when options run slim, but I get the feeling my dog would rather be on that patio, taking advantage of 5th Avenue's always-rewarding people-watching opportunities.

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