Everyday Eats: Mild Italian at Salt & Cleaver

This juicy pork sausage is oozy, cheesy, and just plain tasty.

After months of will-they-or-won't-they, Salt & Cleaver opened in the heart of Hillcrest. The specialty sausage spot has two main areas of expertise: craft brews and sausages, with plenty of options in both departments. For beer, you've got your pick of 20 taps (plus more in bottles) and when it comes to links, you can either design your own, or go for one of the "protected" options. The main advantages of these pre-designed sausages are more imaginative, seasonal toppings, and not having to do any guesswork.

Of the five different options I tasted over two separate visits, the one sausage that's jammed in my memory is the Mild Italian ($8). It was developed based on a special request from co-owner Gaylen Zanetakos, who wanted a "melty, oozy" option that's just plain delicious. It delivers on all fronts. Inside a lightly toasted bun lies a tender pork sausage that's perked up garlic, thyme, oregano, and plenty of fennel. It's fatty and flavorful enough to be eaten naked, but the addition of melted mozzarella, blistered cherry tomatoes, basil, pesto, and a few pine nuts (for crunch) transform it into a real stunner. 

What really struck me about the Mild Italian is how much its flavor profile (melted cheese, tomatoes, and fatty pork) makes it similar to a meatball sandwich, but in sausage form (and much lighter). You've got to try it. 

Salt & Cleaver is located at 3805 5th Avenue (map)

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