“In a lot of Richmond, for lunch you can have fast, or good,” David Hahn says. “I wanted to hit the middle ground.” Look for fast and good to hit Jackson Ward next week when Salt & Forge opens on North Second Street. Owner Hahn is launching a breakfast and lunch spot with artisanal bread, house-cured meats and locally-made desserts. His goal is to get tasty food from the order counter to the table in five to six minutes. Quick-service restaurants, known as QSRs, are having quite a moment in the food world. World-famous chefs like David Chang and Ludo Lefebvre are elevating hot dogs and chicken sandwiches, while national chains like Washington-based Cava offer upscale ingredients like super greens, tzatziki and lamb meatballs.
Hahn studied the trend at the hand of a master. Industry leader Chipotle pioneered the idea that a quick lunch could both taste good and rely on healthy, locally-sourced ingredients. Hahn graduated from the University of Denver, and, after cooking during college, joined Chipotle headquarters. There he launched and ran restaurants, then developed training and operations materials.
“Now is an interesting time for QSR, because of people’s health choices, and also their palates are expanding,” Hahn says. “People want real food, better ingredients, and they’re more willing to step outside the box and experiment.”
Salt & Forge will launch with counter service offering an extensive list of sandwiches and salads to suit meat lovers and vegans alike. Hahn builds traditional favorites including in-house roasted turkey, roast beef, chicken and corned beef, combined with house-made dressings including ranch, Russian and smoked tomato jam.
Creative twists perk up a Tuscan veggie sandwich with house-made tapenade, a pork and ham Cuban sandwich with sauerkraut and gruyere, and a superfood kale salad with sweet potatoes and apples. Traditional sides like potato-bacon salad line up next to funky alternatives like coriander slaw.
Biscuit sandwiches dominate the breakfast spread, including chicken, sausage, egg, ham and jam. Salt & Forge will also offer catering, and serve wine and beer to drink on-premises or for takeout and delivery.
Hahn cooked for nine months at Shagbark after moving to Richmond in April 2016.
“I hadn’t been a line cook in 15 years,” he says “I had to build back the muscle memory of getting through service.” It was after service one night that Hahn and a few fellow cooks came up with the name.
“I already had Forge,” he says. “I liked the idea of a craftsman going through an apprenticeship until you can put your own name on the door.”
The kitchen crew started talking about the basic elements of cooking: Heat, water, salt, plants and animals.
“Salt and forge can be both nouns and verbs,” Hahn says.
“There is a static and dynamic element for both.”Hahn hopes to eventually expand the concept to other locations.
“We want to offer amazing food at a $9-13 dollar price point, and do it in five to six minutes,” he says. “We want people to spend lunchtime enjoying their food, not waiting on it.”
312 N. Second St.
Mondays - Fridays 7 a.m. - 4 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.