Chef Ryan Eli Salter is hoping to give new life to the ground-level restaurant of the Radisson Hotel Southfield-Detroit with his solo project, Salt & Ko. Officially opening to the public July 5 at 26555 Telegraph Road, the new restaurant, bar, and event space is the Harlem native’s chance to showcase the culinary flair he’s been developing in Detroit over the better part of a decade.
Salt & Ko has served as Salter’s catering platform for about five years, giving him the opportunity gain traction in the city’s tight-knit restaurant community. That changed abruptly earlier this year when he was approached by the hotel’s ownership about taking over the restaurant space, which had previously housed the Nomad Grill, part of the now defunct Epicurean Group. Most recently, the space held the Mezcalero Mexican Restaurant, boasting a bold color scheme and aesthetic. In just 12 weeks, the interior has a more dialed down, modern feel, designed by Lux Living 365 and built out by R.M. Remodeling Solutions. In the main dining room which seats 78, a wall a vibrant mural of the spot’s namesake was painted by artist Alexa Daluz.
As for food and drink, Salter appears to be challenging himself to design a menu that is both approachable to wary travelers and families, but that includes notes of inspiration from his upbringing, his access to locally produced ingredients from Detroit urban farms, and his culinary training. The Drunken Pig, for example, is a monstrous pulled pork sandwich that he gives a sweet, tangy kick with a house-made red wine barbecue sauce and topped with thin slivers of wine-poached pears. Shareable sliders are made with ground beef, but also lamb, turkey, or salmon. He tells Eater that the menu’s five-cheese mac and cheese dish — served in a miniature skillet — came from a recipe he’s been honing for years, his attempt at improving upon his grandmother’s recipe, which he says she approves of.
The spot also has a full bar that includes a variety of n/a beverages in addition to boozy cocktails, will be equipped with lounge seating, and a private event room with seating for up to 20. Being in an always active hotel property, the spot is already being used for bachata and salsa nights every Wednesday. Salter wants to eventually host occasional tasting menu events, pop-ups with collaborators, and monthly brunch parties.
Salter’s approach to bring the vibes to sprawling suburban Southfield, known more for car dealerships, strip malls, and chain restaurants, could suit him well.
“I’ve learned that the city of Southfield is looking for a dining scene,” Salter says. “There’s not that much out here for that just like small coneys and bars and some restaurants, but nothing like like casual fine dining [where] you got to sit down, have a good meal, have a good drink, and just go out on a date.”
Salter’s trajectory into the local food scene began in earnest in 2015 after he quit his corporate tech job at FCA (now Stellantis). He had completed his studies at the now shuttered International Culinary Center in Soho, before helping to launch the Caribbean bar and restaurant Angel of Harlem. That’s when he made his way to the Motor City. During his time in Detroit, he’s found creative ways to get his name out there: running the food services operations at the seasonal Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, catering for block parties, participating in the experimental pop-up restaurant Dream Cafe in 2018, hosting cooking classes with local organizations like Keep Growing Detroit, and founding Salt & Ko.
More recently, Salter, along with Marc Howland and LaTresha Howland founded Breadless, the fast-casual sandwich shop near Elmwood Park on East Jefferson that opened a year ago to much fanfare. The restaurant will soon expand with a location coming to Rochester Hills this fall. Also in 2022, Salter’s Salt & Ko. took the reins at the Hotel Saint Regis’s BLVD Lounge to revamp its food menu.
That stint proved to be a testing ground for managing hotel restaurant operations. In March, Salter was hired by the ownership of the Radisson and by April 1, he agreed to take over the 3,200-square-foot space.