Salt & Honey has a dual personality. There’s chef Jackson Yordon’s daytime restaurant, which opened in May 2014, and serves “approachable comfort food made fresh”(lobster omelettes, French toast, burritos, burgers and quesadillas) – all quite good and delivered by a smiling waiter in a sunny dining room with a pleasant view of Kennebunkport’s Dock Square. And there’s Yordon’s nighttime operation in the same space, which serves a modified version of the lunch menu (sans French toast and burritos) delivered by a less-than-engaging server in a darkened dining room with a dispiriting off-season view of vacant sidewalks. The difference is night and day.

Dinner last week started, literally, with high hopes. The restaurant stands at the top of a long flight of wooden stairs, on the second floor of a clapboard building on Ocean Avenue. (Note: There’s no handicapped access.) Two customers were chatting with the chef at the bar for much of the evening, but there were no other diners at the tables in the small dining room. The sole waitress on duty acknowledged us (“welcomed” would be too strong a word) and noted what was not available: No Stella Artois. No pork loin. Oh, and “no dessert.”

Not a great beginning. But things looked up when the appetizers that were available arrived. Autumn salad ($9) was fresh and refreshing, a large plate of kale tossed with mixed greens, dried cranberries, chunks of feta, sugary spiced walnuts and sweet cubes of butternut squash. “They certainly didn’t skimp on the walnuts,” my friend said with appreciation as he munched on the candy-like clusters. The kitchen didn’t skimp on dressing either: The greens were coated with just enough lemon vinaigrette to tenderize the kale and brighten the entire salad. Things were looking up.

They got even better with a plate of pork sliders, mounds of Carolina-style shredded pork piled with coleslaw on tiny, shiny burger buns. The shredded pork was tender and juicy with a peppery kick and a tart note of vinegar and mustard, and the slaw was a cabbage lover’s dream: long, shreds of green cabbage tossed in a mayonnaise-based dressing sweetened with honey and spiked with chili sauce. Biting into the sliders without making a mess required care (and confidence in dry cleaning) but with two sliders available for $8 or three for $11, we had multiple opportunities to hone our skills.

Entrees, by comparison, were a let-down. The fried fish in the fish tacos ($14) was moist but begging for salt, and the drizzle of sriracha aioli on the corn tortilla was too modest to have any impact. It was the same story with fish and chips ($15): A large piece of haddock tasted fresh and the coating was crispy (not oily), but the fillet itself was bland and the tartar sauce was thin. Good thing there was a large pile of (hot, crunchy, salty, in a word, wonderful) hand-cut fries on the plate. In a fit of misplaced optimism, we asked the waitress for vinegar available to go with them. You can guess her answer.

With no dessert on the menu, and spirits falling, we had little choice but to pay the modest bill and trudge back down the stairs.

What had gone wrong? Online reviews and a few locals lauded the food at Salt & Honey, and the website promised “amazing food made from scratch.”

The following day we returned – this time at midday, when the menu includes a combination of classic breakfast dishes and “Lighter Fare.” Suddenly, the answer was clear: Salt & Honey started as a breakfast and lunch restaurant, and when the sun shines Chef Yordon consistently prepares simple and delicious food.

His French toast is a caloric and comforting celebration of excess: two thick pieces of Italian peasant bread that have grown even fatter and softer after a luxurious bath in beaten eggs. The fried slices of toast arrived golden brown and glistening beneath a melting scoop of pastel-colored house-made peach butter. (Maple syrup is served on the side.)

Equally good, and equally filling, is Yordon’s burrito ($9.50), a grilled (think panini) flour tortilla overstuffed with eggs, black beans, zucchini, chorizo, caramelized onions and mushrooms that can be ordered with fontina or cheddar. The burrito comes with chunks of fried potatoes, and like the fries at dinner, they’re crisp without and creamy within, and sprinkled with a good amount of coarse salt. If French toast doesn’t haunt your dreams after lunch at Salt & Honey, these potatoes will do nicely.

Dinner at Salt & Honey can’t hold a candle to breakfast and lunch. The restaurant is open only three nights a week, the bar program is still under development, and the dishes that are available don’t appear to be keeping pace with the menu. Unless or until the kitchen commits to a dinner experience as good as what it serves up earlier in the day, two pieces of advice. Diners: Go early. And Chef: Stick to your day job.

James H. Schwartz has covered food, travel and architecture for The Washington Post, Downeast, Coastal Living and Southern Living magazines for more than 30 years. Long a commuter between Portland and Washington, D.C., he retired from his job as vice president at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2013 and relocated to Maine.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.