Salt of Hope – A Fresh Beginning
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
Dining options in Hope have undergone a major transformation over the past couple of years. Seaview Cafe and Bar is still the longtime area favorite during summer, but Creekbend Company, which opened last year, offers some service throughout the winter. Dirty Skillet opened recently, and there is take-out at Food on Second. Both businesses operate in summer. New food truck Salt of Hope is the latest addition to the town’s eating possibilities.
The Gazette took a road trip to Hope to interview Jacob Cooley, Salt of Hope’s owner, and sample menu items. With years of experience in different parts of the lower 48, Cooley spent the past five summers working as kitchen manager at the Seaview.
“It would be a lot more challenging if I hadn’t been working here with Renna [Martin, Seaview owner] for the past five years,” Cooley said.
He also worked at Java Haus this winter. “I learned a lot of little breakfast things from them [now-closed Java House owners Emma and Kurtis Kramer]. I’ve always been a nighttime cook and a nighttime person. I’ve cooked brunch a lot though. It’s a good thing I worked there because I didn’t realize the kinds of restrictions this trailer was going to have. They had all the same restrictions in their place because they didn’t have a hood.” Cooley would need a more advanced ventilation and fire suppression system to cook with open flame.
Salt of Hope is in its beginning stages as a small business in a prime location on Main Street, right next door to Hope Social Hall, which is next to the Seaview. Cooley used his years of culinary experience to develop the small menu, keeping in mind that he has limited work space. He looked for items and ingredients with multiple uses on the menu to create maximum efficiency for prep and service.
The Gazette visited Salt of Hope’s trailer while Cooley prepared samples for tasting – Friends with Benedicts Breakfast Sandwich with Cucumber Salad, and Cooley’s Club.
He builds the Benedict sandwich on toasted English muffins, featuring poached eggs and a choice of meats and cheeses. When the sandwich halves are hot enough, they are pulled from the oven and drizzled with hollandaise sauce spiked with fresh French thyme.
The Benedict sandwich is nicely layered with distinct tastes that complement each other. The hollandaise’s lemon and thyme kick brings the flavors together. Cooley acknowledged the sandwich can be a bit messy, but its taste easily overcomes the minor inconvenience. Served alongside the sandwich is a small, simply-dressed cucumber salad that offers a fresh contrast to the richness of the sandwich.
The next sample was the Cooley Club, served on a toasted bagel of choice smeared with chipotle bacon cream cheese. Cooley said he makes all of his own cream cheese spreads. The sandwich is filled with layers of turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato and locally-sourced lettuce. The sandwich is a pleasant mix of distinct flavors that blend together well. There is a mix of red leaf and bibb lettuce with a touch of arugula to give a fresh, peppery bite. The chipotle is creamy and smoky in contrast to the freshness of the avocado. The turkey’s lightness is a welcome counterpoint to the crunch of the bacon strips and minced bacon in the spread.
After the tasting, we sat down to talk about Salt of Hope, which recently started selling breakfast and lunch sandwiches in Hope as the tourism season began. The experience gave Cooley a chance to acclimate to Hope’s steady stream of summer visitors and what Salt needs to do to accommodate them.
“I feel like I’ve gotten through two really busy weekends,” Cooley said. “The next couple are going to be on the mellow side before the fish start running, and then we’ll get crazy. I’m really glad I didn’t have all of this stuff on my menu for that for the first time being busy. Now I’m feeling ready to layer it in to what is going on here.”
The initial idea of Salt began as a discussion about opening a Girdwood restaurant after a family member offered to invest in Cooley and his business. With high rents prohibitive, the idea shifted to a food truck. He had managed a food truck in Maine, so he had no illusions about owning and working one.
“The food truck wasn’t the problem exactly but the whole romance idea of a food truck as this groovy thing to do,” Cooley said. “The person who had this food truck had never done a restaurant before. People don’t realize it’s not a fun, easy restaurant game. It’s actually everything that the kitchen end of a restaurant entails, which is a tremendous amount of knowledge and work. You have infrastructure issues – how you power it, how do you get your water, where do you take your water, how you cook things to make it work here?”
While Cooley had no desire to own a food truck, he considered the idea from a flexible perspective and began looking at ones for sale. A family member recently purchased a lot in downtown Hope and offered to let him put his food truck there. Then a feasible food truck became available, so he bought it.
When Cooley needed a business name for licensing and permits, he did not have much time.
“I brainstormed with a friend for about 40 minutes,” Cooley said. “I wanted to have Hope in the name because it’s […] about what you do and where you are. ‘Salt,’ I thought, would be a cool thing to have in a name. I had a sheet with different words and ideas. Salt of Hope was one of the names we came up with.”
Cooley says the prep and cooking space inside the trailer is comparable to a line station in a restaurant, but it gets a bit trickier with two people and open oven doors. After getting set up and developing a routine over the past few weeks, he has finally had the chance to think of new menu items using what he already has on hand.
“It took a couple of weeks of banging my knuckles before I started figuring it out,” Cooley said. “I’m now just starting to get creative. I was driving from here and back to Girdwood when [I thought of] the Cooley Club, the Smoked Salmon Sandwich, the Hippie. I need to sell hummus. I need to sell stuff for kids. All of this stuff I already had here, but it took a little while of having it staring me in the face.”
Cooley designed the menu to avoid direct competition with Hope’s other food businesses while leaving his path open for future entrepreneurial evolution. He realizes his young business will change as Hope’s developing culinary scene progresses to meet a growing number of visitors from around the state, country and world.
“It’s a very growing thing with food in Hope. It’s wonderful what’s happening. If Hope is on the map as a great place to go and eat, then the more restaurants the better. We’ll all grow together.”
Salt of Hope
Main St., Hope
Fri.-Tue. 8 a.m.-4 p.m.