A new fast-casual restaurant focused on Hawaiian-Asian dishes opened in Austin this month. Salty Cargo is from two Uchi alums: chefs and co-owners Michael Carranza and John Gocong. The restaurant made its debut within the food court of Asian grocery store Hana World Market at 1700 West Parmer Lane, Suite 100 in far north Austin as of October 1. It’s open for takeout and delivery services, and the food court is open for dine-in services.
Salty’s menu focuses on Hawaiian dishes with Asian inflections. The Hawaiian-style pork ribs, which are char siu-braised and finished off by grilling on a Japanese binchotan; the seasonal whole fried fish served with rice, kimchi, and a sweet chili sauce; the huli-huli halibut that is brown butter-poached and pineapple-glazed. Then there’s a tori katsu sandwich with on Texas toast and garlic butter firecracker shrimp poached in Cajun seasoning.
At the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Carranza and Gocong cooked meals for Austin Shift Meals and seafood company Minamoto’s initiatives aimed at feeding struggling service industry folks. That’s actually where they tested out potential Salty Cargo dishes.
They were on the opening team of now-closed Pacific-Asian restaurant She’s Not Here. As noted earlier, they also both worked at fine dining Japanese restaurant Uchi. Carranza also spent time at Musashino and Gocong at Uchiko and Japanese celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s namesake restaurant.
The two also opened a new seafood truck earlier this fall, Aye Carranza, which draws influences from the Mexican state of Sinaloa. The menu features nachos with prawns, and shrimp in burger, basket, and taco forms, among other non-seafood items like beef and pork carnitas tacos, bean dip, and queso. The truck is part of North Austin brewery Celis’s reopening for on-site services in mid-September.
The duo enjoy working inside of Hana World Market, since it makes sourcing and storing ingredients that much easier: “It’s essentially a giant dry store space for us,” explains Carranza. “Instead of having to order in bulk and find space to store everything, we are able to just run to the market when we need something.”
Currently, Salty Cargo is accepting takeout orders placed in person or over the phone at (737) 465-1821, and there are third-party deliveries through Grubhub and DoorDash. The restaurant is packaging all orders in to-go containers — although Hana’s food court tables are available for those who choose to dine in — and masks are required for guests and employees. Its hours are from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Salty Cargo is also participating in a Halloween pop-up party this weekend. It’ll sell to-go dishes as part of a Halloween pop-up at Crestview bar Violet Crown Clubhouse in Crestview. On deck will be various dishes cooked on the binchotan grill — roast pork, char siu pork sandwiches and lettuce wraps, huli huli chicken, grilled salmon, etc. — as well two salads, a Hawaiian-style macaroni and a papaya. Orders will be placed in person, and people can either take items to go or dine there. The Hula-ween Luau party, which is taking place outdoors, will include socially distanced tables in the parking lot, drinks (sake, beer, cider, wine, and frosé; drink orders are made inside of the bar and masks are required), a costume contest, and live music. It takes place on Saturday, October 31, from 3 to 7 p.m.