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UP CLOSE: Couple runs bistro for ‘hard-working people’

September 29, 2017
By ANTONIO OLIVERO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Curious decor abounds at every turn at Dennis and Andrea Lautenschuetz's Salt of the Earth Bistro on Sentinel Road.

Scrabble pieces lined up to spell "Please wait to be seated" atop the hostess podium - which was rummaged from a church in Essex - a clarinet lamp and a cheese grater chandelier are meant to be hidden but not too hidden. You might not catch these details at first or second glance, but the restaurateurs hope you will eventually and crack a smile, perhaps also when realizing there are two women at the core of the restaurant's script logo, their faces literally branching out of tree limbs and a script "S" and "E."

"If you look at it, it's one thing," Andrea, the restaurant's chef and co-owner, said of many of the items located at Salt of the Earth. "But if you look at it from a different way, it's something else."

Article Photos

Andrea and Dennis Lautenschuetz smile at the hostess’s podium of their Salt of the Earth Bistro on Sentinel Road, Lake Placid, on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
News photo — Antonio Olivero

With more than 70 restaurants in Lake Placid and the surrounding area, Dennis and Andrea hope tourists, but especially locals, discover their relatively new restaurant located at the former High Peaks Hostel.

The couple opened Salt of the Earth in March, staring at the uphill climb in this vacation destination where supply often exceeds demand for foodies. In an effort to survive from one Lake Placid season to another at this location a mile from Main Street's hub, the couple felt it needed to do two things.

Number one: Put thought into every nook and cranny, having each item exude the restaurant's "Twisted food from traditional roots" concept.

And number two: Emphasize that their new establishment was a place by locals for locals.

That first element was on display when Dennis' father and longtime Placidian Paul Lautenschuetz finally realized the store's sign featured those female faces within the script typography of tree limbs. This was after the sign had resided in the restaurant's main room for two weeks.

"He said, 'Wow, that's cool!' Andrea recalled with a laugh.

These two ladies came to grace Salt of the Earth's sign near the curved corner of Sentinel and Newman roads thanks to a critical third wheel at the heart of Salt of the Earth: front-of-house manager Liz Arnold.

Arnold tagged along with Andrea, a former chef at the Chair 6 restaurant that used to be located nearby on Sentinel Road, at which Arnold was also the front of house manager. Dennis described Arnold as the kind of free spirit who "you could spend two minutes with, then go get a drink with and feel like you've known for 15 years." Arnold and Andrea share a creative flair, which they channeled into Salt of the Earth.

As front-of-house manager, Arnold is the smiling face who will typically greet you behind the Scrabble pieces that spell out "Please wait to be seated." A fan of tattoos, she connected Andrea with a tattoo artist friend who designed the Salt of the Earth sign Andrea harbored in her head.

"She gave her my ideas, and it was like she pulled it out of my brain," Andrea said. "The gears in the corners - those go back to the area's factory workers. It's those little touches - the apples and the wheat of harvesting and things like that. It's all kind of cohesive."

This newest use of the 102-year-old home and former bed and breakfast at 5956 Sentinel Road only came to be after Andrea, Dennis and Paul tore it down to its skeletal structure and decided what they wanted where. Dennis, who works 9-to-5 as a commercial pilot for Adirondack Flying Service down the street, described the process as painstaking yet rewarding, as the couple and their family soon realized that, yes, a couple of walls would come down to meet their vision. Aside from that, 5956 Sentinel possessed exactly the kind of cozy, homey charm the Lautenschuetzes were looking for.

Andrea was looking for the kind of restaurant that "felt like some cool grandmother's house." From the Scrabble pieces, to the cacti adorning each tabletop to the old tube-TV with figurines inside, that's what she feels her team has cultivated.

"We didn't want it to feel sterile," Andrea said. "People come in slippers, and they take their shoes off before they sit down. Actually, a salesman took his shoes off at front door and said he felt like he was walking into somebody's home as opposed to a restaurant which, of course you'd never do that at a restaurant."

As for the name, the couple says it speaks to how they feel any family from any socio-economic background can come to their establishment and enjoy either a hamburger or, say, rabbit meatballs in tika misala sauce over cous cous (Andrea's spin on spaghetti and meatballs) all at the same table. Salt of the Earth is meant to serve the gritty locals who call the Adirondacks home year-round.

Andrea wishes more guests realized the restaurant's name is partially influenced by a lesser-known song from one of the 20th century's most iconic rock bands. Back in 1968, the Rolling Stones let guitarist Keith Richards sing lead on the last song on their seminal record "Beggar's Banquet," entitled "Salt of the Earth."

"Nobody knows that song!" she said with a laugh.



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