It was Dan’s brother Russ who always had the lifelong dream to own a restaurant. On a trip to Mexico he developed a love of authentic Mexican cuisine, and realized there wasn’t much of it at all in Rhode Island. Harnessing Dan’s and Andi’s talents, Russ found the Perro Salado concept a home and helped it bloom. Now, he leverages his extensive business experience to manage the restaurant’s future – sure to be as bold and bright as the flavors coming from the kitchen.
Co-owner and general manager Andi Johnson’s artistic eye transformed this historic 18th-century Naval officer’s home in the heart of Newport into a casual and boisterous gathering space. Earthy colors saturate walls, and the whimsical decor make each of the cozy rooms jump to life with fiesta-like energy. Behind the bar, Andi’s experience as a mixologist turns classic margaritas into bold and fresh concoctions as exciting and remarkable as a great glass of wine.
CO-OWNER / EXECUTIVE CHEF
Chef Dan Hall brings about a lifetime and a half of cooking and restaurant experience to Perro Salado. In his 30 years in the industry, he has had the opportunity to work in a vast array of establishments, from a 3-star French Nouvelle restaurant to a Western truck stop. He has helped to open 4 restaurants and managed kitchen crews as large as 30.
Along the way, Dan has taken something valuable and useful from each experience, whether it was an appreciation for the freshest ingredients or a mean recipe for hash browns.
Like many passionate professional chefs, Dan began cooking at a very young age, at home. As a youngster, he liked to play with his food…but instead of making Play-Doh spaghetti, Dan loved the results he got with his kitchen’s hand-cranked meat grinder.
While a student at the University of Miami, Dan fell in love with the fresh, feisty flavors of the city. He was inspired to move to New York – the epicenter of culinary trends, and fell in love with the culinary options presented to him on a daily basis – any kind of food imaginable, from all over the globe, always fresh and seasonal. He enrolled in cooking school and eventually returned to Miami where he spent three years at Lucky’s at the Park Central Hotel in South Beach. Here, he honed his skills in Nouvelle cuisine and traditional French techniques.
In 1989, Dan moved to Boston, where cooking in the Italian North End taught him about the simple, finer treatments of meats, seafood, pasta and vegetables. But then it was back to New York – Brooklyn this time – to open and run the kitchen at a bar-taqueria. He realized here that there were actually many similarities between Mexican and Italian cuisine, especially the importance of freshness of ingredients in the final product.
At Perro Salado, Dan makes use of Rhode Island’s many small farms, fisherman and farmer’s markets in creating his menu, which interprets authentic Mexican in a creative, fresh, simple way.
It is no wonder Andi Johnson has a passion for owning a restaurant that turns out fresh, creative food. She grew up on a farm in the Nebraska, where she learned to love and appreciate just-picked produce and the beauty of seasonal foods.
Andi has worked in the restaurant industry since she was 14. Like many owners, she learned the business from the bottom up, doing the basics at first and then finding her niche and her passion.
The variety of her experience is wide: She has worked in a small, eclectic café that grew a lot of its own produce, as well as for celebrity chef Todd English – first at Figs in Massachusetts, then at his flagship Olives in New York City. Here she sharpened her skills and became inspired by mixology, or the art and science of crafting cocktails and specialty drinks. She also developed her penchant for the creative, designing and crafting the restaurant’s draperies and other details.
Today, Andi’s influence can be felt behind Perro Salado’s intimate bar, where run-of-the-mill margaritas have been replaced with house specialties featuring top-shelf and rare tequilas as well as fresh fruits and vegetables such as blood oranges, pomegranates, and cucumbers. She is also responsible for creating the restaurant’s authentic cantina feel with unique details and decorations.
Andi works closely with Chef Dan Hall to create a restaurant atmosphere where guests feel comfortable and inspired, and are ultimately delighted with Perro Salado’s interpretation of authentic, fresh Mexican cooking.
CO-OWNER / PRESIDENT
Russ Hall has always enjoyed cooking and eating and it has been his lifelong dream to own a restaurant. As a vice president at a multi-national company, he lived in Mexico for three years and developed a strong appreciation for authentic Mexican food. Russ recognized a growing trend toward it in the United States—but a general lack of authentic Mexican cuisine in Rhode Island.
In 2007, Russ looked to his brother Dan, a chef in New York City who happened to be the mastermind behind a successful authentic Mexican restaurant there. Together with Andi Johnson’s creativity and experience working in New York City restaurants, Russ knew the time was right to introduce the concept of an authentic Mexican restaurant to New England.
The team found the perfect location in Newport—a historic building with small dining rooms, fireplaces and an outdoor courtyard shaded by a large Cherry tree. Perro Salado (The Salty Dog) was born, and quickly became a favorite of locals and tourists alike.
Today Russ owns several technology companies focused on small businesses in Rhode Island. He makes a point to spend at least one night a week at Perro Salado to talk with the customers and staff and to sample the new items on the menu. He continues to leverage his extensive business experience to manage the long term strategic, financial, and marketing aspects of the business, and he looks forward to helping the Perro Salado name grow.