Marco Polo

You might find a line in front of Marco Polo on a weekend night because it's one of the more popular places downtown. The wait can be ten or fifteen minutes, sometimes longer if you want a booth. The locals don't seem to mind though, they've been eating here for years and they know the food is worth it. Marco Polo is a Chinese/European restaurant. It sounds strange but this is how it works. One menu has traditional Asian fare like sweet and sour chicken and broccoli beef. The other menu is filled with recipes from the western hemisphere like fettuccine alfredo and beef stroganoff. There's also a lot of choices for vegetarians including veggie potstickers and veggie burgers. Looking around, some tables mixed the menus and were sharing food from both. I tried the Won Ton Soup for $7.95 and the Kung Pao Beef for $9.95. Both were full of flavor and freshness. The Kung Pao can be made to order as spicy as you like. The large portion is filled with juicy slices of steak, zucchini, mushrooms, celery, red peppers and topped with peanuts to give it a crunch. Piled over some rice I ate this mouth watering dish quickly. Made fresh, eating here for dinner is a much better way to go than the lunch buffet. The downside was the service was not as good as the meal. There seemed to be enough servers to handle the crowd in the small restaurant, but there were long waits between ordering, food service and the check. Getting a refill on some water was difficult. I'm curious to try more things on the menu but I think next time, I'll get it to go.

210 Liberty St. S.E.
Salem, OR 97306


Reviewed 11/25/07 by K&N
I'm kicking myself for not having the camera this evening. My husband and I, were going to try Tong King for dinner tonight, but when we could only see two cars parked in back we chickened out. We assumed the cars belonged to staff and didn't want to be the only patrons. We're weird that way. Since we were already primed to eat Chinese food, we drove downtown to Marco Polo. We started off with an appetizer named, "Samosa". Three fried, pastry, triangles arrived, filled with a combination of curried corn, potatoes and onion. They were hot and tasty with just enough curry to still enjoy the flavors of the vegetables and the thin pastry. We ordered their "Hot and Sour Shrimp" and "Beef Curry", to share for dinner. We asked for medium hot and that's just what we received. The shrimp dish was beautiful on the plate. Nice plump shrimp with broccoli florets that still had a little crunch in a sweet sauce, sprinkled with sesame seeds. While it was delicious, I wish there had been just a little more of the "sour" flavor in the sauce. The "Beef Curry", was perfection, tender slices of beef, with chunks of potato, carrot, onion and roasted red pepper, in a flavorful curry sauce and white rice on the side. I'm ready to go again tomorrow. :>)

Review by Salem Man 6-29-07
I was put in an awkward position after my meal when I was taking pictures of the buffet. The manager asked "why are you taking a picture of our food." My reply was that I have a restaurant blog and Marco Polo was going to be reviewed. She then asked "was it good?" I said yes, but this was not true. I thought that the buffet wasn't very good at all. So why did I lie? Face to face it's difficult to tell someone that you are not satisfied with your meal. I'm sorry for my dishonesty, next time my reply will be "read my blog and find out."
Marco Polo was suggested by a reader of this blog who says that he eats there for the vegetarian dishes. They did have a nice selection of tofu and vegetable entrees in the buffet, I had the green beans and zucchini. That was probably the best part of my meal. The General Tso's Chicken was fatty and not very spicy. The Orange Pork was about the same. I also tried the meatloaf which seemed very odd in the buffet lineup and only took a few bites. Still hungry after the meal, I ate a delicious oatmeal cookie from the dessert tray. What I really wanted was the chocolate cake which they were out of.


jonas said...

You weren't put in an awkward situation so much as you put yourself in the situation. You need to remember that being a customer doesn't give you a right to photograph the interior without their permission, as for all you know you may be their competition trying to figure out why they are successful. Either be more considerate or more careful next time.

Salem Man said...

I agree that I put myself in that awkward position. Thats one of the struggles with doing this blog. For the integrity of the reviews here, I believe it's important for people to see the restaurants from the point of view of a regular customer. If I went in as a food critic, the restaurant would treat me very differently than the average Joe.

Bobo said...

I thought that Marco Polo's was very good the few times I've been there, which has been a little while ago. They are a little spendy for Chinese food though. They are trying to capitalize on the Conference Center and have all of this "Best in the Valley" verbage on the front of the restaurant which makes it look a little tacky. If your're really that good, you don't have to say it on the front of the building. Word of mouth should get that around.
They would be better off taking that stuff off and concentrating on making the food and service the best it can be....

K & N said...

My husband and I, have eaten at Marco Polo about 5 times in the past year and haven't been disappointed yet. Although, we've never partaken of the buffet. We prefer tasty sauces and a variety of vegetables. The bland celery and almond with deep fried meat type of Chinese food has never been our idea of a good meal. During our last visit they gave us the "heat tray" to doctor up our dishes ourselves. Ah! Moderation is key!

Anonymous said...

i have a friend who is a chef- he was really excited when he got a job there with some room to be creative, he quit after half of his first shift. he said the place was so disgusting that he would not be associated with it,he would eat from a dumpster before taking a chance with their food.

momoffive said...

My husband like this place a lot but I do not. I have not been impressed with the food or the service.

Anonymous said...

the thing that bothers me about this place is wondering how they can be good at so many different kinds of food? from what i understand, they're called "marco polo" because they serve chinese, mandarin, america, vietnamese etc which explains why you found the meatloaf in with the orange pork. can they really excel at any one type of food when offering so many? i think not.

i ate here once at the lunch buffet, wasnt impressed. however, i find buffets overwhelming so that's my personal bias. everything was fried.

i think the chinese food at safeway is probably about as good as their buffet. said...

As a semi-vegetarian, I thought I would check out what the fuss was about, with the sign reading "the best vegetarian in town." Additionally, I had heard it was foods from around the world, so I thought it was a variety of cultures, versus just a few (american, italian, and asian)

We ended up ordering Asian. As an Italian, I prefer to eat that at an Italian specific restaurant, and preferably authentic, at least when I go out to eat. Otherwise, I cook delicious homemade Italian meals, of course.

I definitely prefer Kwans Asian cuisine over this place any day!

I do not have any desire to go to this place ever again.


Brian Kato said...


I am not sure if this is the correct place to pu this but did you know that the Big Kahuna changed owners? Also The Wild Pear downtown has transformed it's look.

K & N said...

We've noticed that there's one waitress in particular we can count on for great service. The others have been hit and miss. I wonder if they no longer employ someone to fill glasses and bus tables? A nice carafe of water on the table would help somewhat.

K & N said...

I see that Marco Polo will be moving down one block to 300 Liberty St. SE, at the end of July. I wonder if that's in the same building where Jackson Books used to be?

Robbie said...

try the veggie "chicken" here, it's SO good.

Anonymous said...

Some points:

~ I have always had excellent food and service ... every time, including the buffet, which does, in fact, include many non-fried items. I'd count this as one of my favorite eateries in the area. We eat there often. (They have a large number of regulars.) After reading some of these comments I cannot relate to nor explain their experiences.

~ That 'manager' is the owner, BTW. MP is owned by a couple, originally from Hong Kong. The reason the restaurant is so vegetarian friendly is because she is vegetarian.

~ They have different cooks for the various cuisines.

~ The buffet is being done away with, so, in future, lunch will be all from the menus.

~ Marco Polo Global Restaurant proper is moving into the old Coco's Bar & Grill location, but they will retain the current location as a tea house and vegetarian/vegan cafe called Tea Time. So they'll have two eateries close together.

~ They have been voted 'Best' in different categories for some years now and have always displayed the results (why shouldn't they be proud?) in the window (I don't find it tacky; it's a family restaurant by intent and never meant to be a fancy place) ... long before the convention center existed. In fact they weren't even very happy when it opened as regular customers had a harder time finding parking (and many of them said so). The two things have nothing to do with each other.

Anonymous said...

so by now, we all know that Marco Polo will become Marco Polo Tea Time, right? Do you guys know when they are gonnna change the name and location, or they already did it?


KandN said...

On a trip through downtown Monday (July 28), we noticed workers traveling back and forth between the "old" Marco Polo restaurant and the redone place above the now closed Jackson's Books. How exciting for them to be getting ready for their opening day tomorrow. I'm eager to go take a look.

Anonymous said...

I worked here in 2005 for about 2 months in high school as a hostess. I later flipped the job to a friend and she hated it more than I did.

It was pretty much my worst job ever because half of the kitchen staff are spanish speakers and the rest speak broken english and mandarin chinese.

Half the time, the owner's son would come home from wherever and take up all my shifts when he needed money. He would also come to work with street clothes on which would piss me and the other waitresses off.

I went in there a few months later after I quit to eat and the owners hardly remembered me :(

Anyway, The food is great!

I wanted to make a point that they aren't trying to capitalize on the convention center. Their prices are the same as they were before it was built.

It is actually quite convienent for people staying at the convention center because they do deliver across the street which is far less expensive than the hotel restaurant.

They have a huge menu but stick with the Chinese dishes. The plum sauce that comes with many appetizers is homemade and delicious!

Jassy said...

The new location and the new menu is great! For $6.95 you get an incredible lunch. My favorite item is the garlic green beans with chicken and they have the best brown rice. If you are there for dinner be sure to order the fried rice with brown rice, it's amazing. The new location has a wonderful view. I'd always enjoyed their buffet but this is much better and I don't miss the buffet at all.

KandN said...

Okay, I may be showing my age, but I learned something new while eating at Marco Polo last night (mmm, curry shrimp friend rice and mongolian beef!). If you mix a Black Butte Porter and a Monkey Face Porter together, it's called a Monkey Butt. Shouldn't that be, Monkey Butte??

Anonymous said...

From most of these reviews I can't even
recognize my favorite restaurant.
The new Marco Polo is in town:
Pleasant atmosphere, comfortable furnishings,
a painterly garden view of downtown Salem, a
three menu offering of dishes that usually
please me and my most picky guests. The wait
staff is courteous and attentive.
The lunch menu is a big improvement over
fast food and doesn't cost much more. The
waitress offered me a delicious jasmine tea, served in a silvery teapot and with no extra charge. It's all good.

KandN said...

Anonymous 5/8/09 9:03PM
I'm not sure what you mean. All but one of these reviews has good things to say, the other states what it was like on that day at that time. N and I count Marco Polo as one of our favorites in town. Once or twice the service has been spotty, but the food is always good.

Anonymous said...

Visited for dinner on Jan 28, 2013. This was my third time eating at this restaurant. First two times, wonderful food, and great service. On the 28th, in the evening, great food, LOUSY SERVICE. My friend and I had a waiter/waitress take our order, bring it to us. Bring the check. We were visiting with each other, waiter/waitress never asked if we wanted coffee and dessert, while we chatted for another two hours???????