260 Liberty St Se
Salem, OR 97301
Before they put in the jumbo tron billboards all over Salem, the biggest eyesore in town was the pinkish, orange Chula Vista Mexican Restaurant on Liberty St. I think the color they're going for is mango. This building sat vacant for a number of months before the current occupants expanded their State St. restaurant into this downtown building. It gets your attention. Not wanting to judge a book by its' cover, I've been wanting to see if this place is any good. The theory is, if a restaurant can be painted a gosh awful color and remain in business, the food must be exceptional. In theory. In reality it would take more than a scientific hypothesis to get my family into the doors of this restaurant. What did it take, the words, "Kids Eat Free" on a banner draped over the window of the restaurant. If you have young kids, as I do, you've probably paid thousands of dollars on meals that were discarded after one bite. So when a restaurant offers to comp my kids, I'll walk through fire to eat there. It certainly wasn't an inferno here, in fact, it was freezing inside. They tried to seat us on one side of the restaurant but it was so cold and empty we asked to be moved to the other dining room where we thought more people would provide body heat to the chilly room. Chula Vista has a huge menu of Mexican dishes including the typical fare like enchiladas, tacos and burritos. But the menu is filled with dinners like Pollo en Mole Verde, Molcajete, and Pulpo a la Diabla which is a spicy octopus dish. The kids ordered the ever popular Chicken Tenders and Fries and the Taquito plate. Yes, those "blobs" are chicken tenders. To summarize the kids meals, the fries, chicken and rice were eaten but with not a lot of excitement. I played it safe and got the Steak Tacos al Carbon. Not bad, the tacos were a bit greasy. There wasn't really anything memorable about this dinner. The atmosphere was the same. The furniture was kind of mismatched for the space, and the lighting was dark and flat. All of the servers seemed happy though. They made a nice effort to smile and engage in small talk with the customers. I overheard one table near us, tell the server that they really enjoyed their dinner as she brought out the check. I can't imagine ever eating here again unless I drive by one day and a new banner reads, "Adults Eat Free!" Then again maybe not.