Bite of Salem 2008

To read the latest info about The Bite of Salem Click Here!

The Bite of Salem is a good weather vain for the dining scene in Salem, so I'm sorry to say that I am not able to make it this year. I would love to hear your comments about how it went and what you ate. Comment below and/or send me an email at Any photos would be great too. The event is put on by the South Salem Rotary Club at Salem's Riverfront Park. Fireworks Saturday night and the event which includes carnival rides and live music goes until Sunday night at 6p. It's a $3 donation to get in and $20 for "All Day Rides." Here's a link to The Bite of Salem website.

Here's one review that just came in from Keith over at

My wife and I are new to Salem. I grew up in Oregon City but my wife is a California native and we moved here about a year ago after living for 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. I mention all that just to give some perspective on how we've had to really dial down our expectations regarding cultural diversity and choice/quality of food -- and therefore how much we appreciated finding your blog!!!!
That being said, while it offers a lot fewer dining opportunities of the calibre we're used to, we love living here and have been delighted to find some great food.
With a friend visiting from California, my wife and I took her to the park last night to see the sights.
Our friend thoroughly enjoyed the sushi rolls and fruit salad from two different booths. My wife and I both opted for the bratwurst from the Mt. Angel Sausage Company and were not disappointed. The curly fries were fresh and hot and my wife had the fresh strawberry-lemonade which was actually frozen and blended smooth.
She likes her bratwurst plain with a little mustard. Me? I went for the works with saurkraut, grilled onions, and both regular French's yellow mustard and a variety of sweet-hot mustard. Here's a picture I snapped before downing it with an ice-cold bottle of water.
The 2 brats, fries, lemonade and water set us back $22. A little steep for a dog and a drink -- but with live music playing, a friendly crowd enjoying the warm summer evening, and free parking, it made for a very nice Friday night outing.


Anonymous said...

I'm a frequent reader of your blog and confessed foodie - so here's my $0.02:

I was underwhelmed - by the number of vendors, food choices, and quality of the dishes.

I really want Salem area restaurants to succeed. I do. But if this is truly some kind of sign of how the industry is doing, I'd rather stay home and cook.

OK, here's the details from my lunch at The Bite: one chicken taco from Jr.'s Taqueria ($2), one sample-sized pulled pork sandwich from Adam's Rib($3), one order of onion rings (5 rings for $4) from Sassy Onion, one Bridgeport IPA ($5) beer.

(For those keeping track, that's $19 + tips + $5 entry donation)

My first stop was Jr.'s - especially since I'd seen some commentary here about the authentic food served. I decided to start with a single "soft taco" con pollo. The chicken was juicy - not dry and overcooked as one might expect in a fair environment. It was topped with a combination of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. It tasted fine and seemed fresh but wasn't anything to write home about.

Next up, I stopped at Adam's Rib for the pulled pork sandwich sample. Again, the meat was juicy and tender. Fresh cabbage shreds topped the meat in between what appeared to be a dinner roll. I added some barbecue sauce (they only had once choice - unlike the restaurant) and alternated between dipping the sandwich in it and eating it plain. The flavor was decent but, again, it's not something I'll be dying to try again.

The beer and wine choices were sorely lacking. I guess one shouldn't expect much when Miller Lite is the main alcohol sponsor. Since it was warm outside, I bypassed what would have been usual choice (Alaskan Amber) and went with something a little lighter, the Bridgeport IPA. Since there wasn't much else in the way of small plates, I ordered onion rings from the Sassy Onion - I'd seen other people walking around with them and they looked like the best fried food option available.
Since I'm not usually much of an onion ring eater, I don't really have much with which to compare these. They had a thick coating of batter which was crunchy but still kind of oily/greasy. The onions themselves where soft and soggy (but maybe that's normal). The beer was what one would expect - and a relief from the mediocre food.

All in all, I was not impressed. That said, I would go back next year - just hoping that there might be a better selection.

Just thinking though - it seems like a rather schizonphrenic event, what with the rides, food, odd assortment of non-food vendors, and music. I want to like it, and I want Salem to have diverse events and embrace good food and music, but it seems like this one is trying to be too many things all at once. Is it a fair? Is it a foodie event? Is it a musical draw? Methinks you can't be all things to all people - jack of all trades, master of none, y'know?

I'll be curious to hear others' opinions. My apologies for the length of my post but I wanted to put it all out there while it was fresh in my mind.

Most of the other offerings fall into what I call typical fair food: various oriental food combos, hot dogs, curly fries, smoothies, ice cream, elephant ears - oh, and Pizza Hut. Granted, some of the hot dogs and bratwursts were probably an upgrade on fair food - but still fair food imo.

Also - call me crazy but I expect an event called The Bite to offer more small plate options. Heaping piles of yakisoba noodles doesn't really encourage people to sample the various foods.

Orejo said...

I was also disappointed with the event and we spent no more money than our donation when we went. From the advertising and my past experiences with food events, I was under the impression that local restaurants would have free samples to try so we could see what they have to offer. When we found larger size and cost portions and an extremely overpriced set of carnival rides (for my two kids to ride one ride it would have set us back $10) we decided to head off to eat at the main Adams Rib location and play in the fountains across from the capital instead.

Perhaps they could refocus the festival purpose, like you mentioned, and try to get more vendors that match the purpose.

Anonymous said...

Very little food, lots of tacky carnival fare.

Anonymous said...

I didn't go because I was unimpressed with the small list of vendors and because I heard that no one was really doing sample portions. And c'mon, Pizza Hut? Really Salem? Perhaps the Salem Bite organizers could use a trip to Portland's Bite to get some ideas for next year. I hope to see more food vendors and a more diverse spread next year.

Anonymous said...

It's Salem. What do you expect from a town that worships Wal-Mart and loves fast food?

Salem is improving, but it's far behind Portland, Eugene, and for the most part, Corvallis.

Anonymous said...

i agree with 1:07am, its salem, what did we expect? i never go, i find it overpriced and very tacky (plus i cant stand "carnivals"). salem has some good places to eat without having to fight the crowds, heat, or terrible sounds and smells of this festival. i dont think they're accomplishing what a "bite" festival should, at all..... just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Definitely just a mini-county fair.

The Bite in pdx has a wide array of great food. Salem = fair food plus a few locals (Adam's Rib was the standout).

The kids loved the rides, though I am not a fan of fairs.

The music was great. We listened to a great Russian band on Friday.

All in all, I think it is misrepresented to call it the Bite. Maybe the Mini Salem Fair would be more appropriate. If they want it to be the Bite, they need more local restaurants. Maybe a section where you pay $10 and get to sample a wide variety of restaurant fare.

The kids did have fun.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy and satisfied anytime Salem offers up any sort of festival to attend. But honestly, it's Salem. If you want fancy gourmet food and a rich cultural experience, just go to Portland. I think people like Salem because it isn't so busy. I was totally satisfied with my hot dog from Caseys, my sampler from Adams (which is always amazing in my opinion) and my curly fries...also from Caseys. It would be nice for there to be more vendors. Maybe they should just combine the bite and worldbeat...

Anonymous said...

I definately appreciate that Salem is not a busy place, but "busy" isn't neccesary for a rich cultural experience. Go spend a weekend in much smaller Oregon towns like Astoria, Corvallis, McMinville, Silverton, etc and you will generally find more culture than you will in Salem. We need to all demand more of our city and it's citizens- No more mediocre food & culture- We're being bested regularly by towns a fraction of our size!

Anonymous said...

While the Bite of Oregon in Portland is quite a bit better then the Bite of Salem, they are both disappointing. The Bite of Oregon does have much bigger musical acts and the beer and wine selection is better. I don't recall free samples at the Bite of Oregon.

It's for charity, so I wish the Bite of Salem continued success, but yes, it's a pretty crappy event.

I have such mixed feelings about Salem. If a few more local places participated, it would be a neat festival. Having Pizza Hut there is just ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the other posters. I have pretty much stopped going to the bite because, well, it bites. But I did pop in for dessert this year and to listen to music. I had ice cream. The bite was the same old, same old, like it is every year.

I'm not expecting free samples. I would pay for bites or small plates if they were offered. Instead you wait in a ridiculous line for a $10 plate of something barely edible. Then, what am I going to do, wait in line, and spend more money to eat a second whole meal? The whole concept doesn't make sense.

Unless they change it dramatically next year, I won't go back. They don't need a bunch of carnival rides and sunglass vendors. Just music and real food. But the organizers haven't figured that out yet.

Anonymous said...

In 2009, A new food vendor will be at the bite. Krazy Dog is a small New York style hot dog cart that is downtown everyday for the lunch croud. I will have dogs starting at $2.00 and will also have amazing sausages like the Jalapeno and Tillamook cheddar frank. Bacon wrapped all beef dogs, An authentic Chicago dog complete with sport peppers and neon green relish, and more.

The reason there is not more local restaurants involved is because the Bite charges $1500.00 a spot which is 3 times as much as any event Ive ever done. That also explains the prices.

Please come and give me a shot this year. I promise you a much better dining experience from Krazy Dog.

Queen of Tarts said...

I too would love not only to have more options at the bite, but to participate myself. Unfortunately the cost is prohibitive.In addition to the 1500.00 per vender charge you must add the temporary restaurant license fee and 45.00 for a permit from City of Salem as well.The large fee goes to the Salem Rotary club who sponsers the event. If the weather doesn't cooperate and turnout isn't good you can also add loss of product to the cost for vendors. Good Luck to all who decide to take the risk!