Sadly, Pete's Place is scheduled to close August 24, 2012
Inside, near the entrance to Pete's, there's a photo on the wall of the section of State Street where Pete's Place stands (or Pioneer Grill, as it was known way back when and what the sign out front will read again very soon). The photo was taken in the 30s when the streets were unpaved and proudly proclaims that the Pioneer Grill is the oldest bar in the city of Salem.
Pioneer Grill was where our group from work decided to meet for our final summer lunch. I've been wanting to try Pete's ever since another Salemite mentioned how much she enjoyed their "pub grub". Summer seemed like a good time, because even though bars are now smoke free in Oregon, it's going to take awhile before the smell is tolerable enough for us old, picky non-smokers to enjoy a meal. We pushed the two outdoor tables together to make space for our group of 5.
Who knew we'd be treated to so much curbside entertainment! Along with the photography session in the wisteria draped alley and the usual people watching, two semi-tractor trailers navigated the entrance to the alley entrances--immediately west of us and the other directly across the street. It was one of those situations when you feel quite small and vulnerable, especially while sitting on a sidewalk in a plastic lawn chair. The ease with which those two drivers maneuvered their massive vehicles through the narrow passageway was both frightening and impressive.
I was also impressed with the service we received during our nearly 2 hours stay. It was friendly and efficient and we were never kept waiting. I was happy to discover they had a combination of national and NW beers on tap. T ordered the Reuben, I ordered the Patty Melt, C & L #1 ordered the BLT and L#2 ordered the Big Bad Dog with kraut.
L#2 was very happy with her dog. She said it was tasty and smokey. A good choice to go with her Black Butte Porter.
My Patty Melt was a nice rendition of a diner staple. The thin beef patty was well done, but still tender. The red onion slices were tender, as if they had been laid on the grill briefly to bring out the flavor. The melted slice of cheese lent just enough flavor to make the marriage of all the ingredients a very nice one, indeed. When ordering the included side, the waitress told me that the potato salad was made in-house. I enjoyed the slightly nontraditional take they employed in the making of their potato salad--more of a German style in my opinion.
The server was friendly and apt and queried us on our choice of beverage. I was talked out of a simple diet cola and into a tasty Pilsner Hefefizen; or was it peer pressure? One can never be sure when navigating pools of influence, motivation and persuasion, especially surrounded by three (the fourth yet to arrive) lovely diners. In any course (no pun intended) the quaff was nicely quenching, with a garnish especial: a citrus-y slice of yellow home grown and freshly picked (I'm certain) and sliced into neat fifths, lemon.
The food: arrived on the arm of another server, and looked at first glance a little thin, as I enjoy my Reubens stuffed full and tall with sauerkraut. The ranch dressing complemented my small gathering of greens and was a delicious pallet cleansing first course. Now to bite into the real deal. Well, not a man-sized bite, for that would consume nearly half the sandwich. Let's say a good-mannered bite. Mmm! Tasty! What it lacks for in size, it makes up for in taste! Delish! Two more squares and my tummy would say, 'it's a good hurt, so I imagine that the portion of the first two squares was just right for me.
As I daydreamingly leaned back in my comfortable chair now feeling too small, my attention slightly unfocused on yet another young lovely professional passing by in attire for a summer day, I thought, 'how glorious-- good food, good friends, big trucks, a sidewalk, and an empty beer glass. It doesn't get much better than this.'
Loved the no rush feeling when sitting outside, beer and buddies were the best part, Food was prepared as described -mostly-albeit bland- but nothing that would cause me to return , server was a pro and willingly gave us a history lesson. The pioneer grill could theme up a bit to attract customers.
Two things, cook the bacon a little longer for the BLT and the fries were very good. I really enjoyed the company and will look forward to next summer when we can do it all again. Thanks for a great afternoon of fun.Pete's Place/Pioneer Grill
356 State St
Salem, OR 97301-3532