Man in the Monthly

Buried deep in the recent "Eat" section of Salem Monthly, there's an article that I wrote about interesting fast food observations in town. Because the new "Eat" is coming out soon, I decided to finally post this old one here.(I'm trying to avoid competing with myself.) I've submitted another article for the new "Eat" which is coming out Dec. 1st. Look for it at news stands downtown and in the capitol building. Here goes.

It's tough to have a conversation about dining in Salem Oregon and not mention the fast food chains that seem to surround the town selling
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their greasy sandwiches to customers idling in long drive thru lines. I apologize if you feel that this subject is a waste of limited space in one of our local papers. If I were to write about how great the two chili dogs for $3 at Carl's Jr. are, you'd probably close the newspaper up immediately and toss it into the recycle. Our desire to consume local foods doesn't seem stop anyone from sneaking a bite of a burger at one of these well advertised fast food franchises. Their logos have been branded so well the sight of a yellow "M" is all that's needed to make someone hungry. One restaurant in town has decided that it's logo is a better sell to customers than it's name. If you drive down Commercial St. you'll see a big red sign with an older southern gentleman in a bowtie. What's that guy's name again? Kenny Rogers? When you see it, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Nowhere on the property is the actual name of the restaurant. I guess we can call it whatever we want. I often wonder if I'm the only one whose ever observed this oddity. Nobody seems to complain. Maybe the franchise owner doesn't want any of his customers to think about poultry parts being fried in vats of high temperature oil when they're ordering. Maybe the less you think about your food, where it came from and how it was prepared, the more you'll eat. If you think just a little bit about it you might want to try an alternative that is much better and cheaper. Roth's and Winco both sell fried chicken at their deli counters for far less money and is just as good as that chain. The better part is the sides. Both stores have a wide variety of salads and sides to compliment fried bird.

Sometimes, just the architecture of a building itself is enough to remind you of the food being served inside. Every city has at least one Taco Bell corpse functioning as another business, littering the landscape. Long before the chihuaha, prior to the pizzaz pizza, in the days of the Bellbeefer, Taco Bell erected a line of buildings made of bricks and arched windows. We all thought that they would last forever but Taco Bell soon sought locations with higher street traffic and abandoned the old architecture for something less dated. Salem's Taco Bell corpse is on Market St. near Lancaster and is now occupied by Aiberto's Mexican food. It's hard to look at it and not get nostalgic for the old days when TB looked like a hacienda complete with an actual bell atop the center of the roof. Nowadays, TB is trying very hard to be cool. The newest TB on Commercial St. south of Kuebler is carefully color coordinated and efficiently designed for maximum taco appeal. They've tried to do the same thing with their food, adding ingredients that seem healthier then the ground beef found in their trademark tacos. It must be tough for a fast food chain to stay competitive with the current crop of evolving corporate owned restaurants constantly focus grouping customers and following the latest trends. For myself, and I know I must represent a very small segment of their customer base, I say keep it simple. Over the many years that I have had the misfortune of eating here, the only exotic item I've ever ordered from their menu is the Burrito Supreme.

When the biggest of the fast food chains decides to change up their menu it can have significant global consequences. Remember when the big M used to sell their burgers in polystyrene boxes? Those containers are non biodegradable. When worries that these clam shell boxes would float around in our oceans forever or give off toxic fumes when burned, as we do in Marion County, environmentalist forced McDonald's to change the delivery method.
I'm as guilty as anyone of indulging in some of these quick eats around town and elsewhere but I do my best to support the local restaurants. For more information about Salem dining check out and

I'm not used to being limited in the number of words that I can write. Mostly I just run out of things to say. But I also wanted to write about was how McDonalds is trying to change their image and become more of a coffee house. The store on Center Street near the capitol mall did a complete remodel inside. There's a section of stools in there, by the door, that I'm guessing someone thought would be comfortable for both a coffee drinker and a Big Mac eater. If you're sitting there for more then two minutes, it would be comfortable to no one. There's no place to rest your feet below the raised stools, so that over time, the joints in your knees become stretched. It's not that big a problem because who wants to hang out in a fast food chain for very long anyway. I have made an attempt to sit there through a lunch break to see if anyone was ordering the McCafe coffees. On the day I observed, only one person brought one back to their table. (Perched up on those stools is actually a good vantage point for observing customer behavior.) I can't say that I was keeping track of how many people were ordering these things in the drive thru, which, I'm sure is how most Salemites are getting their caffiene fix here. The advertising in the windows for these drinks is definatly appealing to the fast food crowd. Every drink in the posters have a scoop of whip cream on top with a swirl of chocolate. Perfect stomach topper for that quarter pounder and large fry.

Alright, gotta go get started on my day. Be sure to look for the new Salem Monthly in newsstands everywhere.

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