Cokie's Landing Bar and Grill

Cokies is now closed and up for sale

Review by Mama2Dylan
I go to Cokies Bar & Grill frequently.  It’s just a few blocks from work. Not always to eat, sometimes just for a nice cold beer. I already knew they had good food, but since I discovered they have an excellent breakfast I have been meeting my friend there on Saturday mornings. I’ve tried their eggs, omelets, biscuits and gravy, traditional eggs Benedict and crab Benedict so far. Each and every item is always prepared perfectly by their chef Dave. He really takes pride in his work and it shows.
The breakfast fare includes; traditional, beggars, steak & eggs, traditional or crab cake eggs Benedict, Cajun pork chops, breakfast burrito, biscuits & gravy, French toast, pancakes, a meatless option, 2x2x2 and a breakfast sandwich as well as a choice of 7 three egg omelets and 2 scrambles. Dave is great about substitutions or design your own. Breakfast prices start at $4.95 the most expensive items being the steak & eggs and crab Benedict.
The lunch/dinner menu consists of 5- 1/3 LB burgers, 3 wraps & 8 sandwiches w/ your choice of fries, cole slaw, potato salad or soup (add green salad for .75) all starting at $6.95. I happen to love their fries, they are the BEST! I had their mushroom swiss burger once. It was excellent. It arrived very hot & steamy and full of flavor. They also have a personal sized pizza, entrée sized specialty salads, steak & baked potato dinner, chicken fettuccini alfredo, pork chops, cod beer battered fish & chips, chicken strips, and a prawn basket (my personal favorite).
And as if that wasn’t enough they have a full bar food menu, such as nachos, potato skins, buffalo wings, etc.
While Cokies is a bar don’t let that disway you. There is no smoking in all bars now. If you’d like to smoke they have a very nice covered/ heated set up in the rear. If you like a bloody mary or other cocktail w/ breakfast they have a full bar. Or perhaps a cocktail or microbrew draft w/ your lunch or dinner. If you have minors in your party they do have special seating in the front completely separated from the bar that minors and their families can sit in and be served. Plenty of TV’s abound for the sports as well. If you sit up front they'll probably even put Sponge Bob on for the kiddies, I've seen it done before. :)
All of the clientele I have ever encountered in Cookies have been pleasant, but more than that, the employees are the nicest and most efficient in town. Tell em' Roxie sent ya' ;)

West Side Wine Store

By KandN&L-

I always appreciate a friendly greeting as soon as I enter an establishment. And when Liseanne and I walked into the West Side Wine Store, that's the first thing we heard from Jess, one of the owners. As we browsed the variety of wine on their shelves, he came over to ask if we needed help finding something or if he could answer any questions. It's good to feel welcome.

Jess said that he plans on continuing to add shelves for more wine and a fridge for Willamette Valley Cheese. One corner shelf was devoted entirely to wines in the $4-10, range. On their website they list 39 wineries they sell from in their shop. They are a wine shop specializing in Oregon wines, with a few exceptions on the $4-10 shelf. Jess told us they plan on adding a calendar on their website to promote their special tastings, guest winemakers as well as sake and wine appreciation classes.

The two of us enjoyed the friendly chatter and a tasting of the seven featured wines. We also tasted a sample of the "wine fudge"(made with Silver Falls Vineyards- Silver Mist Chocolate) along with the pinot noir. Sunday's tasting included wines from Witness Tree, Elemental and Silver Falls Vineyards. Since Lise and I ended up purchasing wine, cheese and fudge, our tasting was complimentary. There is a small fee for tasting without purchase.
It's nice to see west siders continuing to get more options on their side of the Willamette.
West Side Wine Store
Closed Monday
11am - 6pm Tue-Sat
12-5pm Sunday
503.763.WINE (9463)

550 Taggart Rd NW Suite 110D
Salem, OR 97304

*One Block behind Walgreens on Taggart Dr (not in the same parking lot as Walgreens, one block back next to Alibi's)

Olive Garden #2 in SJ Poll

Did you notice the "best of" poll has Olive Garden #2 for Best Italian Restaurant? I've been somewhat obsessed with voting on this poll and have noticed the OG holding strong in that category. I know it's a busy restaurant along Lancaster but it's still surprising that people consider it to be one of the best. Do you think it's one of the best? Why did you vote for it or why didn't you?

If you haven't voted in the poll yet, remember to vote today and tomorrow. The way they have it set up you can vote once a day.

miNa's at McNary Golf Club

Click here if you're looking for Mina's Cafe in south Salem.
Update 5/20/11
Closed, is now McNary Restaurant.

by KandN
We hadn't planned on going to miNa's, but somewhere between home, sharing our day and a companionable silence, N and I found ourselves on River Road North in Keizer. Remembering hearing about miNa's, I asked N where the McNary Golf Club was. We were nearly there.

We opened the double oak doors and walked into the entry way. No employees were in sight. We could hear (how large was that crowd?) a lot of conversation and laughter pouring out of the lounge area, along with an 8-10 person birthday party in the dining room. Happy noise without the smoke - I'm liking this change more and more.
While we were trying to decide whether to seat ourselves or not, a young man appeared with menus to lead us to a table. N immediately turned to the back page featuring their Thai menu. Me? After smelling grilled beef wafting out from the kitchen, all I could think about was the top sirloin at the top of their steak section. When the waitress came over to see if we were ready to order dinner (she had already brought us our ale and porter), N asked about one of the Thai entrees. She explained how they're slowly phasing out their Thai selections and are only offering the Pad Thai now, so he joined me in ordering a top sirloin, medium rare. I ordered the 8 oz. for $14.95 and N ordered 12 oz. for $18.95.
Big picture windows line one side of the dining room. At 7:30 PM, I couldn't tell you exactly what the view was (golf course?), but it was framed on either side with tall fir trees, with hills in the distance. It's a large room, broken up with a privacy screen or two and some large plants. We picked up a hand-out on our way in, announcing a name and menu change. In my opinion, the direction they're headed is a good one - "natural, sustainable products from local businesses". As I read the items that will be on their new menu, my mouth began to water. The only question is - will we be able to afford it more than once or twice a year? It's a good thing they'll also be offering meatloaf or pot roast!
Our dinner salads were made from a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce with a wedge of tomato, slivers of carrot, red onion slices and croutons - dressing on the side.

I was surprised to see an old vegetable favorite of mine, pickled beets, sharing the plates with our steaks and loaded baked potatoes. N sliced off a piece of steak, put a bite in his mouth and sighed. I think this is one of the best top sirloins I've had in town - cooked and seasoned just right, juicy, so tender and full of flavor. The pat of herb butter provided an unexpected burst of extra flavor once I worked my way into the center.
The great food and attentive service made for a nice experience.
Thank you, MiNa's!
165 McNary Estates Dr N
Keizer, OR 97303

New Options for Downtown Dining

Signs of life downtown. A new hot dog stand just opened up a couple of months ago next to the bus station. It's called Krazy Dog and the owner tells me that he's been serving about 60 dogs a day to the lunchtime pedestrians at the corner of Chemeketa and High St. For $5 you can get a 1/4lb hot dog, chips and a drink.

SJ Best Restaurant, Vote Now, Vote Often

Update 03/24/09
If you haven't voted yet for the best restaurants on the Statesman Journal web page vote now. If you've already voted, vote again. Yes, I wrote that correctly, the SJ poll allows readers top vote once a day until April 10th. After you vote, they're allowing you to see the current standings in each category. I was at Kwan's last night and noticed a pile of flyers advertising the poll and telling their customers to vote. As much as I'd like to think the "Eat Salem Restaurant of the Year" is a big deal, winning this one would be a huge score for a local restaurant. If I were a restaurant owner and I wanted to win this, here's what I would do:
  • Get some flyers made of various sizes advertising the poll like Kwan's does. Have some at your front desk and a stack of smaller ones to put inside check folders. Any little reminder will help.
  • Email your customers with links to the poll. Anyone who is signed up on your mailing list is likely to vote for you. Make sure, in that email, that the link to the poll is one of the first things the recipient reads.
  • Update your webpage or blog with links to the poll. Make sure the link is toward the top of the page so people don't have to scroll down to find it.
  • Mention the poll in converstation with friends, facebook it, twitter, every vote will help.
  • It says one person can vote a day but what that means is one computer. Vote on all your computers, your work computer and your home computer. Find out who has computers and make sure they're voting everyday.
  • Pay attention to the results and see if your promotion is having effect.
It would be nice if there was a way to only allow people to have one vote but I know from doing polls in the past that it is difficult to do online. Think of it like running for political office. A huge amount of effort and advertising goes into making sure that people who are going to vote for you turn out on election day and convincing a small group of undecided voters to vote your way. There will be a huge amount of votes coming in unprovoked and uninfluenced by restaurants but every little bit of promotion will help. Good luck to all the restaurants in town who are on the poll. Can't wait to see how this turns out.

You may have thought you were done voting for the best restaurant in town when the "Eat Salem Restaurant of the Year 2008" poll was up but another media outlet in town is doing their own "Best Of." If you haven't voted yet in the Statesman Journal's contest, click here and nominate your favorite restaurnts for Salem Oregon. Then come back here and tell us who you voted for.

Teriyaki House

by Lavachickie
Teriyaki chicken is a lunch favorite in my clan. Quick, flavorful and at least arguably healthy (there's some cabbage in there, am I right?) make it a once a week or so choice.

Teriyaki House on Liberty just as it branches off from South Commercial is the closest purveyor to my work, and as usual we hit it this week. It suffers from the same lackluster appearance that many (most?) Salem eateries do. I can't help but think that most Salem eatery owners have this attitude of, "Well, apparently you can't feed yourself, so we'll feed you... but don't expect us to look nice and inviting."

(I've got five words for you: Love Love Teriyaki on Center. But wait, I'm not going to talk about them... with their cool decor, great lighting, warm colors and inviting... No! Stop it!)

Back to Teriyaki House! Let's start with the good: You can get a fantastic bento box with teriyaki chicken on a bed of perfectly steamed cabbage and vegetables, rice, gyoza, tempura (including two shrimp) and a small salad for only nine bucks. I've had it a dozen times and it's always identical; consistency is very good here at the 'House. Add a little Sriracha or the sweet and hot sauce available as condiments and it's a lunch heaven.

Each day there is a lunch special for $6.95, usually spicy teriyaki chicken on noodles or rice along with a beverage. Lots of food for not a lot of coin. Gotta love it.

The tiny kitchen is right next to where you order, giving you a sense that all is well because you can actually SEE your food being prepared. The same two people are there all the time and are very pleasant and helpful.

Okay, now the bad: the decor is plain, run down, scuffed and mismatched. Table tops and what not are not grimy or sticky, but everything in sight is just dingy. The awning out front is peeling, the name is half gone. Tables rock back and forth, so one person has to hold their foot on the leg the entire meal. The menu board is the only clean and bright thing in sight. But what's worse...

NO ONE LOOKS UP WHEN THEY CLEAN! I mean, seriously, look at this! In the middle of the sky blue ceiling are globs and streaks of black funk in/on/around the vents. This doesn't happen overnight, so it's no like someone just forgot to do it once. THEY'VE NEVER DONE IT. Which makes one wonder... what else aren't they doing?

According to the health department, they aren't cleaning UNDER things, either. A score of 90 in December 2008, which isn't bad. But failure to property deep clean is an issue, and to me that's just an issue of commitment to excellence... or lack thereof. Mostly things you don't immediately see. Like UNDER things. I guess they don't look DOWN either.

(Amuse you and your friends by perusing the Marion County Health Department restaurant inspection score database.)

Now I'll admit, I don't even want to THINK about what is underneath my stove at home, and I'm sure I'd flunk a health inspection intended for commercial venues. But I don't charge my friends when they come over for dinner, and I *DO* look up and clean the cobwebs off the lights.

And I'd really appreciate it if they did, too. (Other places fail on these lines big time, too; I was at Los Arcos recently and we were seated at a booth at the window where the neon open sign hangs. It had more fur on it than a long haired dachshund. Ewwww!)

Vicarious Diner At Morton's Bistro

Read from the bottom up:
  • @sushikats Sorry, no live music, but whatever playlist they had on was great! about 5 hours ago
  • @eatsalem I'm sure she did but she didn't ask...very polite about 5 hours ago
  • This is Vic D signing out. Happy eating! about 5 hours ago
  • Thank you so much for joining me tonight. I hope you enjoyed the meal as much as I did. We should do this again sometime. about 5 hours ago
  • Who gets to lick the plate? Just kidding . We'd never do public. about 5 hours ago
  • K is in peanut pie heaven. My coffee is nice too. about 5 hours ago
  • Seems like the peanut butter pie was too good to resist. The decision to forego desert didnt last. about 5 hours ago
  • getting full...J says the meal was good and that's alot coming from him. about 5 hours ago
  • N says his ribs are very good but a different style than he.s had before about 5 hours ago
  • Crab legs are an entertaining food. Especially when I try to eat them. (wipes sauce of f glasses) about 5 hours ago
  • Lots of yummy noises coming from the table. I take that as a good sign. ;) about 6 hours ago
  • K says this pork tenderloin is dreamy about 6 hours ago
  • Food has arrived! The short ribs are a mountain of deliciousness. The fish stew is so complex. So many shiney tools to help me eat. about 6 hours ago
  • Remind me to figure out how to see all your responses next time. It doesn't see to be working. No matter. Still having a great time! about 6 hours ago
  • On to the next course. Can't wait. This is definitely a hidden gem of Salem. about 6 hours ago
  • Any Indie music fans out there? The soft folk pop is a nice compliment to the mood. Iron and Wine was especially nice to hear. about 6 hours ago
  • Steelehead fondue leaves me speechless...mmm. Sterling wine is so tasty and explosive. Must get a bottle next time I'm at Santiam. about 6 hours ago
  • The bread, the wine, the music is wonderful so far. about 7 hours ago
  • The rest of the party settled on the pork and the short ribs. Now that the choices have been made bring on the fine dining. about 7 hours ago
  • J is considering the entire menu. Too much good food. V is getting the Nortwest fisherman's stew. about 7 hours ago
  • Smoked stealhead fondue and amaretto baked brie will start our evening off. We can't resist cheese I guess. about 7 hours ago
  • K wants to know, chicken or pork? Hunter style chicken champagne or pork and andouille mmm...all sounds delish. about 7 hours ago
  • Chose a Vitae Spring Riesling and Sterling Merlot Cab blend. Great help selecting wine! about 7 hours ago
  • Sent friends off to select wine. Specials are grilled tuna w Asian noodles or short ribs. Both sound good! about 7 hours ago
  • At Mortons Bistro. Entrance is a bit of a maze though they have an impressive wall of wine. about 7 hours ago
  • Vic D here. On my way to the restaurant. Crossing the bridge into West Salem. How's every one doing? about 7 hours ago

Vicarious Diner Debut, 5p Tonight

Be sure to come back to this blog tonight before dinner to watch the Vicarious Diner as they Twitter from a Salem Oregon restaurant. This is the first, time to my knowledge, that this has ever been done in Salem and should be a lot of fun. You don't need to sign up for Twitter to enjoy the meal online. Just refresh your browser occasionally and click on the @replies(i.e. @eatsalem) to link to what a person has said. If you have Twitter, you can send messages to the Vicarious Diner as they eat there meal. Don't worry about butting in on their dinner, they're expecting your responses. To see what everyone is saying, follow the @replies and please be sure to follow the Vicarious Diner Twitter and the Eat Salem Twitter. If this seems too confusing to process, just tune in and watch, you'll figure it out. To sign up for Twitter go to See you at 5p tonight.

Top Dog Sports Grill

Review by Lavachickie: 12th Street isn't an area that usually inspires one to lunch. But the bright colors on the newer building that houses Top Dog Sports Grill has drawn my attention a time or two. Then my eyes took in the neon signs for noodle meals mixed in along the usual sports bar brew signs, and my curiosity was piqued.

Stepping inside a bit before the usual lunching hour, my partner in crime and I slid into a booth with it's own flat screen tv for our specific viewing pleasure. Opposite the wall of tv'd booths is a mega lineup of eight larger flat screens. During mid day it is set to a mix of news, sports and soap operas. As is the style, the walls are chock full of sports ephemera--some authentic, some just marketing posters, and who knows what else in between.

Overall the place is spotlessly clean, well laid out and comfy, if you don't mind the distraction of twenty different moving pictures at once. I unplugged the TV at our table for the duration of our stay.

The lunch menu was filled with tasty sounding options, and our server gave helpful tips and suggestions. Sandwiches, noodle bowls, salads, I settled on the Crispy Sesame Chicken Salad, and my partner had a Teriyaki Chicken Burger. The wait wasn't long (appropriate for lunch-time), and were plated and presented well. I loved the high backed bowls the salads are served in; a little unique touch to what can otherwise be a boring lunch choice.

Both dishes received two thumbs up thanks to fresh, quality ingredients, good portions sized and good production values. What should have been cold was cold, what should have been hot was hot, etc.

A cooler behind that bar has a sign for Eng's, and I asked about that, having heard about a now-gone Chinese place on South Commercial called Eng's. Seems it's the same owner; he has another sports bar type place (she couldn't remember the name), and has opened a third down on South Commercial across from the newer Safeway. Hmmm... we'll have to investigate and try those, because from this encounter, someone knows how to run a good place. A visit in the evening on a weekend is in order to see if service levels and quality hold up with a bigger crowd.

The lunch flow was slow, so it was a nice low key place to eat lunch. Nice enough for a business lunch, relaxed enough to hang with friends. Seems like a good evening watering hole as well thanks to the full bar, a few games and lotto options, too.

Prices were good with just about all items in the $8-10 range.

Vicarious Diner Set For 5p Saturday

Update 4:43pm
Just got word that the Vicarious Diner is on the way to the restaurant and will have pictures of the meal.

We've come up with a recipe of technology and dining that is sure to please. Gone are the days of waiting around for a review to be written. At we will be twittering from a Salem Oregon restaurant on Saturday March 21st at 5pm. The restaurant will be revealed at that time. The twitter to follow is vicariousdiner but you won't need a twitter account to enjoy the review. What does this all mean? When you go to at 5p on Saturday you'll see a message that will be written in real time from the chosen restaurant. will show the vicariousdiner's messages and will be updated when you refresh your browser. If you're still confused by all this, that's OK, it's not easy to explain, just remember to go to at 5p on Saturday and see what it's all about. We set the time at 5p so that if all this food twittering makes you hungry, you'll still have time to head out for a meal. See you there!

Food Confession, Jumbo Chili Dogs

Posted by Salem Man
For about a week, I've been driving by the sign out in front of Carl's Jr., advertising two jumbo chili dogs for three bucks. I know it's wrong to crave those things on many different levels but that didn't stop me from coming up with a scheme to get them with the littlest amount of guilt possible. Here's how it went. My first thought was that I could write a food confession about it. That gets rid of some of my guilt and it's pretty funny to have a craving for cheap jumbo chilli dogs. Would be fun to write about. Next, I knew that my children like Carl's Jr, so I started to tell them that we would take them there for dinner soon. They were quickly on board, they love french fries and hamburgers like most kids, not to mention the prize inside the kid's meal deal. Convincing my wife to go is another matter. She eats fairly healthy and enjoys cooking meals at home. Changing this mind was going to take a bit of work. When I came home the other night and saw that my son did well on his progress report the light bulb went off in my head. I promptly announced that after his teacher conference we would go get their favorite fast food and dessert at Carl's Jr. Once I said it aloud, I knew there could be no objection from my spouse. And so it was.

The Farmer John hot dogs were better quality then I expected and they weren't real messy like Wienerschnizel chili dogs. I've said this before, the chili at Carl's Jr. is a lot like what they serve at the famous L.A. restaurant Tommy's which I grew up eating. It's sort of a meatier chili in a thick spicy sauce that you can dip a fry into and scoop up a bite. With the fries, they were pretty filling but I left some room for the Mint Oreo Hand Scooped Ice Cream Shake that my son allowed me to share with him.

So, I'm not perfect, I'm suseptible to clever marketing, and I've let down my guard against eating at fast food chains for one night. I promise not to go back for awhile and I'll try not to manipulate my family into making bad choices for dining. For the four of us, the whole meal only cost about $25 and I did get some material to write a post about. Please forgive me food bloggers I'll go back to writing about local eateries very soon. Comment below on what you think my punishment should be.

The Bread Board Offers Old World Sourdough.

Reviewed by Scott Sadler

OK, so this is not a restaurant, I know. What it is, is an excellent opportunity to have a true food experience. I love it when a food artist creates for the sake of creating. Keith and John have been perfecting the Artisan bread they make for the past several years and now are serving a small but loyal following. It was our first trip to their house, in Falls City, where they bake weekly in the gorgeous wood fired brick oven. It was more than worth the drive.

Here was the offering last week:

Country Sourdough (wheat) $3

Pumpkin Seed Sourdough $5
(Pumpkin seeds toasted with soy sauce)

Garlic, Rosemary Sourdough $4

Orange, Apricot and Pecan Sticky Bun $5

Cream Scones: Chocolate, Oats and Walnuts $2.50

We were impressed with the care that goes into each loaf, the breads are all mixed by hand. They use flours grown and milled in the Northwest and their own wild-yeast sourdough starters. Everything is hand mixed, rolled and scored. They build a fire in the oven (and I do mean in it) a couple of days before they are to bake. Then they remove the fire and discard it, and replace it with the bread dough. The oven can exceed 500 degrees.

We tasted all the bread in a tasting area they had set up, and ended up purchasing one of each, and two huge scones from a beautifully displayed kitchen. You will be hard pressed to beat the scones. Not to sweet, and bursting with flavors. It was moist enough but not to much. We split one of these with black coffee in the car on the way home and were in heaven!

The variety changes but they always have the Country Sourdough. We had grilled cheese on the Garlic Rosemary Sourdough when we got home. Do I really need to tell you how good it was? Best ever for me. The Orange and Pecan sticky bun is the perfect brunch, or company coming to visit bread. People will be impressed and asking about it.

They are going to be at the Independence Farmers Market all summer starting April 4th and for now that is the best way to buy direct. They take pre-orders and will have it ready at the market if you get on the email list. Currently you can visit them at their house on Sundays and buy if you contact them first.

This is not going to be a secret for long. I am planning on pre-ordering for the Summer!

Contact Information:

Keith and John


Goudy Commons Cafe at Willamette University

Reviewed by Sam I Am

I admit it: I first found out about Goudy Commons Cafe from The Food Network, when host Rachael Ray visited Salem in 2005. Goudy is one of the cafeterias on the Willamette University campus. It was a hidden secret from me, and if it's also been a mystery to you, I hope you stop by - the food is delicious, and it's not just for students.
Thursday is “Small Plates” day at Goudy, when the chefs whip up an impressive mix of gourmet fare in snack-sized proportions. The day I went, there were five dishes, and I chose four. I was brave enough to try the Sudan Leg of Lamb but passed on the Braised Local Beef Tongue. (Beef tongue? My college cafeteria was nothing like this!)

The Lamb ($2.25) was smoky and moist, with a delicious mint-feta-yogurt sauce on top. The Fried Cheese Raviolis in clarified butter ($1.95) were set off well by the Mesclun Salad ($2.00), a perfect mix of Asian pears, bleu cheese and pine nuts. The NW Cassoulet ($2.50) was a hearty combination of duck, pork, wild mushrooms, white beans and house-made sausage. Although the homemade sausage was impressive, the dish overall was a little bland. I shared dessert with my dining companion: chocolate pudding with homemade whipped cream topped by Oreo crumbles.

An employee puts together each dish as it’s ordered. The preparation was a little slow, and a line began forming. Things can get pretty hectic at Goudy around noon. If you show up a little before noon, or a little after, things calm down.

Bon Apetit, the food-service company at Willamette, prides itself on using fresh, local and organic ingredients when possible.

Even the other dining options in the Goudy cafeteria are high quality: wraps, sandwiches, Mexican food, a salad bar, soups, a grill, pizza, and dessert.

My dining companion chose a couple of the Small Plates that day, and also browsed the rest of the cafeteria's options.

He enjoyed (clockwise from bottom) tomato-basil soup, cornbread, the leg of lamb, the NW Cassoulet, a pear, and wheatberry salad- a delicious mix of grains and fruits.

After you've passed through the turnstiles at the entrance, picked out your meal, and unloaded it from your tray, you'll be hard-pressed to believe that this is "cafeteria food."

Goudy Commons Cafe may seem intimidating at first if you've never stepped onto the Willamette University campus. But the dining room draws a variety of folks from all over Salem, most notably Legislators and other state workers from across the street. I've seen business meetings conducted there; I've seen babies and little kids. The day I visited last week, I noticed more senior citizens (on break from a lifetime-learning class) than 18-year-old students.

This ain't no county fair: At Goudy, entering through turnstiles doesn't mean your food is going to be greasy, fried and unidentifiable. Quite the contrary.

Willamette University's official address is 900 State Street. To get to Goudy from State Street, turn south on Winter Street. About halfway down the street, take the path east into campus. Goudy Commons is a red brick building on your left. (There's no sign). You can find a campus map here.

Eat Salem Readers Optimistic About Salem's Dining Scene

How would you describe the dining scene in Salem Oregon?

Posted by Salem Man
A poll of readers shows people believe that restaurants in Salem are getting better. If competition is good, it's been great for Salem. People are flocking toward new restaurants like Word of Mouth, La Capitale and French Press while long time restaurants are expanding and improving service. Willamette Noodle Company has opened a bigger dining room downtown and Venti's new location includes a popular bar downstairs. Jonathan's has gone through some financial trouble but with new owners will probably be in the race again soon. First Wednesday is proving to be successful, with crowds of people seeking out the downtown experience year round. Looking toward the future, new developments like the Meridian are sure to offer more high end dining within walking distance for many residents. If you've seen our skyline lately there lots of new development happening in and around downtown.

When I put the poll up, I already knew what the answer would be. It really is an obvious change here in Salem and I hope that it continues going in this direction. The competition is good for everyone including customers and restaurant owners. It's a snowball effect where consumers are choosing to dine out instead of cooking at home while restaurants are seeing a larger customer base. The economy, of course, is dampening the effects of the increased competition but restaurants are finding efficiencies and looking for new customers. Apizza out in Stayton gained a reputation as a destination restaurant but has started catering toward local customers with lunch specials including Italian subs for $2.50. The owner of Apizza told me via email,"we're in fine financial shape, just not too profitable at the moment."

Another positive sign on the horizon is a federal payroll tax cut that should pad people's paychecks by $13 a week. It's part of President Obama's plan to steadily stimulate the economy. I like to call this the "restaurant stimulus" because I think this extra money will make it easier for families to dine out at least one more time each month. Restaurants in turn hire more people, buy more produce and supplies and the economic engine revs up again. This could really be a boon for the Willamette Valley if people and restaurants continue to choose and buy local produce to use as ingredients in their meals. That's the hope anyway.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Why do you believe the restaurant scene is getting better? How can we continue to improve it? If you're a restaurant owner, what are you doing to attract more customers?

19th at Battle Creek Clubhouse & Grill

Review by Vegan's Nightmare:  I love exploring new places for lunch.  In the past few months, I've paid a little more attention to the local places I have all around me and have tried to keep a better lookout for new restaurants as they open up.  A couple of months ago, I spotted the "19th at Battle Creek Clubhouse and Grill" that opened up in the recently constructed retail center on South Commercial St. (right next to the new drive-thru Subway).  The interior of the restaurant is shaped like a U, with the dining area with about 8 tables/booths on the left, the bar-dining area with pool table on the right, and the bar/kitchen in the middle, separating the two.  There's also a small segmented lottery area at the bottom of the U just off of the connecting walkway.  In a past life of Oregon, this configuration would definitely NOT be sufficient for the separation of smokers in the bar and non-smokers in the restaurant, but thankfully I don't have to worry about that anymore.
My companion and I chose to sit in the bar where there was more light from the additional windows.  We were greeted cheerfully by a woman who introduced the specials of the day -- Chicken Caeser Wrap with fries for $7.99, and Potato Bacon Cheese soup.  Both sounded good, and I decided before we went in that I was going to try whatever their special was (within reason of course, liver and onions would have been a tough sell on me).  So I ordered the Wrap with a cup of soup instead of fries, while my companion ordered the cheeseburger and fries.  While we waited, we saw a fellow sitting at the bar receive his order of a cheeseburger and fries, and WOW, it really looked good.  I contemplated negotiating a trade of half a wrap for half a cheeseburger when they came.  Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance.  I wasn't timing it, but it seemed like it took a little longer than usual for us to get our meals -- we weren't in any particular hurry so it wasn't a problem.  Our cheerful server arrived and placed two orders in front of us --both were Chicken Caeser Wrap with fries.  Hmm... we politely informed her that there was an error, but we were both hungry and the wrap looked pretty dang good, so my companion said he'd happily eat that in place of his cheeseburger.  She was extremely embarrassed and apologetic and hustled back to the kitchen and returned with the missing cup of soup I ordered in place of the fries.

 The chicken wrap was delicious with just the right amount of dressing.  The steak fries were seasoned perfectly, and cooked slightly crispy -- I wish more places would cook them that way (I'm looking at you Red Robin).  I'm not a big soup fan, but I know good soup when I taste it, and unfortunately, this wasn't it.  The consistency was that of pureed potatoes and cream, with chunks of potatoes, a couple of small pieces of bacon, and I don't recall tasting any cheese.  Some people might like it that way, but I didn't finish it.  However, there was no sign of the wrap when I was through with my lunch.  That alone made it worth the trip.
Our server provided us with smiling and attentive service, and did us right by ignoring our protest and giving us our meal for free to make up for the error.  Aside from the soup, Battle Creek's good food and friendly service has guaranteed a repeat visit from at least two customers.

Join Twitter

I never thought I would be someone who is active in an online social network and I used to laugh about the idea of people twittering there personal messages into cyberspace for all to read. But, I changed my mind after opening my mind a little bit. For the twitter iliterate, here is what you need to know.  Twitter is basically an online community of people communicating in short messages. You're only allowed to write 140 characters at a time. When you sign up, Twitter goes through your email contacts and finds people who Twitter from that list. You'll be surprised how many people you know are already doing it. Once you're signed in go ahead and type a message. You can also search for people to "follow." Put in "eatsalem" and you will find my twitter. If you click on "follow" you will receive the messages that I twitter. Once you start following other twitterers, they will start following you, especially if you have interesting messages. Originally, I signed on to this hoping to promote by linking to my site but I discovered that it works best to just casually converse. People will figure out that you have a blog or business in your conversations. The other thing that I discovered is I can put Twitter feeds onto A perfect fit for restaurants to advertise daily specials. Right now there are several restaurants in town that are twittering and I expect more to come. I'll put links to the restaurant twitters below this post. is looking into ways to continue to use this technology to enhance your reading experience so stay tuned for some twittering fun right here online. By the way, if you decide you don't like it or don't want to do it, it is easy to delete the account. I've deleted another account awhile back without problem. Not joining twitter will in no way lessen your enjoyment of reading See you in the twittisphere.(Someone stop me from saying things like that.)

New Openings

Without the fanfare of French Press a couple of businesses have quietly opened along Commercial St. in SE Salem. The first is a local coffee stand called Toaddaly Coffee in the parking lot of the new strip mall next to Papa de Vino. They've been open for at least a couple of weeks and their logo is of all things a toad. A google search of "toaddaly coffee" this morning, turned up nothing. The other opening is the Half Penny Bar and Grill located in the building which once housed the Sapphire lounge and before that the Oasis. I'm told their well known bartender has worked in Salem for awhile including a stint at Moonbaker. The Half Penny has been advertising $7 lunch specials on their sign out front. Might be worth checking out. Do you know of any other local opening happening around town? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

Spoons in Salem

NW Spoons Bistro is now closed
Review by Vegan's Nightmare: I had the opportunity to have lunch at Spoons Gourmet Deli the other day, which is located at 4093 Commercial St. SE, just south of Browning Ave in a small strip mall. The deli is very clean, has an upscale feel with local artwork on the walls, and a balanced lunch menu of fresh gourmet salads and yummy sandwiches (the kind of sandwiches with the really good artisan bread too, not Wonder bread). I had some difficulty deciding on a sandwich because they all sounded good, but eventually I settled on the Turkey Pesto on baguette, which came with turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, and pesto, and a handful of potato chips. My lunch companion had the turkey brie with lettuce, tomato, mayo and dijon on a ciabatta. The sandwiches are excellent, although I kind of felt like there needed to be something else on the plate – like maybe a pickle or something. There's nothing like a good dill. The prices are reasonable at $6.95 for all of the sandwiches, and between $5 and $8 for salads. My next visit will definitely include a side salad instead of just the sandwich – I think I missed out on some good stuff from that side of the menu. Spoons has a warm, comfortable atmosphere, with friendly service and great sandwiches. I haven’t had a chance to eat dinner there yet, but the menu has a bunch of pasta items I can’t wait to try! If you’ve had dinner there, let us all know how it was by posting some comments. According to their web site, Spoons is open everyday at 11am - 3pm except for Sunday.

French Press Now Open

Update 03/09/09
Customers are reporting a busy first weekend at the new French Press restaurant on Commercial St. Does anyone remember the BBQ restaurant that was at that very location a couple of years ago? We've come a long way. I would have been satisfied if this location turned into a decent chain like Baja Fresh or Jamba Juice but we did even better with a locally owned. We'll post more photos if you have them, send them into

Update 03/08/09
French Press Photos

Thank you very much to everyone who sent in photos including Lisa Anne. We'll post more if you have any.
Also, I saw this blog post online.

Update 03/07/09
Here are some other notes gathered on my peek in.
20 or so employees.
Owner has plans for bakery next door.
Plans for restaurant in the Meridian building with outdoor dining.
French Press on Commercial St. the first of possibly 10 restaurants.
Nice imported dark wood counters tile floors, large kitchen.
Room for dining in but order at the counter.
Readers are asking for photos. If you are headed down there, snaps some pix and email them to
We'll post them right here.

Just peeked into the new cafe on Commercial St. and to sum it up in one word, "wow." The owner of French Press told me that they had to wait for the roaster to arrive before opening to the public. I scanned in a menu that I picked up on my visit. That help wanted banner that hung out front brought in 300 people looking for work. Stay tuned.

Ragin' River Steak Company - Independence

Review by KandN:
(Ragin River is now Independence Grill)
Attention all meat eaters! There's a great steak house in our area! Yes, it is across the river in Independence, but it's well worth a visit or a permanent spot on your short list of places to eat.
The Ragin' River Steak Company caught N's and my attention last Sunday when we ate at Andy's Cafe on the other side of Main Street. After breakfast, we strolled by their front windows and checked out the menu, making a mental note to find an excuse to return and eat soon.

And we did return - on Wednesday evening. :>) The owner greeted us as we entered and led us to one of the booths up against a lovely old brick wall. Our waitress arrived directly afterwards with menus. I asked for a run down of the beer they offered (several, plus a nice wine list featuring local wineries) and settled on a porter. N was curious enough to taste an apricot hefeweizen, but opted to have a porter, also. (I could smell apricot clear across the table! Maybe with chicken?) Amanda, the waitress answered our questions and made suggestions. BUT she made the prime rib ($21.95- 10 oz) sound irresistible to both of us. Salads aren't included with the dinners, so we both ordered a side salad ($2.25) to start things off. A basket of rolls were brought out to our table. They were light and tender, with an appealing shiny exterior. The salads had everything I like; varied greens, carrots, cucumber slices, tomatoes, croutons and dressing on the side.
While we sipped our beer, we took in the beautifully furnished and decorated interior of this old downtown building. The owner has paid attention to every detail during the renovation and he's not done. He said he has plans to add a mezzanine level with a possible martini/appetizer bar.
Our prime rib arrived, looking juicy and well marbled - fork and knife ready. The flavors of the rub came through nicely, but didn't over power the flavorful beef. They stock organic grown beef and ask that you let them know if you're not pleased with your steak.
N and I enjoyed a nice chat with the owner. He shared that he's friends with one of Wild Pear's owners and that they're planning an art/music/food/wine/beer event at the Riverview Park Amphitheater in June. Sounds like a calendar worthy event, put together by local business owners.
We were pleased and we'll definitely be back. Next time I plan to order either the halibut or the t-bone.
Ragin' River Steak Company
154 S. Main Street
Independence, OR

Defining Local

As I write this, picture me, whatever you think I look like, in a kevlar vest, metal helmet, ducking under a desk in the basement at an undisclosed location. This blog is about local restaurants and will continue to be. My definition of local is this, if you're in another state and you see a restaurant that is the same as one in Salem, that's not local. But what happens when a local restaurant has success and grows beyond it's small town charm? Do we put that restaurant into the chain category, even though it's essentially the same restaurant that we'd bragged about for years? Dutch Bros Coffee fits into this quasi local category that blurs the line between the locals and chains. They are almost as familiar to us here in Salem as Starbucks. Do you not drink Dutch Bros coffee because they are so big? Should we penalize with personal protests because a business has become so popular?
I've recently met the owner of a chain in town, I won't mention the name but it's not fast food, and had an interesting discussion about this. She told me how the people in Salem had a preference for local restaurants. That was somewhat surprising to hear because of the amount of chains in this city. She owns two stores in town and is charitable in the community. She's not rich and works extremely hard at making her business work and employs dozens of young people here in town. I feel less guilty eating at her restaurant. This restaurant offers a product and experience not currently offered by any local establishment but is in competion for your Salem dining dollars. In this economy, or even in a good one, my hope is that businesses of all sorts thrive and keep people employed. The push on this blog for supporting local businesses is to help level the playing field by introducing Salem audiences to unique finds around town.
The chains have a tremendous advantage by having name recognition but often lack in having a personal connection with customers. In just about any good local restaurant in Salem you might find the owner/chef actually in the kitchen making food for customers. Years ago, Salem seemed like it was awash in chains who's bright signs and national ad campaigns drowned out the voices of  local restaurants that have always been making good food here in town. Now, excitement is building, as new places, like French Press, which is expected to open today, are starting to pop up all over town. Newly opened restaurants, La Capitale and Word Of Mouth are both having success in this down economy and the First Wednesday night is helping to establish our downtown as the center of Salem's cuisine scene.

The owner of the chain restaurant that I mentioned above does not know that I write this blog or at least hasn't let on that she knows. That's the reason I haven't mentioned the name of her place. Her business is doing well and I would expect that her success will continue. If it seems like I've changed my views about chains, after seeing a human aspect to them, that may be so. That doesn't mean you're going to see me review Taco Bell. I will continue to do everything possible to expand the conversation about local eateries and will continue to support them with my patronage. Salem's public image throughout the state is often defined by a dismal dining scene, but that is changing quickly, as more quality local options open and the best of the existing restaurants continue to do well.
I tried to write this as cautiously as possible because I know that many of the readers here have much stronger views about chains. So I'm going to duck for cover now as commenters rip me apart for suddenly growing a heart.

Stone Front Tavern

Review by Vegan's Nightmare: Some of you were asking for a review of Stone Front Tavern, and since I've personally been wanting to try it out for a while, I decided to head over there with some work friends for lunch.  The building looks a little intimidating from the outside -- it's pretty much just a brick box with no windows (actually, to some, it might look like something seedy is going on in there).  The inside is rather small, about 10-12 tables/booths and a bar and pool table.  The decor is... well, I'm pretty sure the decor inside hasn't changed since the Carter administration.  As a matter of fact, the decor is actually coming back into style.  I liked it.  Very retro.  While some places hunt on eBay to buy old-school memorabilia to make their bar “cool,” this one just hung on to theirs.  Just like my parachute pants that I'm certain I'll get to wear again some day.  Anyway, they've got a really good selection of both micros and macros on tap, including Northwest’s beloved Rainier.  Yes, Rainier.  On tap!  That’s a gold star in my book.  The walls are decorated with a variety of old and new beer signs, scattered prints, typical bar memorabilia, and a big screen TV in the corner was on ESPN.  After reading through a pretty robust menu (for a bar), I decided to go for the fish and chips ($10), while my friends ordered the cheeseburger and fries ($7) and rib eye steak with Texas Toast and steak fries (on special for$12.50) .  While we waited, the place started filling up, and we noticed that there was just one lady running the bar, waiting tables, and bussing.  She was absolutely phenomenal and kept up with all of the dining customers, and kept the thirst down at the bar.  Truly amazing.  In just the right amount of time, we received our lunches.  They looked pretty darn good.  The steak had grilled onions on top, the fish was golden, and the cheeseburger was served with a steak knife sticking in it.  Now, I can’t say that the cheeseburger was big enough to warrant the useof a steak knife, but it was a nice touch.  The only issue I had with my fish and chips was the fact that they were a little too greasy.  Yes, I know they’re deep fried, but it seemed like the fish was lathered in oil before it was given a batter bath.  They tasted good, but dang, they were oily.  My friends liked their lunches as well – although one commented that his steak was thin enough that he thought they might have given him a strip steak instead of a rib eye.  I have to say, I was a little surprised that I liked this place.  It really wasn’t anything special, but it was comfortable, had great service, and the food was good.  While we ate, we decided that this is our next beer-lunch spot – maybe on St. Pat’s Day?  See you there. 

Crescent Café

Crescent Café
526 Northeast 3rd Street,
McMinnville, OR 97128
(503) 435-2655
Breakfast and lunch only
No reservations accepted

The four of us arrived at the Café around 10:30 on Sunday and put our name on the list to be seated. There is no real waiting area so we waited outside in the cold watching all the diners inside enjoy their breakfast and coffee. One of the owners Michael kept us updated as to the progress of our seating. He was very warm, professional, and entertaining. People kept coming in and checking on wait times, many choosing not to wait. There was no sign of a bad economy in this place!
I am a stickler for service. You can have an average meal, but the service is what can make or break an experience. The service here did not disappoint. From the moment we arrived to the time we left, everyone was top notch in the attention to detail, and response to any needs.
At first glance you think the menu is a bit on the small side. Go with the flow here and recognize that while we have been conditioned to see lots of choices on a menu, it does not always translate to quality food. In fact from an operational point of view it is a sometimes detraction from quality if the kitchen cannot focus on doing a few things really well. Here is a sampling from the menu, caramelized banana pancakes, egg dishes with all fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Fresh squeezed blood orange juice, amazing homemade breads including English muffins, cornmeal molasses, and decadent fluffy biscuits. They have a few verbal specials daily to complement the menu.
My wife ordered the twice baked potato, stuffed with ham, fontina cheese, and vegetables, two eggs over medium, and excellent homemade bread. Her eggs were perfect, and I mean perfect. No dark color or lacy edges on the whites, and the yolks were at just the right amount of firmness. Our friend K had one of the specials, a scramble with trout, capers, and cream cheese. She commented that it was nice the way they place the cream cheese on the warm plate, and then put the scramble on top. It was a light taste, and the flavor of the trout came through. I wished I had ordered it after tasting hers. But I was in a Sunday morning, pancake mood. I had the Caramelized banana pancakes with a side of scrambled eggs and G had plain pancakes. This is the real deal; two big, fluffy scratch-made cakes, with real butter and yes, real maple syrup. I love that they caramelize the bananas. We were both very impressed. It is apparent that everything is made on the premises, and they shop local farmers markets as often as possible for their ingredients.
Even though the place was busy we never felt rushed. If you do not like to wait, get there early. You will get seated right away. This is on the top of our breakfast place, and I cannot wait to work my way through the menu. I have only one issue and that is they use Boyd’s high end coffee. I am a coffee snob, so it does not work for me. I asked Michael about bringing in a local coffee. The problem stemmed from the service and consistency they had gotten from the small roasters they had tried. In the end it was a business decision and a good one based on the idea that consistency is the key in the restaurant business. I just don’t order coffee, and don’t miss it since everything else is off the charts.
Apparently Danny, and Michael the owners, had a place in San Francisco, and the influence shows here in the experience, décor, menu and overall quality. They are winning the hearts and minds of diners, one dish at a time.