Salem's Dining Scene...

I have recently been called a "foodie."  According to Wikipedia, a Foodie is an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink.  Wikipedia also claims it was coined in 1981.  I guess me hooting and hollering when we drove by Salem's new food pod (3905 Silverton Rd, 1/2 block west of Lancaster)  is proof enough that I am, indeed, a foodie.

A few years ago, I would have said it was very hard to be a foodie in Salem, home of the fast food joints and chain restaurants.  Recently, Salem has started to grow up and we've got a number of good and diverse local restaurants.  We've decided to not eat at non-local restaurants, that if we're going out to eat, we want our money to stay in our community (Confession: We make exceptions for our occasional fast food visit and I do frequent Starbucks on occasion).

As happy as all of the new development makes me, I wonder about something.  It seems like many of the new restaurants opening are more of the fine dining type, with dinners generally costing $15 and up.  Like most Americans today, we are saving more of our pennies, certainly being more careful with them. This limits the opportunity we have to visit these establishments.  For us, they become "special occasion" restaurants.  I do appreciate how a few of these restaurants have a separate bar menu from their finer dining menu, offering a greater range in prices.

I wonder how many of these fine dining restaurants Salem can support.  I would love to see more local, modest priced restaurants that offer a variety of dining choices.  While Salem pretty much has the Mexican and Chinese restaurant scene covered, a good hometown deli that is open for dinner too or more bistro style restaurants, like Word of Mouth would be a great addition. And if they were opened in West Salem, I certainly would not complain.

So Salem, what kind of food do you want to see in Salem?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree. It would be nice to see more restaurants with under $15 a diner options.
-E

Anonymous said...

I agree too, we need more $15 range food. Otherwise Salemites will go out to eat less often, or end up at chain food places....

Pam said...

That's exactly why we haven't yet visited many of the restaurants reviewed here. We'd love to, but just can't.

We're transplants from Minneapolis and miss their dining scene terribly. Their winners would work so well here and while it's The Chef's dream (that's my hubby) to open such a place, we just don't have the capital.

Meanwhile, the budget-friendly we'd love to see here (from our fond Mpls memories) are: Rustic Italian, simple Thai, entree-sized appetizers (not fried crap out of a box, but real food), a Kosher deli, Middle Eastern kebabs and platters, BBQ/grill but not ribs - other grilled meats, Vienna Dogs (Chicago style), Wisconsin-style fish fry, wings.

All of these could be done for around $7-10 per entree (and the food cost would still run well under 30%... are you listening, area chefs?)

Ok, that's my 4 cents worth.

jeff said...

The problem with a <$15 restaurant, at a guess, is that it's darn hard to make any money as an independent at that price point.

Corporate restaurants can lower their costs through enormous bulk buys at prices that are not available to your cafe on the corner.

That said, there are a few out in Stayton that are making a go of it...

Amecameca said...

You are right Amber that things have improved quite a bit in recent years. But Salem still lacks a Chinese restaurant that really tries hard to cook high quality food for non-American tastes. And we don't really have a first rate BBQ place. It would be wonderful to have a good informal Lebanese restaurant like Habibi's in downtown Portland. Oh and while we are at it, how about a Burgerville.

The only really good cheap food we have is Mexican: Junior's, Salvador's, Los Temos are awesome.

Amber said...

I'm the first to admit I know nothing about the cost of running a restaurant. I was a waitress for a while after college and worked in a sandwich shop in high school, but that didn't really give me a great insight to how much it costs to keep a restaurant alive. I do know that many restaurants fail within their first year and imagine that it is a very challenging endeavor for anyone with this dream.

That said, there are local restaurants who charge between $7-12 who are genuinely succeeding like local Mexican restaurants La Margarita or La Margarita Express or Trudell's deli in West Salem. I wonder if new ventures could figure out how to repeat their success.

A kosher deli would be fabulous as well as some variety in ethnic foods. A fish fry house that doesn't cost an arm and a leg would be amazing. It's weird that we don't have more local seafood restaurants, as close as we are to the ocean.

Amecameca said...

Amber, you are right on about seafood. When McGraths opened their first store in downtown Salem about a quarter century ago they really had good local seafood. Then they went all corporate on us, and today their food comes mostly frozen from SE Asia.

We need a branch of the South Beach Fish Market in Newport! It's awesome:

http://roadfood.com/Restaurant/Reviews/1803/south-beach-fish-market

Anonymous said...

I would love to see some Middle Eastern options...Lebanese and Afghani. Though, the new grocery downtown does carry some Middle Eastern specialties, it would be nice to have a place where you can go for a good mezze or the like

Chuck Bradley said...

Anon, I think Amadeus Cafe has some Middle Eastern items on their menu.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I believe I heard that the owner of Macedonia in The Reed Opera House is Lebanese...might be worth checking to see what type of mezzes are available.