Introducing our newest contributor:
Me & Gluten-Free Mr. B.
"I'm starving" is a common phrase uttered by my husband, Mr. B, and is invariably followed by "what should we eat?" When these two phrases are uttered, I know there is little time for discussion, let alone cooking. Food must get in belly soon, lest we all suffer the consequences. Thus, we eat out a lot.
We consider ourselves a lucky pair, having moved to Salem a few years ago and discovered an ever-growing list of delicious and diverse eateries. But six months ago, eating out got a lot more difficult. Mr. B., who had suffered for many years a series of health problems, finally discovered their source- a group of proteins that make sauces thick and pleasant, and dough stretchy and wonderful. A substance that seems to be present in just about everything we eat. Gluten. Suddenly many of Mr. B.'s favorites were black-listed. Bread, pasta, pie, cookies, cake, and a wife who loves to make all of the above? Oh the horror!
The past six months have been a crash course in gluten-free cooking, baking and eating. We have been equally surprised by the places we find gluten lurking in the shadows (there’s gluten in soy sauce?), and the places in Salem that are so willing to accommodate Mr. B.'s new diet. We thought that the people of Salem should know this, and what better way to tell them than via the blog that introduced us to so many fantastic Salem restaurants? And so we arrive at our first contribution to Eat Salem!
In a moment much like I described at the beginning of this post, starving Mr. B and I hopped in the car and headed over to Cherry City Cafe for sandwiches. We had discovered only a week before that we could substitute gluten-free bread on any of their sandwiches, and we were all fired up for another helping of their yummy grilled cheese. We were greeted at the door when we arrived, only to learn that they are closed on weekends. Drat! How did we miss that memo? Apparently they were busy with catering orders, but not open for business. The lovely women who greeted us with the sad news was quick to suggest we try Alcyone Catering & Cafe. She said they also served gluten-free bread, and she believed they were open on Saturdays. We were excited, as they were on our list of places to try. We dashed down High Street only to find that they were also closed on weekends. Grrr. Mr. B. was wilting fast. No more time for hunting, we needed a sure thing fast. Luckily we were right on the doorstep of a gluten-free Salem mecca- Marco Polo.
Tried and true, Marco Polo is a go-to for many of Salem's vegetarians, Celiacs, and citizens who love crazy-long menus. With separate Chinese, European, Vegetarian, and Gluten-free menus, there are enough options to delight the most diet-challenged, satisfy the most finicky, and strike fear in the hearts of the most indecisive.
We were greeted cheerily (they even asked without prompting if we wanted a gluten-free menu) and seated promptly at a booth overlooking one of Salem’s many lovely parks. The atmosphere is cozy, but a bit like they hired your granny to do the decorating. The pleasant view out the picture window momentarily distracted Mr. B. from his stomach monster. He decided on the Kung Pao chicken and I chose the House Pesto Salad with Walnuts and Pine nuts. Both of our choices were ones we had made before. We were too hungry to mess around.
The food came reasonably quickly and it didn’t disappoint. Mr. B. ordered his meal “medium” spicy, a question he hadn’t been posed at prior visits. We also learned that gluten-free meals are always served on round dishes. “If it is on a square dish, don’t eat it,” our server suggested. Even before he found out about his gluten allergy, he called Marco Polo’s Kung Pao the best he’s ever had. It is chock full of tender chicken, a healthy dose of zucchini and carrots, bathed in a delicious sauce and topped with peanuts. They also gave him the option of white or brown rice. He chose the white and it was cooked to perfection.
My salad was tasty as usual. The mixed greens are tossed with pine nuts and their homemade pesto dressing, and topped with peaches. The dressing is intensely garlicky with a citrus-like bite. It is both refreshing and satisfying, though fresh peaches or other seasonal alternative would be preferred to the canned ones they use.
We always enjoy the extra perks of dining at Marco Polo. The jasmine tea is included in the meal (you just have to ask for it) and fortune cookies at the end are always fun. They even brought a gluten-free vanilla almond cookie for Mr. B.
Marco Polo is a fantastic restaurant with seemingly millions of options and food that doesn’t disappoint. We highly recommend it for both gluten-free and gluten-friendly diners.
- Me & Gluten-Free Mr. B.
Marco Polo Global Restaurant
300 Liberty St. SE, Salem OR 97301
Mon.-Thurs. 11am-2pm (lunch) 2pm-9:30pm (dinner); Sat. 12pm-10pm; Sun 11:30am-8pm