Marco Polo Global Restaurant

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
(503) 364-4833

Business Hours:
Mon.-Thurs. 11am-2pm (lunch) 2pm-9:30pm (dinner); Sat. 12pm-10pm; Sun 11:30am-8pm


Anonymous said...

Hip, hip, hurray! I'm so happy to see this new development on eatsalem!
thank you Amy!

Anonymous said...

I am never really that excited when I get invited to dine at Marco Polo. Then arriving, the decor is very much blah. Like my grandmother's house.

However, I have to say that I have never- not even once - not been wowed by the food. We usually go with a big group and order 8 or 9 dishes family style, plus a few appetizers, and share everything. The food is excellent. If you haven't been, you are missing probably the best overall restaurant in Salem when it comes to food.

Do they still do the lunch buffet? I used to go all the time when they were in the old location but they are just a smidge to far from my office now that I just don't even think about them.

Great review. Great food.

tracylee said...

They didn't have a lunch buffet when I was there a month or so ago with my Mom for lunch on a Tuesday. I had the General Tso's Chicken and absolutely loved it!

I went there for a birthday party once and they let me order off the senior menu, since I can't eat much. I still had tons of cashew chicken to take home. Much fresher and tastier casher chicken than at Hong Kong House. A completely different and much fresher tasting and looking plate.

Anonymous said...

One thing folks should know that you can order completely off-menu there. Our whole table rarely orders directly off the menu - some like only bok choy and carrots, others only like broccoli. The thing I really love about Jackie and her hubby is that they understand that often-times people come to restaurants when they don't want to cook at home - but still want to be treated to exactly what they want. And they do it without all the fake ingredients and fatty chicken thighs and MSG that other places use.

The lunch buffet is no longer there, but what they do have is even better, IMHO. Substitutions like what I described above is only done off the dinner menu, but their lunch menu is something to rave about. Portions are enough to take some home and the prices are fantastic. And if you can't find anything on the lunch menu, you can still order off the dinner menu.

All in all, can't say enough wonderful things about this gem of a place. And if you could have seen it when it was an ugly dance club'd think the decor was amazing. They've done wonderful things to that picturesque location overlooking the duck ponds and waterfalls, despite the "Grandma's House" look.

gstatty said...

Marco Polo is probably my favorite restaurant in Salem. The options for meatatarians and vegetarians alike abound. Its nice because sometimes at the last minute you decide on a pasta dish or something from the European menu instead of Chinese food. Mostly though I end up getting the twice cooked pork which is stir fried bbq pork with cabbage, carrots, onions and peppers in a spicy black bean sauce with brown rice. Admittedly I drooled a little even thinking about my go-to selection. The food is fresh, comes out quick and the restaurant staff are always friendly. If you order the veggie chicken at all, you'll be surprised, its actually better than real chicken, and I love meat, so thats saying something. If you haven't already given it a try and you live in the Salem area, Marco Polo is a must and a no brainer.