Salem Oregon Dining Scene

Some they come and some they go . . . restaurants, that is.


Some Salem restaurants have been around for decades and are mourned if they leave. Some new places change a neglected space for the better.
One of the latter, that I see and appreciate most days, is Straight from New York Pizza's massive and awesome remodel at the corner of Owens and Commercial. Not only did they do an extensive remodel on an existing space, but they did it with art and grace.

Another change that many Salemites looked forward to for months was the opening of  Venti's Taphouse at the corner of Fairview and Commercial. When a building with a very specific appeal goes up for sale, I'm concerned whether it'll ever find the perfect owners. Thankfully, the Venti family not only are moved in, but they're making it their own. Salemites know from experience how well they create a welcoming space.

Other area restaurants that come to mind who have created or improved a location: French Press, Crooked House Bistro, Orupa, Cherry City Cafe, Word of Mouth,

What type of restaurant would you like to see in the Salem area and what changes can you fill the rest of us in on?

42 comments:

Janice said...

I really miss the Soup Cellar and would like to see an equivalent. Also, some place that has healthy food, late hours AND does not have loud music would be nice. One place that really makes a mark with me and my husband is Rolling Bagel on Lancaster, near Market St. They are a friendly bunch with a nice home-like atmosphere that is a true gem in a sea of fast food places.

Chuck Bradley said...

Salem needs Caribbean (including a good wood roasted Jamaican Jerk Chicken), German, Filipino and Cajun and Creole food.

There have been unsubstantiated rumblings about the resurrection of Bob’s Burgers. Possibly with involvement of member(s) of the Corey family. What little informal market research I’ve done tells me the brand still has huge power locally. So far, it’s been all smoke and no fire, but I’ll keep you posted if anything comes of it. If it happens, how cool would that be?

Chuck Bradley said...

Sounds like McNary Restaurant & Lounge is open again under new management.

165 McNary Estates DR N
Keizer, OR 97303

(503) 990-7550

More to come.

jeff said...

I'd like to see a fondue place like The Melting Pot.... although not nearly as expensive. That was a bit of a shock when we went there in Sacramento.

And while I know I'm naming chains here (just because it's a chain doesn't mean the idea isn't good), Sweet Tomatos is kind of fun too.

Chuck Bradley said...

The Rumor is true. McNary Restaurant & Lounge is open. It's remarkably true to the original operation. I like that it's not trying to be something else this time. We had a good Club Sandwich and an OK Crab Cake dinner there today. The service was good.

KandN said...

Chuck, So, this is the second incarnation since Tuff Ranch left?

Chuck Bradley said...

KandN, Our server said they have been open a couple of months, so I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

http://salem.craigslist.org/bfs/2570585614.html

does anyone know where this is? Maybe the ritz or Off Center?

Anonymous said...

Anon, the photo looks like Off Center Cafe to me. Gosh, it would be so fun to snag that little place and make it great. Easier said than done, I'm sure..

-guitar4me

Anonymous said...

For the off center, the dream is that a David Rosales, the muchas (word of mouth), the wild pair sisters or somebody similar snatches it up and revives it. What a great spot that we stopped going to due to poor service. It was an icon for 25 years that has dropped off.

What we need? We really miss the soup cellar. A BBQ cart near downtown. A good sports bar.

Ps- we love that SFNY pizza. Cheap fast good slices and great salads. Super nice employees.

Mike Herron said...

The list of types of restaurants I think Salem needs is long. The list of types of restaurants I think Salem will actually support is much shorter. For starters, how about a good New York deli? Kornblatt's in NW Portland comes to mind. Or how about a wood-fired, brick oven pizza joint? Salem has never had a truly great pizza restaurant. Hopefully it is only a matter of time before we get something like Ken's Artisan Pizza or Apizza Scholls in Portland, or La Perla in Eugene. Either of these types of restaurants would be welcome and supported by Salem.

But what I think Salem really needs, but would likely not support, is a genuine steakhouse. And by genuine, I mean a place that dry ages their own beef onsite and serves only USDA Prime. The problem is that Salem can't or won't support the price point of a restaurant like that. Or maybe the problem is that no one has been willing to take the risk yet?

Anonymous said...

Id take Christos over kens any day. I've been to kens four times and it's good but over rated. Nice atmosphere though.

Anonymous said...

Salem would very likely not support a high end steak house.

Drive 40 mins to Portland and you have five great steak houses to choose from. Priceline a four star hotel in downtown for you and your partner and you are in business.

Just remember that if you get drunk and stay out late, the Silver Dollar is open late for bad pizza and cheap drinks and is within a stumble of the four star hotels...

Anonymous said...

Really? Five steakhouses that dry-age their steaks? I thought that was "rare-ly" happening.

I had a good time watching the firing of pizza in The Breadboard's brick oven.
jimbo

Anonymous said...

40 minutes to Portland??!!

Anonymous said...

I would agree with Mike Herron.. A nice Jewish/NY deli would be awesome for Salem. I would love to see a chain deli restaurant where I am from called Jason's Deli..www.jasonsdeli.com.. It was fast deli service and great food.

Anonymous said...

Sure there are five good steak houses in Portland. Look em up on yelp.

My favorite is not really a steak house per se. Jakes - for steak and jumbo shrimp that are the size of twinkees. Add a martini and that could be my happy last meal. It'll set you back 150 for two but worth it.

It's a bit over 40 mins to naito parkway if you cruise at 74 mph and don't hit traffic.

Anonymous said...

My question was-are there 5 steakhouses who dry age their beef?
Also, no thanks on the speeding recommendation.

Anonymous said...

HA! My answer is: that there are some great steakhouses in Portland. You'd have to ask them if they dry age their beef - I honestly couldn't care less, so I have never paid any attention.

I spent a fair bit of time in DC, Dallas, Austin and Palm Springs (all have world class steakhouses)- and I can say Portland doesn't have the quantity but they do have the quality when it comes to steak houses.

The best steak house I've ever been to was a butchery in downtown Austin. I wish I could recall the name but I know they cut their beef on site. Fantastic martini's, delicious steaks...ummm. Great waitstaff. Just a wonderful experience.




Still it's worth mentioning again, if you haven't had a steak at Jake's with a side of the jumbo shrimp, I highly recommend. It's worth springing for nice (read $100) bottle of wine. A great overall experience.

As a side note, the best place in Salem to get a steak to grill at home in my experience is Fitt's. Not had great luck anywhere else. I think we are getting a whole cow this year from a local farmer, but until then.

We only eat red meat once a month, so it's worth doing right when we do it.

Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

El Gaucho in Portland for the Porterhouse. It will set you back $150 or so, but you won't regret it. Serves more than one person.

Seriously, it is very expensive. We had a party of 8 and our bill was north of a grand. Well worth it.

Anonymous said...

A sports bar would be a welcome addition.

Anonymous said...

Good deli.
A good pub for watching ball games.
More public house options - I like Thompson's but the food isn't inspiring and slow service. Still, this general idea is excellent.


I know for certain that there is a wood fired authentic Neapolitan pizza place in the works.

Anonymous said...

Healthier options would be nice. As a vegetarian, Salem is a rough place to find a meal sometimes. Chopped from NY/DC is great or Croutons (Bend) would be a nice addition when you want a good salad on the go. A real vegetarian/vegan option would be great. Find the Apizza guy from Stayton and get him to re-open in Salem. I miss the Smashed Potato Pie! I'd like to see someone buy Off-Center and keep it what it was. Best breakfast in town if you're not a meat-eater (Word of Mouth sucks for vegetarians).

Chuck Bradley said...

General interest post! How to spot a bad restaurant.
http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2011/09/ten_ways_to_tell_a_restaurant.php

Chuck Bradley said...

Just learned there's a new BBQ place in Keizer:

Phat Cat BBQ
4906 River RD N
Keizer, OR 97303

(503) 949-5320

Open 11 AM - 8 PM Mon thru Sat (Closed Sunday)

Stay tuned more to come.

KandN said...

Noticed a "for lease" sign in front of Coffee Shots earlier this week, as well as the open sign unlit. I called this afternoon and the phone has been disconnected.

Anonymous said...

Dang. Another one down.

Hoping for a sausage or hot dog joint to take it's place. Someone who does their own krauts would be really cool. I do them at home but it isn't the same.

I was downtown last week and saw a sign for "intense entertainment" where the old cafe noir used to be. BBQ and spirits and black light entertainment. Anybody been by?

KandN said...

I hear it's going to be called Pappa G's Blacklight? But they're having an unexpected wait in obtaining their OLCC license.

Amber said...

I just saw on FB that Papas G's Blacklight got their OLCC license and are open for business.

KandN said...

That must be a big relief for them!
Wow, two new choices (Roxxy's & Papa G's) on a payday weekend :)

Anonymous said...

Just heard Queen of Tarts is closing.
Will they move somewhere new? Or closing for good?

Anonymous said...

Napoleans was open tonight downtown. Huge new remodel in the Reed on the corner. Didn't go in but it looked busy and I liked the window front seating.

Getting more and more good dining options downtown.

Anonymous said...

Can we get a "jump to last comment" option as some of these response sections get l-o-n-g?

KandN said...

Great idea.
Salem Man is there a widget for that? :>)

Salem Man said...

K,
I will look into that.

KandN said...

Thank you :)

Looks like El Maguey is closed.

Chuck Bradley said...

Roger that on El Maguey. Tried today and it's locked up tight. Looks like it's been that way for a while.

Also, have tried Papa G's Blacklight twice this week during lunch hours. The door's locked. Though I can't find it now, I'm pretty sure I've seen lunch hours posted for them somewhere. Does anyone know what the story is on their hours?

Anonymous said...

Papa g's seems to have sporadic hours. I've been by in the morning and they're open and late at night, but closed in the afternoon. I haven't ventured in.

I'm waiting for Chuck to give it a review.

Anonymous said...

El Maguey - that is a challenging location. It has the conference center across the street, but it is on a busy corner and just far enough out of the downtown core to be out of sight of of mind.

The outside of the building is not very attractive, and there is low end graphics in the window.

Just being a run of the mill Mexican restaurant is not going to draw a lot of attention here.

To be successful at that location, you really need to have something special. Something different that sets you apart. You can be good in the core or on Lancaster and be successful, but not there. That and a outside remodel to make it more inviting.

Chuck Bradley said...

Fantastic new Food Trailer! Called Continental Delight. Currently parked at Fairview Industrial and Reed SE for lunch. Usually have a Filipino menu item or two. I had Penne Pasta Shrimp Alfredo today. (Not on the menu) It was fantastic. Also had a slider and sampled their Clam Chowder. The latter was also off the charts.

http://www.continentaldelight.com/

Anonymous said...

is the smoking swine cart closed looked like a car lot now?

KandN said...

Just spotted a sign announcing "best Mexican food coming soon", on the old Jack Rabbit Cafe/Coffee Shots place on 13th.