Venti's Cafe + Taphouse

I’m pretty sure that I have found my new favorite place to eat in Salem. I was informed yesterday that Venti’s Taphouse was finally open.

I used to drive past the building every day after work and wonder what it would be like inside. Now I know. They did a really great job on the interior of the building. It is colorful, inviting, and very open.
We were lucky that there were two seats open at the bar, but otherwise, there is quite a wait during dinner hours. I guess everyone else in town wanted to see this great new place too.

I was happy to find that the new Venti’s location is doing the same happy hour as their downtown location. In addition to the usual fare, they have added new types of menu items. They now have pizza and pasta. We ordered both and …wow… their pizza is amazing. It was overflowing with toppings, crispy, and beautiful.

For dinner, I decided on the pesto pasta. It came with a small salad. I loved the fresh greens and the salad dressing was incredible. My date ordered the garlic tofu dish with noodles instead of rice. He was pretty impressed with his dinner as well, but thought that the pizza was the best thing of the evening.

As a lover of condiments, I was really happy that Venti’s still had their multitude of sauces, but now they have labels telling you what they are and how spicy the sauce is. My favorites are the teriyaki and peanut sauce.

As for our beverages, my date had Booker’s on the rocks and I had an Indio lemongrass vodka and soda water, as well as their chocolate porter on nitro with a float of raspberry Framboise. It was like drinking a raspberry chocolate cake. Our bartender Scott was also the friendliest and most knowledgeable bartender we have ever had.

I think that Venti’s has really set themselves apart from the rest. They offer really high quality ingredients at very reasonable prices. I love that they use environmentally friendly to go boxes and have a great deal of vegetarian options.

Also worth noting is that they have a children's play area so you can keep the screaming ones busy while you have a few tasty beers. Their bathrooms are also pretty neat, but you’ll have to go see for yourself (mostly because I felt odd taking photos in the bathroom).
The next time I go I want to sit next to one of their big picture windows. I can’t wait to go back. Is it unreasonable to go into a restaurant every time you drive by it?

Venti’s Café + Taphouse
2840 Commercial St. S


Anonymous said...

I love Venti's... so lets get that straight first... but you should go to the taphouse only if you want an energetic, hard surfaced, loud, almost rowdy experience. I think what they do well they do very well, but the pesto pasta came out dry and not very warm, and a bit bland, but the salad was excellent with tasty dressing. Teriaki chicken w/veggies very good, tender chicken and tasty toppings, par usual.

Atmospherically speaking, it was quite loud, hard to have a conversation, and it was hard to be inside for very long... can it be busy and quieter? Not sure... acoustic tiles? some way to break up and disperse the bouncing sounds?

Good place to bring the kids, but for a date, not the place. If you want a quick lunch, you need to go somewhere else, it took an hour to get food, and hopefully as they shake it down and get their routines it can be busy and food come out sooner.

Absolutely fantastic success, however, and I hope for a long lucrative run for one of Salem's hardest working entrepreneurs..

Chuck Bradley said...

I was blown away by the décor, the service oriented attitudes of everyone there and the Food!

I had Moroccan Chicken. It was seasoned just right and came with “Moroccan Veggies over fragrant Basmati Rice, excellent (which I never thought I’d hear myself say) Hummus and Tzatziki. The portion sizes were delightfully large.

Unless I miss my guess, the Ventis have knocked another one out of the park.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with the acoustics comment, our table was talking about how loud it was in there..and that was at about half full.

I was also a bit perplexed by the layout. Being a "taphouse" I was expecting more of a beer drinking/bar atmosphere. I can't believe there's not a separate bar section with some high tops or smaller tables that are first come first serve. It's not a place I would go with a few people just to have a couple beers. I think the downtown location is much better for having drinks and chatting it up with other customers. I felt like they should have the 24 beers on tap downtown and keep the south more of a restaurant style.

All in all I feel like this spot has an identity crisis. Is it a restaurant, cafe, taphouse, lounge/club (doug firish) or what is going on? I would defiantly not call it a cafe or taphouse. It just doesn't have a taphouse feel.

Never the less I still love Ventis and will continue to be a regular customer, I think I'll just stay downtown.

jeff said...

Cross posted from my Yelp...
I'm going to give them a three because they're new in this location and they were seriously slammed when we were there (had been for the previous week according to our waitress). We got there around 6:30pm, were seated around 7:30pm.... and were eating by sometime after 8pm, I'd guess. They had a 20-top come in, presumably with reservations, after we got there. Also, they're sponsoring a series of Friday night "Venti's to Venti's" run/walks between their original location in downtown and the new location. So in their undersized lobby area you've got a bunch of sweaty walker/runners showing up to sign in as well. And the sign-in roster (they've got some special event planned for those who finish all six walk/runs) is located on the opposite side of the lobby from the door - it could have easily been outside the door on their covered entrance. So, with that setting the scene I'm going to bullet points:
o Incredibly noisy environment. High ceilings combined with sharp angles and flat surfaces combines to amplify any noise to a not-dull roar. Noise absorbent paneling on the ceiling and walls would go a long ways.
o Poor layout. Because of the layout of the restaurant, nearly all food has to be walked through the lobby by the servers. While this might have been done with an eye to marketing, in reality it means that waiting customers get in the servers way - and servers get in the waiting customers way.
o Hidden sign up hostess. The hostess station is hidden behind flowers and a large structural pole, making it a bit of guesswork as to whether or not that was what she was. The sign in for the walk/run was much more prominent.
o Kitchen scheduling appeared poor. I saw a lot of dishes waiting on the pick-up line for over 5 minutes, either because all of the servers were doing something else or because they composed a lot of separate tables, none of which were complete. When I got my own meal I realized it was one I'd seen waiting for quite a while before my wife's meal also showed up - and because of that my Moroccan Beef, while tasty, was also much cooler than it should have been - the pick-up line's overhead heaters did not appear to be turned on.

jeff said...

2nd half:
o Totally screwed up pick-up line. By that I mean the counters where completed plates were placed for pick-up by the waiters/waitresses/servers. The bottom counter is fine - it's a reasonable height and has adequate access from both sides. The top counter is a disaster - the only person who could actually see the tags on it was one server who was clearly over 6ft. in height - and most of the girls (the 6ft'er was a guy) were under, some much under, 5'8". Seeing our waitress, who was actually quite excellent, hopping up to try and see what was on the top shelf was as amusing as it was also embarrassing. This could be cured with a simple 8" high, 12" deep step the length of the pick-up line.
o Window blinds seriously needed - the restaurant has some large, west facing windows where both the people seated at the tables near them, as well as the wait staff, are totally blinded between about 6:30 and sunset.
o Slow food service - add this one to kitchen scheduling. It took a very long time to get our appetizer, which we finished... and then waited a very long time to get our entrees. Long enough that our waitress, who hadn't seen another server give us our appetizer (and another who cleaned it up when we were done), apparently mistook our watching the kitchen as wondering where any of our food was and brought us another appetizer - not realizing we'd already had one, finished it, and had had it cleaned up. Our waitress was gone from our area for long periods of time - I think she had another area of the restaurant she was responsible for as well.
o Now, after all of that, the food was actually quite good, even if mine was a bit tepid. Laura thoroughly enjoyed her "Bouda Burger" and sweet potato fries, and I liked my Moroccan Beef, although I'll admit I would have liked bit more beef and a lot less rice. I brought home a 2 1/2" x 6" container packed with leftover rice. The hummus and chips appetizer was good as well - with chunks of unpureed garbanzo beans in it, it appeared very fresh, but the chips looked bagged.
o The "mocktail" I had, Dark Invader, was very good - pretty much a smoothie. They didn't have the makings for the one (Folic Fizz) that Laura had ordered. She ended up with a Coke.
Total bill for two entrees, one low end appetizer, a mocktail and coke came to $34 pre-tip. Which is pretty decent for a Friday night out.
But it was a very long Friday night out.

Anonymous said...

I'm not super proud of our fellow reviewers at the moment who are being tough on a brand-new restaurant. I understand expectations of greatness, or even goodness, especially with the success of the downtown location, but please remember this is in the early stages. While a lot of the dishes are not new, the equipment and staff are, and things go wrong in the beginning while the kinks are getting worked out. I had hoped we would be easier on them for a few months, until giving an honest review. Give them time to settle into their rhythm.

My experience with the new location so far is just that -- still a few kinks to work out perhaps, but everything is going in the right direction. Food is good, and with time I think it will be great. Well-mixed cocktails. Reasonable prices. So far I just make sure I visit at a time that I can avoid a lengthy wait, which has been successful. And overall I'm thrilled to have an imaginative and unusual restaurant in my neighborhood of chains and fast food. I'll be back again and again and am looking forward to seeing this location progress.


jeff said...


I'm being tough, as you put it, in order to make sure that the owners recognize what the kinks are. Right now it looks like they're so busy keeping up with the crowds in the place (it's indeed very popular) that they might not have time to see them.

gstatty said...

Its a bit dangerous that there are 124 varieties of beer at Venti's and it is located conveniently enough right on my drive home from work. I took advantage of this the other day and stopped to have a drink or two after work. I found out they have roughtly 22 beers on tap and the rest are bottled. The worst part of the Venti's experience is trying to find parking. Either every single person in the restaurant brought their own vehicle, or parking is going to prove a problem for them. It could be that its just the first rush of people who want to try it out that is the problem and that it will eventually taper off. Either way I was pleased with the decor and the beer was good. Next time I'll have to try their food.

KandN said...

Click on the following link to read more about New bike racks at the Taphouse!

KandN said...

Check out the following link:
 Venti's and Lifesource team-up for November special deal.

Anonymous said...

Saturday afternoon visit. Slow, inattentive service (Ill send the servers name to the owners). Beer was forgotten. Sat for twenty minutes before I could flag her to ask about it. Beer came warm and flat. No chance whatsoever to send it back unless I carried it to the bar myself. Waitress was totally not interested in anything about us. Over an hour after we entered our food came. Food was good: chicken yakisoba. Service was brutally awful. I sure hope they get their service figured out. Seems like they hire service staff based on looks more than skill. Salem is an easy market and they seem to be doing well, but even mcmenamins has better service.

Anonymous said...

Sad for you anon!
They were slammed last night, but our service was awesome. What's weird is how loud it is but we could hear each other.

Oregon Maiden said...

We were there too last night---7pm reservation. Service from "Regan" was phenomenal. The noise I found most objectionable was from all the kids---yikes! Sure wish they'd do something about that electronic beer menu though---couldn't read it from where we sat.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I had been to Ventis new digs a few times. At first it was new and exciting with good menu choices and great food. Each time after that it kept getting worse. Sat.Dec 10th we visited again with our daughter and her two kids. It was 3pm and there were a lot of tables full. The reason was they were severely understaffed. The employees that were there were untrained. The wait to get a table was unbelievable. The wait staff made no eye contact and kept running around but making no progress. Wanted to walk but didn't want to make a scene for the grand kids. Finally a male server came to recognize our presence and apologize for the wait with "we just went through a big rush and shift change over and some people didn't come to work". By this time I was really steamed.