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Sep 23, 2007 08:34 PM

'Northwestern Food' in Salem

I have been living in Salem for about a year now and have a friend coming to visit from the Midwest this week. He wants to go out to dinner-- 20 bucks or less a plate and he wants to eat "Northwestern Food." What are your recommendations for either somewhere in Salem or within 20 minutes driving distance that might suit him? I'm a midwesterner myself, so I'm not really sure I really know what food of the Northwest is.

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  1. I would recommend one of the following: (1) the Silver Grille Cafe in Silverton; (2) The Bistro at Wellspring Spa in Woodburn; or (3) Morton's Bistro in West Salem. All of these restaurants emphasize the use of fresh, seasonal, local ingredients and provide a casually elegant atmosphere. With regard to the Silver Grille, I have had the pleasure of eating there a few times, and it would be my top choice. However, on all of those occasions, the owner and outstanding chef, Jeff Nizlek, was still cooking there. He has since moved on to become the chef at The Bistro at Wellspring. I have not been to the Silver Grille since Jeff Nizlek stopped serving as chef there. Several friends have eaten there since that time, and it is their opinion that the quality of the food continues to be outstanding. I have not tried The Bistro at Wellspring yet, so I recommend that based only my past experience with Jeff Nizlek at the Silver Grille. I imagine that any restaurant where he is the chef will be outstanding. Our local paper just published a favorable review of The Bistro. I will attempt to attach the link to the review. If I am unable to do that, you can find the review with a google search.

    Here is the link to the Statesman Journal's review of The Bistro:

    1. I would also suggest The Bistro, I saw it in an episode of Rachel Ray's 40 Dollars A Day show on the Food Network and it looked really neat. If you go for dinner a little early they might have light plates designed for the theater crowd that are more reasonable prices and still good size portions. Friends say it is worth checking out.

      1. You might also try one of the Mexican places in Woodburn. There are parts of the country, particularly in the midwest, where authentic mexican tacos are totally unknown. I, for one, would have been very grateful to the person who showed me the way to a meal of 2 carnitas, 2 pastor, and 2 birria tacos washed down with a couple of beers!

        3 Replies
        1. re: MichaelG

          You don't have to go all the way to Woodburn to get authentic Mexican food. Jr's Taqueria on the corner of Jefferson and Fairgrounds has the same great tacos, but no beer unfortunately. But they do have great mango agua fresca and horchata. Salvadore's Bakery on Silverton Road has wonderful tamales and tres leches cake.

          But this isn't "Northwestern Food," so don't change the subject MichaelG!

          My problem with SarahT2's suggestions is that they are all "fine dining' establishments. This is the Chowhound, dang it, and it's supposed to be about chow, not cuisine.

          So how about Northwestern chow in Salem? I'd say Off Center Cafe might do it, or Busicks Court, or Court Street Dairy Lunch. Or take your $20 to the Saturday market and load up on wonderful apples and pears and cheeses and bread and take your friends up to the Willamette Valley Vineyard, buy a bottle of pinot, take it out on the deck, and enjoy one off the best meals you ever had.

          1. re: Amecameca

            Not to get in too much of a squabble, but just as Italian restaurants are quintessentially NYC or SF, or as German brats are quintessentially Wisconsin, or tamales are curiously Mississippi Delta, it's not too outrageous to argue that our changing demographics here in Oregon have yielded such Oregon "specialties" as Pho, bhan mi, or Mexican taco restaurants/trucks. I know it could be argued to be semantics, but if it's not readily available in the midwest, and it is here, than it may as well be called a "local" specialty. Just my two cents...

            1. re: MichaelG

              So it's clear, pho, bhan mi, and mexican taco restaurants/trucks are available in the midwest. The twin cities, for instance, have an abundance of pho joints--many of which are superior to the ones that get all the love in PDX (I've had both)--and there are a great many taco joints too.

        2. I agree with most of the recommendations...Silver Grille and the Bistro are among the th best in the Salem area. I'd like to add Old Europe Inn on Liberty South and Amadeus Cafe on Skyline South. Both take local fresh ingredients and make some great dishes with them!

          For "funkier" types...Off Center, Busick Court, Whites, Court Street Dairy Lunch are among our favorites.

          Please keep us posted on what you try and what you like!