I recently got back from Salem, Oregon, and boy – did I have a time eating and drinking my way through this little city. Located in the center of the Willamette Valley, Salem sits in an absolutely beautiful part of the state and the drive down from Seattle was quite a treat. I’ve been to Oregon dozens of times but until this trip hadn’t ventured out any farther than Bend or Portland and, turns out, Salem is positively delightful and their restaurant scene is bringing it. In the four days I was there I devoured everything I possibly could in search of the best bites Salem and surrounding areas had to offer. The findings were delicious.
The Deluxe BLT & Avocado at The Wild Pear
Well, The Wild Pear stole my heart when they decided to put an avocado on a BLT. They also added basil to their take on this classic and it was definitely the right move. YUM. A spicy aioli completes this simple, delicious masterpiece. You’ll find these guys in the heart of downtown Salem.
Fried Mashed Potatoes and Cheddar Cheese Bites at The Three Legged Dog Public House
Make the fifteen minute drive from Salem to darling Independence, Oregon and visit the Three Legged Dog Public House. Why has it taken me 31 years on this planet to find fried mashed potatoes? That’s just a damn shame. Nonetheless, I’ve found them now! This spot has some bomb burgers too.
The Pesto Pollo at Gamberetti’s Italian Restaurant
Who knew you would find fabulous Italian tucked away in downtown Salem? Gamberetti’s Pesto Pasta is made up of chicken, garlic, artichokes, tomatoes, linguini and a pesto cream sauce that was so good you’d eat cardboard if it had that sauce on it. Oh, and do not skip dessert! The Dulce de Leche with Sea Salt is melt-your-face-off good.
Steak Tartare at The Barberry
Treat yourself and dine at The Barberry in McMinville, just a half hour drive from downtown Salem. Fresh seafood and pacific northwest fare abound on their menu which is made up of 95% local ingredients. American Wagyu is used in their tartare and it practically melts in your mouth. I loved the addition of horseradish in the egg yolk emulsion in this dish.
The Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich at Gather Cafe
This fried chicken sandwich gets the southern girl stamp of approval and is definitely worth the 25 minute drive to Silverton to devour. Crispy chicken breast, tomato, greens, pickled onion and a lemon basil aioli on a brioche bun make up this killer sandwich. Sometimes perfection lies in simplicity.
Mary’s Free-Range Chicken at Rafn’s
I don’t like to play favorites, but this was my favorite meal in the Salem area. An adorable husband and wife team own this restaurant; Nate cooks and Rochelle runs the front of the house – and they are absolutely killing it. With a commitment to organic produce and local farmers, you know you’re eating the best that Salem has to offer here. The Mary’s Free Range Chicken is one of their signature dishes. A gently poached chicken breast in a Marsala-cream sauce with button mushrooms are served with some of the fluffiest, creamiest mashed potatoes in this dish and I am completely serious when I say that I could have eaten a tub of these mashed potatoes.
The Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Gilgamesh Brewing
I’ve loved grilled cheese sandwiches my whole life and I just get giddy when I find a good one. The one at Gilgamesh brewing did not disappoint. Tillamook swiss, cheddar and Montery Jack make up this bad boy, grilled on buttery, Texas toast. I had them add an avocado to mine which made it even more delicious, but you decide for yourself if you want to live that avocado life.