Salem, Oregon Part 1- Eating Your Way Through Downtown Salem
The main goal for our trip to Oregon's capital city was to explore the AVA's and Sub-AVA's of the Willamette Valley wine region. Along the way, we also had the good fortune to try a number of the many excellent restaurants in downtown Salem. Our first stop was Noble Wave Brewery and Louisiana Kitchen. Co-owners Raymond Pelas, Riley Vannoy, and Karl Schultz are Louisiana transplants, but after college at Louisiana State University they went their separate ways. But in 2018, they came back together again to make real their dream of opening a restaurant and brewery. They searched the country for the best location and finally chose Salem, Oregon. And judging by the crowds, they chose well. Inspired by New Orleans cuisine, their menu offers a wide variety of dishes, all with a taste of the south.
Michael chose the Hot Bird Caesar, a classic Caesar salad topped with a fried chicken breast, croutons, parmesan cheese, and Banana Peppers. The chicken is breaded, fried, and then rolled in their secret and well-named Hot Bird Sauce. The house-made Caesar dressing also gets a splash of the Hot Bird Sauce just for good measure. The zesty Caesar salad dressing balanced the heat. I ordered the Bin-Yay Fried Chicken Sliders. The Louisiana influence shows up in the slider buns. Instead of regular buns, these sliders are sandwiched by beignets – the powder sugar-covered sweet treats from New Orleans. The sweetness of the beignets and the delicious and juicy chicken tenders are a great combination. It isn't just the food that brings together an unlikely blend of elements. The restaurant is located in the historic Reed Opera House, and the interior is decorated in a very sleek, modern, and colorful motif. The kind of room that just makes you happy to be there!
The next night we went to Basil & Board Italian Pizzeria and Wine Café, and we asked to be seated in the roof-top dining area - home to Salem's only roof-top restaurant. Of course, pizza from the wood-fired oven was the logical choice. We had the Basil & Board Margherita made with marinara sauce, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. We loved the thin crispy crust, especially the charred and bubbly edges. They have a great selection of Willamette Valley wines to go with your pizza.
Last, but certainly not least, we dined at Amadeus. Amadeus is a wonderful, formal dining experience but casual attire is undoubtedly appropriate. The restaurant opened in 1996 with chef and owner Diana Ramallo, and it is now a family enterprise with Diana's daughter Alena Stewart as co-owner. Restaurants are in the family bloodline, with Alena learning to cook in her grandmother's kitchen – owner of her own restaurant in her time. With the white table cloths and soft candles, Amadeus is a special occasion destination. But don't wait for a special occasion to enjoy the delicious food that Chef Diana serves up. Michael settled on the Korean Short Ribs; bone-in ribs rubbed with a special mixture of 5 Chinese spices, which gave them a special kick. The ribs are served with mashed potatoes and house-made kimchi. I couldn't pass up the Marion Bleu Burger, which is topped with bleu cheese, bacon, frizzled onions, and marionberry bbq sauce. The sweetness of the marionberries was perfect with the tang of the bleu cheese.
We stayed at The Grand Hotel, which is a convenient five-minute walk from all of these fabulous restaurants. The Hotel offers a complimentary hot breakfast bar, which offered many choices, including some luscious fresh fruit. Our room was lovely and very comfortable.
Well, that was a lot of eating great food! Read Part 2 of this series for a description of the great outdoor activities available to burn off some of those calories and, Part 3 for some delicious must-visit wineries!
Editorial disclosure: lodging, beverages, and food generously provided.