Top 10 Cultural Restaurants In Salem, Oregon

Cherry Blossoms Salem Oregon
Cherry Blossoms Salem Oregon | ©Edmund Garman
Marian Shek

While Salem, Oregon, doesn’t quite have the same hipster credentials as nearby Portland, this romantic and quaint city has a good sprinkling of museums, gardens and theaters. As the capital of Oregon, Salem is worth visiting for its history and character, while the surrounding Willamette Valley boasts award-winning wines and breweries. These ten must-try cultural restaurants offer some of the best examples of local culinary culture.

1. Roberts Crossing

Bar, Restaurant, American, Dessert

Roberts Crossing interior
©Roberts Crossing
Since its opening in 2010, Roberts Crossing has become the place to go for some hearty, American comfort food and old-fashioned, attentive service. Set up in the old Wild Pear location, in a quaint, secluded spot on River Road, this venue is a classy establishment with a cozy, understated atmosphere. It is known for its cocktails, which can be sampled in the charming, rustic copper bar. There’s also a cute private dining area available for small groups, the ‘Roberts Shed’, which puts a nice spin on chic dining. For dinner, try the ever-popular chicken saltimbocca, Fisherman’s Stew, smoky mac and cheese, or the more adventurous bourbon berry salmon. Desserts are also a must here, with the decadent chocolate peanut butter torte being a particular winner.

2. ACME Café

Restaurant, American

ACME Caféis described as the realization of a dream for a husband-and-wife team, whose intriguing back-story as one-time competitors sounds like the perfect inspiration for a foodie-themed rom-com. In 2013, after years in the restaurant business, locals Jeff James and Cecilia Ritter James opened the ‘acme’ of their careers, to much anticipation. The result is a warm and friendly neighborhood restaurant, serving updated versions of classic, regional American cuisine. The building, formerly the Teriyaki House, has been stripped back and transformed into an open, uncluttered and funky space, which is both nostalgic and modern, with a custom-made chandelier made from old canning jars as its centerpiece. Come here for perfectly cooked dishes such as tender baby back ribs, seared rockfish, or bacon jalapeno mac and cheese. This is also a wonderful place for a casual lunch or breakfast at the weekend – the eggs Benedict, chicken and waffles, and sourdough pancakes are washed down perfectly with a delicious breakfast cocktail.

3. Maven


Located in downtown Salem, in a lovely 1800s art deco building, Maven brings a taste of the cosmopolitan life to the city. It is a romantic little gem, with atmospheric lighting and a hip, upmarket vibe, helped along by laid-back music. The small menu features eclectic and unique combinations of Italian and American cuisine, such as gnocchi mac and cheese, kale Caesar salad, anchovy pasta with wholewheat linguine, broken lasagna with walnut pesto, and grilled salmon over beet risotto. Another highlight is their expertly blended cocktails – try their signature drink, the Spa Martini, for a refreshing hit of mint, cucumber and vodka.

Maven, 383 State Street, Salem, OR, USA, +1 503 385 8648

4. DaVinci’s Ristorante & Wine Bar

Restaurant, Italian, Gluten-free

DaVinci’s Ristorante & Wine Bar
© DaVinci Ristorante
Conveniently situated next to downtown Salem’s historic Elsinore Theater, a magnificent 1920s mock gothic movie palace, DaVinci’s is a fine dining restaurant with an impeccable 20-year reputation as the best Italian in the city. Using only high quality local produce, or special seasonal ingredients from Italy, the food is a delight. Everything is prepared with care and passion, with homemade pasta and meals cooked in a wood-burning oven. The menu includes numerous creative flavors such as quinoa risotto, pomegranate glazed duck, and duck fat fries with soft-boiled egg and caviar. Some even argue that DaVinci’s serves the best steak in town. With its exposed brick walls, tiffany lamps and live jazz music, this place was made for long, unhurried meals accompanied by a bottle from their wine list, one of the most extensive in the Northwest.

5. Word of Mouth

Bistro, Restaurant, American

Word of Mouth is a cute family-run bistro, located in a converted 1930s house in the heart of Salem. After extensive careers on the local restaurant scene, and a seven-year stint running a restaurant-bar at an idyllic resort on Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California, Steve and Becky returned to Salem in 2008 to open a bistro that would specialize in quality food, cooked from scratch. Though Word of Mouth serves food from 7am to 3pm, it is best known for its inventive breakfasts. One popular dish is the Plate O’ Love, made up of their signature corned beef hash, two eggs and crème brulee French toast. The portions are big, but too delicious not to finish. By keeping the business resolutely small, and playing with different flavors to create delightful combinations that would perhaps not suit a larger establishment, Word of Mouth has worked a certain magic that attracts diners from far and wide.

6. Wild Pear

Restaurant, Vietnamese, American, Soup, BBQ

Ensconced in a fabulous art deco, sage-fronted building, Wild Pear exudes an arty vibe that reflects its surrounding environment in the downtown area. This establishment is owned by sisters Jessica and Cecila – the latter is also behind the aforementioned ACME Cafe. Wild Pear is a very different venue, serving Vietnamese-influenced American cuisine, with intriguing treats such as wild pear chicken pizza, chicken verde casserole and Kahlua pork sandwich, served with ginger-lime slaw and marion berry BBQ sauce. Here, you’ll find the best Pho in the city, made from a cherished family recipe. The flavors of each dish are carefully considered and balanced to perfection. Unsurprisingly, Wild Pear was awarded a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2013, and a handful of other local business awards, with Zagat praising it for having ‘some of the most creative food in town’. If you get the chance, join its monthly Supper Club, which serves seasonal, themed multi-course meals family-style, to encourage a lively and social atmosphere.

7. Christo’s Pizzeria and Lounge

Restaurant, Pizzeria, Italian

Christos Pizzeria & Lounge, Salem
© William Bragg | Image courtesy of Christo’s Pizzeria
Another recipient of a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2013, Christo’s is a family-friendly restaurant with a welcoming ambiance, and specializes in a wide range of gourmet pizzas. After moving to its new premises in 2010, they expanded their menu to include non-pizza dishes such as chicken picatta, veal samtimbocca and four cheese cannelloni. But it’s their delicious pizza – the best in town, some claim – that keeps diners returning. The restaurant’s lounge next door is a lively music venue, which hosts world class live jazz shows.

8. Venti’s Café and Taphouse

Restaurant, American, Beer

Venti’s taps into the area’s thriving microbrewery and craft beer culture, with its focus on partnering good food with the right ale. Utilizing the farm-to-table concept, Venti’s serves up ‘good, clean food’ with bold flavors and quality, local ingredients that are untarnished by hormones, additives or preservatives. This straightforward ethos is captured by their colorful rooster logo – a reference to their star dish, chicken teriyaki. The rest of the menu is a fun, eclectic combo of international favorites, such as Cajun chicken quesadilla, falafel and chicken Thai peanut wraps. Obviously, they also take their beer very seriously. At their first location, an edgy cafe and basement bar in the heart of downtown Salem, they have 10 rotating taps and 65 rotating bottles of craft and import beers and ciders. Their second location, a much larger restaurant in Commercial Street, has 24 taps and over 100 different bottled beers. Beer aficionados can keep up-to-date with their ever-changing taplists via their Twitter page.

9. Bentley’s Grill

Restaurant, Steakhouse, American

Bentley’s Grill, Salem
© Bentley’s Grill
This steak and seafood restaurant, located in the Grand Hotel in Salem, is the perfect place for some unforgettable, refined dining. Bentley’s Grill focuses on using the best ingredients from the Northwest, such as fresh Oregon bay shrimp and Rogue Valley bleu cheese, and making them shine. Try the award-winning Northwest seafood chowder, black Angus New York steak, or coconut prawns, served with mango and pineapple salsa. Their fully stocked wine lounge also features local wines from Oregon, as well as having the region’s largest selection of premium liquors. With its wood-paneled surroundings, elegant atmosphere and wine-tasting nights, Bentley’s is the perfect place for a sophisticated night out.

10. Andaluz

Bar, American, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, Pub Grub, Tapas

Conveniently situated in downtown Salem, next to Elsinore Theater and close to the well-regarded Hallie Ford Museum of Art, the laid-back Andaluz is Salem’s first tapas restaurant and a unique addition to the city’s growing culinary scene. Andaluz offers an open, modern and welcoming space, and serves a rotating menu of tantalizingly presented tapas, which makes the most of seasonal produce. Expect Spanish classics such as gazpacho, clams steamed with roast peppers and ham, chorizo croquetas with piquillo pepper and parmesan, sopa de ajo (rustic garlic soup with ham, garlic toast and poached egg) and, on Wednesdays, home-made paella. The bar is also well stocked with Spanish and local wines, although the sangria is a must. The light and crispy churros with chocolate sauce are also highly recommended.

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