Eating Well in Oregon’s Capitol City
Salem has a long way to go before making the list of Oregon’s top tourist destinations. But it’s not without its charms and places worth pulling off the freeway. It’s host to a number of beautiful historic buildings that have been carefully restored by the city and treasured by the community and a surprising amount of decent dining options. All those state politicians have to have snazzy places to dine, after all.
Gilgamesh Brewing – 2065 Madrona Ave SE, Salem, OR 97302
Beer, as they say, is proof that God wants us to be happy. And that theory could easily extend to the modern family brewery. Gilgamesh, a miraculous blessing of sorts, prides itself on creating craft brews with minimal impact on the environment, including using high grain efficiency and 30% less water than standard breweries. But, what would a brewery be without a menu packed with savory craft pub food (well, it’d technically be a taproom)? Gilgamesh’s menu is just as carbon-footprint conscious as its brewing process. With high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, whatever you choose to wash down with a pint should only make you feel marginally indulgent. Options include the always-tempting mac and cheese, Waygu beef burgers, and hand-cut french fries accompanied by Harissa (read: spicy) Ketchup.
Tiga Sushi and Asian Bistro – 260 Liberty St. Salem, OR
Breweries are great, but they tend to favor those with full wallets and zero diet restrictions. So, for those hungry folk perusing Salem for a cheap yet elevated meal, amble over to Tiga Sushi. But don’t let the sushi parameter fool you, the great thing about Tiga is that it serves Vietnamese and Thai food, too. So, if you’re in a dispute with your significant other about whether to go for sushi, curry, or pho, Tiga is your unsuspecting relationship-saver. Their bowls are super reasonably priced, with large options under $10 and a variety of entrees all under $13. Delicious and good-sized sushi rolls come in pairs at an impressive $8, or solo at $4. Keep in mind that they’re closed on Sundays.
Rafns’ Restaurant – 479 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301
Named after owners Nate and Rochelle, Rafns’ is a tasty love letter to painstakingly prepared “European-inspired Northwestern” cuisine. It’s the kind of place that holds strong to its values and thus raises standards about what we should be putting in our bellies. And the dining experience they’ve created calls into question what most other restaurants do by default. When you eat at Rafn’s, your meal is free from pesticide-laden ingredients, caged chickens, carbon-heavy meats, refined oils, and GMO’s. They even go so far as to avoid using synthetic or Teflon-coated cookware. But the restaurant is anything but “hippy-dippy”, and a far cry from “hoity-toity” – designed and decorated to create a warm and friendly atmosphere characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. Their menu options won’t leave you staring perplexedly at arcane terms, either. All ingredients are plainly spelled out for each dish and the biggest mystery to solve is how to order a balanced sampling of starters, entrees, salads, and desserts. That said, it might be best to grab a few friends and make it a communal affair.