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Sunday, May 23, 2010

My wife and I try semi-fine dining!

My lovely and gracious wife and I went out to dinner Saturday night. Sadie is at her Aunt's house. So it was just the two of us. We started out to help one my wife's friends from work who was hosting a progressive dinner but who didn't think she would be back from a baseball playoff in time. We were going to get things started for her.
But, we got a call that she had returned, just about when we were walking to the car. My wife did feel that she should go to the musical which some of her students were involved in.
Because I am somewhat of an insincere person I suggested that we go out to dinner and then comeback for the end of the musical. That way we would not have to set through the usual somewhat painful high school drama production but could still congratulate the kids, who would have no idea we were not there for the whole thing.
Once in town we realized that we no longer know any restaurants other than a couple Chinese places that have been in Salem for 40 years.
Now I will admit that I am cheap. I see it as being frugal and often completely broke.
Our dinner out when Sadie is away is a sneaky trip to the bar (The Deluxe or the Blue Moon, can't remember the name!) on 3rd Street in McMinnville that advertises 2 steaks for $20. I always look both ways before entering this den of iniquity as I hate to be a stumbling block for anyone who has set their expectations too high in regards to my character, but the siren song of a cheap steak and a cough-syrup-like bourbon and coke is my weakness.
So our understanding of fine dining in the area is a bit lacking.
We decided to try the Copper Kettle, which I think used to be the Night Deposit which is across from what used to be the Ladd and Bush bank but is now the Key bank. The Tikki Resturant and Lounge is also long gone. The steaks at that place were wonderful and the decor was amazing fake polynesian. I think there was even leather padding on the bar.
The Copper Kettle was ok but was obviously a bar and at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night was just waiting for all the trend hipsters of Salem to slouch by. We had a couple appetizers and dropped a $20 pretty fast.
We decided to walk around and see the sites. I see the old adult bookstore next door is now an "alternative" store. I really don't know what that would be. There was a girl with bad posture and uncomfortable looking piercings leaning against the door post. I'm sure she thought she was quite the individual, quite possibly she invented angst. She certainly had the uniform down to a "t." Perhaps the "alternative" store sells those black uniforms that the "angst" ridden youth like to wear. In the old days you had to scour Value Village and Goodwill, but once stop shopping for the uniform would be good. You could buy a dog-collar and black fingernail polish all in the same store. I bet they even have mirrors so you can practice looking bored.
We noticed a lot of wallet chains.
I certainly would not want to try and make a living as a pick-pocket in Salem. Although the wallet chains are so long that you could probably steal the wallet, pilfer the cards and cash, and be long gone by the time the hipster hit the end of the chain.
We wondered down by the Elsinore Theatre. The one remaining old time theater in Salem. The Oak BBQ pit cafeteria across from the theater is long gone. But, we discovered Jonathon's (since 1973), which I think used to be Jonathon's Oyster bar on State Street and it was next to Shoegrens Stereo and the Metropolitan and a big bookstore but I'm a bit fuzzy on it all. Now it is on High Street I think.
I looked it up through Google this morning and I got all sorts of bad reviews. I had none of that in my head when we decided to give it a try. All I remembered is that it seemed out of place, but it had been in Salem for years so I must be wrong. Perhaps they just redecorated. I had good solid traditional American restaurant food in my head. You know, a baked potatoe or rice pilaf with every entree, and a pitcher of water at every table.
So we went in.
Interesting ambience I guess I would say. Very high ceilings with new paint and a very old industrial tiled floor, white and institutional green tiles, and walls of a color which I can't identify. Perhaps a dark blue or purple or something modern. There were a couple harpoons on the wall and some long oars and photos of sailing ships on the walls. I bet they had some meaning. Now I understand they came from the Old restaurant location, but since I was confused I just thought they gave it a paint job.
They were very busy as there was a large group in a meeting room upstairs. The waitress was very nice and kept checking on us to make sure we were happy and to let us know they were running slow.
I ordered the 8 oz sirloin steak as it was under $20 and I am cheap. I really hate to pay over $10 for fish and chips as the old Skipper's restaurants always made it better for $7.50 and kind of ruined me on the gourmet angle.
The lovely wife ordered the seafood stew. We debated several cajun dishes and the merits of clam chowder but in waitress said the stew was good so she went with it.
My dinner came with soup and I opted for the seafood soup of the moment. It was a chowder base with a bit of a dijon flavoring. It was thick and had chunks of potatoe and chewy seafood in it and was quite good. The bread basket was pretty small but the bread was tasty.
My steak and her huge bowl of soup came at the same time. Her seafood stew (I can't remember what they called it on the menu) smelled delicious. It had scallops, shrimp, clams, and a chunk of fish, with some fancy bread (she knew what it was called) to soak it all up. The soup base contained a lot of tomatoes which seemed to kind of not go with the rest of the contents but that was not the case. It was delicious. It had somewhat of a cajun spicy flavor.
Here my culinary vocabulary fails me as I am in no way a restaurant critic and I guess it doesn't really matter as how many of you are planning on a trip from the midwest to Salem, Oregon to sample the city's dubious culinary delights? Shall we say it was delicious?
My steak was quite a treat. I knew I was in for a good meal when the waitress brought me a bowl of sour cream, butter, and real chunks of bacon for my baked potatoe.
Now, I was a bit hesitant as I ordered a medium steak and I thought I heard just a bit of a startled moo as I cut into the inch and a half think blackened hunk of beef flesh. I was grateful no blood spurted into my eye as that really ruins my meal.
The steak was a masterpiece. It was blackened and salty on the outside and pink and juicy on the inside. It sliced up nicely with my knife, and was hot all the way through. That is a huge plus for me. The bonus was that I could even chew it! In fact it came as close to melting in my mouth as a chunk of animal flesh could do.
The baked potatoe could have been baked a bit longer and it came with the obligatorily  side of almost cooked skinny beans and carrots but no one eats those anyway so I ignored them.
I have been laughed at for my insistence on a well cooked steak but looking at potatoe bits turning red from blood just makes me want to hurl. So, perhaps the dim lighting enhanced my dining experience. I did not take advantage of the nifty little LED flashlight provided at each booth and perhaps that was a good thing.
The bill came in a $51 which was not so bad considering a couple extras which we had to go along with the meal. We passed on the carrot cake dessert as it just reminded me of too many farm co-op sponsored dinners Holiday Inns.
We are thinking of returning with Sadie so she can experience a dress up type dinner. Plus, they have steamer clams and she loves steamers.
We discussed our dinner this morning and concluded that it was a success. We spent $70 but it was good food. We had a nice walk about town and we think we caught one of her students attempting to buy beer at a 7-11. Sooo, a good time was had by all. I even had time to work on my devotion for Sunday School.
I think I am getting old...


  1. Frugal,,
    That's a good one. I just tell folks I'm cheap.


  2. Nah, not old, just more "experienced." I should know, I'm ten years more "experienced" than you are!

  3. Ok, I'm cheap... might as well be honest...
    Gorges, I had Sunday dinner at the old folks home. We are not old! We have no real problems! We are not drooling in a wheelchair. Well, I drool a little bit but not that much...


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