In the 2000 Census, Salem was about 15% hispanic. I expect that in the 2010 Census that percentage will be 20% or higher. That being the case, you would think you could find some authentic Mexican chow in this town. You can, if you avoid the many places that cater to the gringos. There are lots of them on S. Commercial St. and Lancaster Drive. Most of them say their food is "Jalisco style" but that is false advertising. You'll never find this food in Jalisco.
If you want authentic Mexican food in Salem you have to venture out to North Salem, where most of the Latinos live. There you will find some places that don't bring you chips and salsa when you sit down. Then you know you have found the real thing. Here's some of my favorites ...
El Turbo (850 High St.) Okay, this place does bring me chips and salsa, maybe because I am a gringo. But they have the best chicken mole in town! It's so yummy you'll want to lick the plate. They are also open for breakfast and have a nice selection of breakfast options.
Juniors Taqueria (1705 Winter St.) This has been a favorite for many years. These folks are from Michoacan and everything on the menu is great. I like the carnitas tacos and the chicken sopes. Their tortas are very good as are their chili rellenos.
Salvador's Bakery (3790 Silverton Rd.) This is much more than a Mexican bakery. Their food is delicious, maybe the best in town. Try the chicharon tacos and the pork tamales. The tortas are excellent too. They have a wonderful selection of self-service salsas including some very good ancho chili salsas (look for the bright orange one). They make their own tres leches cakes that are yummy, and they sell by the slice or you can buy an entire cake at a reasonable price.
El Caminante (2575 Silverton Rd.)
This is a taco truck. Their food is very good. They have lots of unusual things that you won't find elsewhere. How about a chavindeca, a kind of fancy double decker taco with your choice of meat? They have 11 meats to chose from including lengua, birria, and buche (?). They have a torta jaguayana (?) and a tostada de cueritos (skin?). Check it out.
Taqueria Los Pinos (2300 Silverton Rd.)
Another taco truck. Their tacos are only $1.25 each. They have fish tacos for a little more. A specialty is the queso de puerco torta (head cheese sandwich). It was delicious. Not weird at all.
There is another taco truck on Silverton Rd., close to Salvador's, but I didn't jot down the name. They grill chickens and rabbits on a wood fired grill. Then their serve it four ways (plain or with different sauces). We've had the chicken "a la diabla." It was mighty hot! We need to go back and try the rabbit.
If you want a culinary adventure, you can just eat your way up Silverton Rd. from the State Fairgrounds to Lancaster. There's lots of good authentic Mexican chow, some of which you may have never had before. It might be worth a trip, even from Portland, to check this out.
1705 Winter St NE, Salem, OR 97301
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