Leaving Seattle early in the morning necessitated coffee, and being on vacation, one of us enjoyed a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream in her coffee. I enjoyed extra nourishment from a hardy breakfast burrito. Amtrak Cascades, the fast-moving train (80 mph at times), was the mode of transportation so that we could relax in the comfortable lounge car.
We spent the time reading, napping, and enjoying the views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens along the way, and before we noticed, we had arrived in Salem close to noon. The next stop was to drop our luggage off at the Grand Hotel, just one mile from the train station.
Our first walk around downtown was to Riverfront Park, located along the Willamette River. Many folks were crossing the bridge and headed out to walk or bike some of the 20 miles of off-street trails that take you to Minto-Brown Island Park. We had hiked part of this before, and so had other plans.
It was lunchtime, so we strolled downtown on this stunning fall day, 85 degrees and sunny in the middle of October! Our lunch choice was tough: Wild Pear or their neighbor Taproot Lounge and Café. We checked out their menus and even looked at folks enjoying their meals outside. It was a hard choice, but we landed at the Taproom.
The owner is Salem native Christopher Holland, who, before starting the lounge in 2014, had many years of experience in the bar/restaurant industry and knew what he wanted: a restaurant focused on simple, healthy, and fresh food. The only issue was that this historic building (built in 1868) needed some internal upgrades, and Christopher didn't have the resources. With the help of Kickstarter, he was able to raise over $25,000 from close to 200 donations. Thus in 2014, the juice bar and lounge were established.
It is not your typical lounge, and they have an extensive coffee bar and many vegan food options, non-beef burgers, and chicken or pulled pork burger options. The colorful interior was due to the décor and the tie-dye shirts the servers wore.
I enjoyed the Curry Rice Bowl with cauliflower, chickpeas, and kale for lunch. The highlight was the house-made curry, and the fresh snap peas soaked in the curry were terrific. Elizabeth enjoyed the Taproot Grilled Cheese with goat cheese, cheddar cheese, and tomatoes. What great flavors! The beer was from Taproot and brewed off-site, and Elizabeth had the crisp and light "For Tomorrow We Die" IPA from Tomorrow's brewery.
After lunch, we walked across the street to Brandy's All City Sweets. Full from lunch, we decided to grab one of their peanut butter cookies for the following day with our coffee. That was an excellent choice, which we were pleased about in the morning.
We returned to the hotel to read, relax, and begin the debate about our dinner options. We knew from our last visit that there were some great choices: pizza at Basil & Board or somewhat formal but mostly casual dining at Amadeus Restaurant. We also enjoyed the Louisiana style with a kick at Noble Wave on a previous visit.
We decided on something new for tonight's dinner: Chira's Restaurant. Yuriy Chira, owner and executive chef, opened his restaurant in 2017 with the goal of a "Fine dining experience without the price." Yuriy used his vast restaurant experience and education from Le Cordon Blue College of Culinary Arts. I had the Andouille Sausage & Tortellini in pesto sauce with shrimp, kale, and sweet peppers. The lightly spiced sausage with the pesto sauce and the pasta were delicious. The serving was so generous I couldn't finish it. Elizabeth enjoyed her Chef 7 salad with romaine, bacon, avocado, beets, red onions, and boiled egg, topped with blue cheese. She agreed with the chef - "Fine dining experience without the price."
On the way out, we wandered through The Reed where Chira's is located. The building is home to an eclectic variety of shops, from fine dining to hat stores, beauty boutiques, plant shops, and much more. Since we had to get up early to catch the train back to Seattle, bedtime was calling.
Morning came soon, and we needed to catch the 6:40 am train. One advantage of the early time was that we enjoyed the sun slowly rising and bright colors starting to appear with Mt. Hood in the background. Pro tip: to fully enjoy the view, make sure you sit on the righthand side of the train going northbound. This photo was zoomed in and taken at nearby Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, which we did not get a chance to visit in the spring– thus, we didn't get to see the tulips.
After this beautiful light show, we grabbed some food and refreshments in the bistro car. At each stop, we noticed more and more families dressed in Seahawks gear getting on the train to go to Seattle for the football game. In Portland, we added 60 folks, and in Vancouver, another 60 as we made our way north. What a fun idea for a family excursion! Most adults were relaxing, some playing card games, while the younger folks seemed intent on listening to music and playing games on their phones. We arrived at King Street Station and walked across the street to take our bus home to Redmond. In another year, we will be able to take Seattle's new light rail system to get home. We are already planning our next Amtrak Cascades trip, and may go north to Vancouver, B.C.
Editorial disclosure: lodging, beverages, and food were generously provided.