Spicy, soulful, and full of tasty goodness – Salem’s culinary scene is a melting pot full of diversity, as restaurant owners from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures come together to share their rich regional specialties, traditions, and experiences through carefully crafted cuisine. It can all be found here: the sizzling heat of Korean BBQ, the gentile strum of Vietnamese pho, the warmth of Ethiopian stews, and much more. Among these culinary threads, Salem’s Black-owned restaurants and culinary businesses shine ripe apples, adding richness and depth to this all-encompassing tapestry of cultural celebration through taste.

From soul food that warms the heart to traditional African dishes that tantalize the palate, these establishments offer delicious meals and vibrant stories of heritage, resilience, and community spirit. With these Black-owned restaurants, community members can dive into a journey of discovery, where each bite is a celebration of cultural expression and culinary artistry, and each dining experience offers a window into the diverse cultural stories and warm hospitality that defines Salem’s Black community.

Black-owned restaurants Salem
Catch Ola hosting cooking classes and teaching students about the creation and traditions that go with African cuisine at Flourish Spices and African Food. Photo courtesy: Flourish Spices and African Food

Flourish Spices and African Food

1555 Hawthorne Avenue NE, Salem

Olajumoke Elkanah, or Ola as she’s most commonly known to customers, has been providing Salem residents a taste of Africa at her local supermarket, Flourish Spices and African Food. For Ola, African food is essentially her home life, proudly reflecting her heritage and thus, she proudly presents it to the world at her African food mart.

She was inspired to open the establishment after a move to Oregon in 2008. She loved her new home but couldn’t find anywhere nearby to buy the food she grew up loving so dearly and had to drive over an hour away to the nearest location with everything she needed. Seeing a need for the African community, she was more than happy to open her new place right here in Salem, and as it always does, food found yet another way to bring people from different cultures together. Besides the rows and rows of spices, cooking supplies, and grocery items, shoppers at Flourish can also sign up for cooking classes of traditional African dishes with Ola, and they even cater events for those looking to bring a taste of Africa to their next big event.

Black-owned restaurants Salem
Gary Cooper’s So Cheesy food truck has been keeping bellies warm with mouthwatering grilled cheeses and putting a twist on the classic with menu options like pulled pork grilled cheese. Photo courtesy: So Cheesy

So Cheesy


One local food truck is keeping the streets of Salem cheesy. Gary Cooper’s So Cheesy food truck has been bringing the joy and delight of this classic snack with a menu that has something for everyone, from simple cheeses for kids all the way to decadent cheese for those more sophisticated palates.

Their grilled cheese sandwiches are perfect any time of day and feature mouthwatering menu options like Mama Mia!, which is made with fried chicken, mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce on French bread, and Shred it All!, which consists of pulled pork with cheddar blend on white bread. Make it a perfect combo with a side of tomato soup and a glass of milk, or enjoy other sides like chips, cheese with mac, and green monster mac that features pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella. Be sure to leave room for dessert, as they have plenty of decadent options to soothe your sweet tooth!

Black-owned restaurants Salem
: Mouthwatering pizzas await at The Old Oak Oven in Silverton. Photo courtesy: Travel Oregon

The Old Oak Oven


Not too far away in Silverton, there’s a food truck bringing handcrafted artisan wood-fired pizza, all created using sustainable and local products, to the community. Gerald Williams opened the bright red food truck that would become The Old Oak Oven in 2012.

Since then, it’s been serving some of the best pre-set pies around, including favorites like Sicilian deep dish and classic Margherita, and they can even have options for vegan cheese and gluten-free crust so no one has to miss out on these yummy slices of heaven. And if you’re not feeling pizza, there are plenty of other menu options, including meatball subs, salads, and ice cream sandwiches.

Epilogue Kitchen and Cocktails

508 State Street, Salem

In the heart of downtown Salem is an inviting and award-winning restaurant that offers intriguing fare that comes directly from the heart of chef and owner Jonathan Jones. Epilogue Kitchen and Cocktails is home to a deeply personal menu where every plate and drink has a story to tell, with many of the restaurant’s dishes being inspired by Black culture from the plains and valleys of the Mid-Atlantic and the Heartland region.

In addition, for two years in a row in 2022 and 2023, Jones was nominated in the Best Chef in the Pacific Northwest category as a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Award. The honor is awarded to chefs who excel in culinary artistry while fostering positive change in their region through sustainable practices in work culture and positive community engagement.

Black-owned restaurants Salem
Taproot Lounge & Cafe has evolved beyond a juice bar to include a tasty brunch and dinner menu that includes hits like buffalo mac ‘n cheese. Photo courtesy: The Grand Hotel in Salem

Taproot Lounge & Café

356 State Street, Salem

Located in an 1800s historic building in downtown Salem, Taproot Lounge & Café initially focused on being a juice bar when Christopher Holland opened the relaxed lounge in 2015. Years later, they’ve evolved past the juice bar of freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices and have expanded to include brunch options, a hefty dinner menu, a full espresso bar, and local coffee and loose-leaf tea selections. These extensive additions to the menu also feature plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options to accommodate every appetite.

In the lounge area, patrons can find house-made cocktails and craft beers. Overall, the establishment aims to support local farms and businesses, minimize environmental impact and food waste, and provide an additional outlet for musicians and artists to display their talents.

From soul food classics to African dishes bursting with flavor, Salem’s Black-owned restaurants offer a melting pot of culinary experiences and traditions. Each bite celebrates heritage, culture, and the entrepreneurial spirit thriving in the region. By supporting these establishments, you’re not just enjoying a hearty meal. You’re contributing to a vibrant community and ensuring these stories and meals continue to be told for generations to come.

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