Power lunching at the Court Street Dairy Lunch in Salem.

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Court Street Dairy Lunch
347 Court St. NE
Salem, OR 97301
(503) 363-6433

Owner: Marlene Blanchard

Atmosphere: Old-fashioned diner 

Clientele: Legislators, lawyers, doctors, businesspeople, retirees

Most popular: Ranch Burger, Patty Melt, Club House

Best seat in the house: The counter. “Because no one has counters anymore,” Blanchard explains.

Brag factor: The Thursday special, an open-faced hot turkey sandwich with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy.

Backstory: Court Street Dairy Lunch was founded at possibly the worst period in American history to start a business — the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929. Dairy products reigned supreme until the restaurant’s first owner, Glen Morris, diversified into soups and sandwiches.

Overheard: One customer hands out fliers for a cherry blossom festival; a group of diners celebrates weight loss milestones; Willamette University administrators discuss an event for incoming freshmen; a waitress admonishes one slow eater, “We have a lot of milkshake left. Hurry up if you want to finish it.”

Food politics: “When [former governor Ted] Kulongoski came in, he always got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” Blanchard says. Kitzhaber, apparently, preferred tuna fish. Blanchard herself doesn’t get involved when customers discuss affairs of state. “I don’t want anyone mad at me for saying the wrong things. I agree with everybody.”

Critic’s corner: Vegans need not apply. 

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