Weekend Dining 1/27-1/28/23


I have gotten to be very fond of CaliBasil in Beverly as my local go-to for pho. We go for lunch or dinner probably twice a month. Lately, I have been ordering the House Special pho, which has sirloin, brisket, and bo vien meatballs.

I wish that they offerred a bowl that also includes tendon and tripe, but I get that those two ingredients might turn some people off. I don’t love the tripe, but it adds an interesting texture. I do love the bits of tendon that get all silky in the hot broth.

Even with the lack of those two things, they make a really decent bowl of soup, and I expect to be there again very soon.

Pizza with pepperoni, green peppers, and red onions

Even after I had that bowl of pho for lunch, I was hungry enough for dinner to convince my wife that we should go out. We went back to Americna Flatbread Company in downtown Salem and had this excellent pizza. We haven’t tried them for takeout yet, but now that we’ve been a couple of times and really like the pizza, we’ll probably give this a go the next time we want delivery.

Tacos – short rib and spice-rubbed chicken

We finally checked out Barrio in Salem for lunch on Saturday. Salem has a bunch of taco places now, and this one is the most recent addition. Unlike the other places in town, Barrio is a chain, with locations all over the country. Usually that’s not a good sign, but the tacos were excellent and we agreed we liked them better than any of the local joints.

To order, you are asked to “build your own” using a sheet of options and you color in bubbles with a pencil like you are taking a test at school. The choices are myriad, so the combinations are pretty much endless. They also have a few a la carte options, along with appetizers and specials. I opted to get one soft flour taco with shredded short rib birria, smoked Cheddar cheese and pico de gallo, and one with spice-rubbed chicken, salsa verde and queso fresco. I also got small sides of cilantro-lime rice and black beans. Both were excellent, but I loved the beef taco. I also really appreciated that the sides were small – many taco places give you way too much rice and beans when what you want are great tacos. My wife got the Thai chili tofu on one taco and gochujang tofu for the other and also enjoyed hers.

New Year’s Day 1/1/22

Beef pho

How could I possibly be hungry after all that food on New Year’s Eve?

Well, by lunchtime I was ready for something. I don’t know what the weather was like where you are, but our New Year’s Day was a dreary, rainy one, and when the weather is like that, I want soup. And if I want soup, I want pho.

We’ve only lived in Salem for a couple of years and are still learning all the many places to find good food (and there are MANY), but we did find a Vietnamese place in Beverly that we like enough to go occasionally. The place I like the best is actually a bit of a drive for us now, so we haven’t been for a while, but this place makes a decent bowl of pho, and my wife likes their egg and tofu banh mi.

My favorite beef pho combo has sirloin, brisket, tripe and tendon. I especially like the little nuggets of tendon, because they are soft and succulent in the hot broth. I can’t exactly say I love the tripe, but I have come to appreciate the…unique…texture enough to enjoy it when it’s there. This restaurant doesn’t offer either of those in their soup, unfortunately, but I get that they are trying to appeal to customers more than score points for authenticity. So this bowl was just sirloin and brisket. Good, not great, but perfectly acceptble on a rainy Saturday afternoon in January.

They say that whatever you do on New Year’s Day is what you’ll be doing for the year. If I can eat a lot more pho in 2022, that would be very nice indeed.