The Willamette campus is located in Downtown Salem within walking distance of many restaurants. Of these restaurants, there is one in particular that is not only close to the WU campus, but also happens to offer delicious Santa Maria-style barbecue.
Adam’s Rib Smokehouse is a family-run business located on the corner of State and 12th streets, directly across from campus, and it has been long been a part of the Salem community. According to the restaurant’s owner Mike Adams, the restaurant was established in 2003 before moving to its current location in 2005. The restaurant serves authentic American barbecue and specializes in Santa Maria-style barbecue, a style originating in California’s central coast. Santa Maria-style barbecue differs from other barbecue styles, in that hardwoods such as oak are used to slowly cook meat, according to the restaurant’s website.
“We smoke everything out back,” restaurant owner Mike Adams said. “Everything is smoked for four to five hours. Brisket and pulled pork go overnight. [The barbecue style] is open pit, slow smoked and the tri-tip is traditionally served with a side of salsa.”
Adam’s Rib has an extensive menu that caters to many tastes. Some of the menu items include ribs, nachos, smoked tri-tip, sandwiches, burgers, gumbo, chili, smoked salmon and meats by the pound. For those looking for something slightly healthier, they offer a low-carb meal.
Adams said that their charbroiled burgers are one of the most popular menu items, as well as their smokehouse nachos loaded with pulled pork, homemade salsa, nacho cheese, shredded cheese and barbecue sauce. Adams also said that their most popular sandwich is the basic pulled pork sandwich.
For students over 21, the restaurant offers a selection of 14 beers on tap. During the weekdays, the restaurant also offers happy hour specials from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
What makes Adam’s Rib unique from other barbecue restaurants is that the Adams’ family is from the small California town that popularized Santa Maria-style barbecue — Santa Maria, CA itself.
“My family is originally from Santa Maria, CA, and I was born there 33 years ago,” Adams said. “[Barbecue] is in our blood. We brought it up here and my dad originally did landscaping, but later decided to follow his dream and open a barbecue restaurant. Santa Maria is really where tri-tip originated and took off.”
According to Adams, the restaurant’s close proximity to campus means the establishment has a close connection with WU.
“We have been involved with [Willamette] sports in the past with sponsorships and feeding the team,” he said. “We really thrive on Willamette students. We give a 10 percent discount to Willamette students if they show their ID. We are literally right across the street, so [the restaurant] has always been a close place to go. We even have students come in and study.”
Adam’s Rib Smokehouse provides a relaxing environment for students who need a break from the food on campus. The restaurant is small but rustic and provides a homey, country feel while providing friendly service. No matter if you are looking for a place to study, socialize, have a beer or just something to eat, delicious barbecue awaits at Adam’s Rib Smokehouse.