A Local Favorite Prepares To Move To a New Location
By The BaldOne
We first reviewed Celia’s Restaurant at 88 Congress Street in August of 2014. They were new to Salem at the time and had just opened in a space that had long been associated with good, budget friendly food spanning many years and crossing two distinct cultures. From Larry’s Sub Shop to Topico’s, 88 Congress Street has been feeding Salem for generations.
This is not truly a review though, it is just a record of our visit.
Joel and his family, who operate Celia’s have announced plans to leave their current location and move just a few doors up and across the street. The new spot, at 75 Congress Street was once home to Les Canadien’s Cafe, a favorite watering hole of the Point working class up into the 1980’s. Later it became home to the first of Salem’s funky modern themed eateries, The Love Noodle. Some of you may remember the Noodle and it’s sister restaurant, the Red Raven’s Havana on Washington Street. Since then it has played host to a few short lived food service establishments.
We paid a visit to Celia’s last week, both to have a satisfying lunch, and to talk to Joel about the impending change of location. We, of course are members of the #SalemFoodi group that are the heart and soul of Salem Food Digest.
Led by yours truly, our intrepid gang consisted of Jacqui our First Lady, the Dutchman, Geoff, and Jean. Jacqui and Geoff were visiting for the first time. We always enjoys bringing newcomers here because they sure know how to treat those who are uninitiated to Dominican or Latino cuisine
Joel provided both of our rookies with sample plates from the cafeteria style serving station. Each got a good cross section of the offerings along with a quick primer on what was what. When you are looking at various types of beef, pork, chicken, goat, ox-tail, and fish it can be difficult to sort things out. When you figure in the plantains, rices, spaghetti, and various soups and stews it can be overwhelming.
Once the sampling was complete we all walked up and selected what would fill our plates. Much to my surprise, two of this bold and curious team elected to go for both the goat and the ox-tail. Jean was looking for the Dominican blood sausage that she has enjoyed in the past but it was not available so Joel provided us with another house-made sausage. Jacqui made it a point to include the macaroni salad on her plate. I went with pernil, a spice rubbed roasted pork, the goat, and plenty of yellow rice and beans.
It is always interesting to watch what others select as they come in. The space only seats 20-25 people, but a brisk take-out business means that there is almost almost always plates being filled, and hot fresh food being brought to the steam table.
Jacqui and Geoff were quite impressed to only with the food itself, but with the price. A standard plate cost $6 no matter what meat, starch, and veggie combination you choose. If your appetite is large you can go for the $9 plate, but we would suggest trying the regular plate on for size first. Jacqui really liked the macaroni salad and Jean who has had it in the past seconded the endorsement.
The pernil, with it’s proprietary spice rub is a favorite of mine and has been since I first tried it at a small place in Lawrence twenty-five years ago. None of us got the any of the chicken options, but I can attest to the excellence of both the roasted and barbecued options.
The space itself is a bit rundown and is a visual reminder of 1960’s small restaurant decor with a linoleum floor and a tin ceiling. The friendly staff and wonderful aromas more than make up for that, and in the end just make the experience all the more amazing.
We wish Celia’s luck with their move up the street and are very excited to hear of plans to add a large rotisserie oven to the new space. Our plans are to drop in for breakfast sometime very soon and to ask exactly what goes into the sauce for the spaghetti that they serve.
If you haven’t been there yet, we recommend a visit soon so that you say that you visited before the rest of the world discovered them.