Word of Mouth Bistro in central Salem. Owners Becky and Steve Mucha announced their retirement and the restaurant's closure April 9. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Beloved Salem brunch spot Word of Mouth Bistro is closing - at least for now.

Owners Becky and Steve Mucha announced their retirement and an end to the restaurant’s operations through Facebook April 9, drawing surprise and sadness from Word of Mouth’s 20,000 followers.

The Muchas started the restaurant, located at 140 17th St. N.E., in 2008. The couple was the heart and soul of the restaurant, making it a place for the community to gather. 

“This was truly the restaurant of our dreams,” Becky wrote in a social media comment. “I made it the way I wanted out front, and Steve created the menu. (He was the true genius here).”

Diners expected to wait for a table, but it was worth it for their delicious fare, especially cinnamon roll pancakes, vanilla custard crème brûlée French toast, and Plate O’ Love, which included French toast and corned beef or veggie hash. Becky’s mom made all the strawberry freezer jam, an obsession for many customers.

The brunch spot could have been a Salem tourist attraction. In 2014, the couple was contacted by the cable television show "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," hosted by Guy Fieri. The couple declined a possible feature for fear they couldn’t manage the potential demand and maintain its quality.

The couple had to close at the beginning of the pandemic and offered take-out food only until late 2021 before briefly reopening for dine-in meals. 

With the increase in price for food and supplies, Becky said sustaining the menu they were known for would have been impossible.

“The menu price increase to cover this would have to be drastic. It would push our prices to a level we were not comfortable with,” Becky said.        

She continued, “Some restaurant owners believe that owning a restaurant ages you three years every year. We would tend to agree with this statement. Considering all of the above, now seems like the perfect time to hang up our aprons, and turn the reins over to someone else.”

The Muchas have indicated they are in conversations with potential buyers and there is speculation that the original name and menu may remain. 

“We have some things in the works so that WOM can remain WOM,” Becky said in an email to Salem Reporter. “We will have more info in a few days.  The situation is changing quickly.”

Their Facebook post announcing the closure garnered over 2,500 reactions to the post with 850 comments. Followers expressed their disappointment yet supported their decision. 

A Facebook fan wrote, “Becky and Steve, you truly are what makes Salem great! Word of Mouth will also be remembered as an awesome and welcoming place that served the best this town has to offer. Thank you for all the terrific days because they were all terrific when it included Word of Mouth! We love you and always will!”

When asked what her best memory is, Becky said, “Truthfully, the best memories have been with our employees. Somehow we got lucky enough to hire amazing people, and they stayed with us. We believe that if we treat them well, it will reflect well on how they treat others that come into WOM. We had a lot of fun joking back and forth and everyone seemed to have fun every day they worked, which we believed spilled over into the mood in the dining room. We have met so many amazing people through WOM, and our customers were also responsible for making us what we were.”

Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing regularly for Salem Reporter. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook.

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