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Jul 31, 2002 05:28 PM

Where's great food in Tacoma area?

  • g

Looking for some really good food in Tacoma and surrounding area. Love italian, chinese, thai, american, soup and sandwich/salad, bar-type, etc.

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  1. gbs,

    Tacoma is coming along nicely. Here are some suggestions:

    Italian: Marzano in Parkland. Reservations a must; probably the best Italian restaurant in Puget Sound.
    (Yes, including Seattle.)

    Also, Europa in the Proctor District. Open for Lunch weekdays which Marzano is not. Crazed Italian chef knows his way with olive oil.

    From The Bayou, terrific Cajun also in Parkland. (Next to Marzano!) Two brothers from New Orleons that capture their heritage quite well on the plate.

    Indochine: Federal Way, possibly has surpassed Bai Tong as the best Thai in the area.

    Tatonka Takeout: Buffalo tacos that are simply terrific. They do have indoor and outdoor seating and a diverse menu that is far from traditional fast food.

    The Pick Quick: Burger joint in Fife, outdoor takeout (they have picnic tables). They make their own french fries (cut fresh daily), shakes from scratch and burgers exactly to order. Best taste of Americana you will find in the region. (They are surrounded by McDonalds, Wendys, Burger King, etc. and there is ALWAYS a line to order your food.)

    Finally, El Compadre for Mexican. To paraphrase a Jack Nicholson quote: "You want Mexican, you can't handle REAL Mexican!" Best Menudo you will ever have, ever.

    Enjoy, there are many other finds as well. Best of all, your budget will go much farther in Tacoma than the big neighbor up north. (Also, these are all small, family owned places and everyone of them appreciates you as a customer...somethimg that should be a lesson for those in Belltown.)

    18 Replies
    1. re: Leper

      In Tacoma proper:

      Harmon's Brewery: on the U-W-Tacoma campus. Good beers and brewpub cuisine. Fish and chips are a good bet, pizzas are good.

      The Swiss: Good food, beer and music.

      Rock Pasta: wood-fired good stuff.

      Italian: Altezzo's at The Sheraton

      Just opened, El Gaucho and Melting Pot (so-so)

      1. re: southy

        I just had lunch at the Harmon. Absolutely the worst, dryest hamburger I have ever eaten. Everything everyone had was way overcooked, even the french fries were very dry. The best thing we got was the Asian salad, overcooked chicken, but the rest was fine.

        1. re: steve

          agree! harmon is so-so. wouldn't go again.

      2. re: Leper

        Took your advice and tried the El Compadre. People, dont let the area scare you. The people were super nice. The food is not American Mexican it is the real deal. The Picadillo enchiladas, mmmm. The Carne Asada was delicious. Tamales melt in your mouth. No Margaritas :(, But, Cervezas :) served with the greenest juiciest limes. Hard to go back to anywhere else now after finding something so great. Will try the Menudo next trip.

        El Compadre Restaurant
        1900 Pacific Ave N, Long Beach, WA 98631

        1. re: dncjenks

          This is an ancient zombie thread, but as people are still reading it, I'll bite. Some of the places listed aren't even open anymore (RIP Altezzo--and the Sheraton!) or the quality's seriously declined (sorry, Europa Bistro--your service has suffered greatly).

          Try Vuelve a la Vida--best restaurant Mexican in the city, in my opinion. Wonderful camarones rancheros, handmade corn tortillas, dreamy beans... yum. Asado (Argentinean steakhouse--although they do everything well) and Pacific Grill (contemporary American/NW) are upscale winners. The Lobster Shop is a reliable standby for traditional, upscale, waterfront seafood. Enoteca is a nice little wine bar with an excellent cheese selection. Good to great bar food can be had at: Top of Tacoma (sandwiches); Doyle's (sandwiches); the Spar (fish & chips and burgers); and the Red Hot (hot dogs). Good pizza: the Hub (thin crust); Upper Crust ("gourmet"); Puget Sound Pizza (traditional); the Rock (traditional). Good Asian: East-West Cafe (Vietnamese-Thai); Indochine (Thai); Two Koi (sushi).

          There is NO--I repeat, NO--good Chinese food in Tacoma. Unless you like Americanized glop. You'll have to drive to Renton, Seattle, or Bellevue before you reach decent, authentic Chinese food.

          Pacific Grill
          1502 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98402

          Upper Crust
          1505 Westlake Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

          Indochine Cafe
          2045 Mildred St W, Tacoma, WA 98466

          Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe
          3529 McKinley Ave, Tacoma, WA 98404

          Puget Sound Pizza
          317 S 7th St, Tacoma, WA 98402

          1. re: luckywonton

            No good Chinese food in Tacoma? I beg to differ: Tacoma Szechuan, just south of the 512 interchange off I-5. OTOH, I stopped in at East-West Cafe a couple of years ago and was highly unimpressed. My impression was that it offered standard fare, middlingly executed.

            I agree with the recommendation for Vuelve a la Vida. The homemade tortillas are well above average; the stuff on top is good too!

            1. re: yummers

              Beat me to the punch on Tacoma Szechuan. Hidden gem in the Sea-Tac area for sure.

              1. re: yummers

                My family's from Hong Kong and I'm definitely more of a Cantonese food fan. Haven't been to Tacoma Szechuan but Chinese friends of mine have mixed reviews. I'll have to try it myself. For now I'll drive north to have authentic Cantonese. There simply isn't a large enough Chinese community in Tacoma to support a decent Chinese food scene.

                FWIW, my post explains that East-West is Vietnamese-Thai. Not Chinese. I think it's pretty good (especially the specials like the salmon--but the rice dishes are so-so), you think it's middling and standard. Let's agree to disagree.

                1. re: luckywonton

                  hey, Lucky Wonton -- can I get some Chinese food rec's from a fellow Hong Kong-er (albeit a gweilo)? I used to live in Seattle and never found a really good place -- my family will be visiting my nephew in Tacoma and would love some good HK dim sum (after living in HK for 10 years, our standards are pretty high, but where we live now people are still ordering chow mein...). Thanks!

                  1. re: mlradin


                    Unfortunately, you will be sorely disappointed by the Chinese offerings in Tacoma and its environs--including Seattle. I don't know where you currently live, but unless you live in Idaho, Nebraska, or the rural South, your standards as a former Hong Konger have to be high. (As a sidenote and example, one of my CBC--that's Canadian Born Chinese, for those unaware--cousins had a 10-course Cantonese wedding banquet in Toronto. We all raved about the food. One of my uncles, who's continued to live in HK beyond 1997, merely shrugged his shoulders and said, "It was okay."). That being said, we make do with local dim sum at Imperial Garden in Renton, which is hit-and-miss but has reliably good bean curd, chicken feet, and jook. We will have great meals and then not-so-great meals, but we keep going back mainly because we know the servers and know what to order. If going for dinner or to order off the menu anyway, get the Chinese menu. We have also enjoyed Top Gun in Bellevue for dim sum but the service is a bit surly and the wait's longer. I don't think the food is enough of an improvement to justify the longer wait and indifferent service. But honestly... If you want the good stuff, the food that truly reminds you of HK, drive across the border and go to Richmond! Good luck.

                      1. re: luckywonton

                        Even in Vancouver metro, one still has to be picky to get the good stuff - there's plenty of bad stuff there too.

                        Although I'm very intrigued about Tacoma Szechuan from its seemingly high number of backers, I'm suspecting it may be just a matter of lowered standards down there. While there are sizeable Korean, Vietnamese, and Cambodian communities down there, I am pretty certain there is almost no substantial Chinese population down there (the entire community was expelled by a mob in 1885 - and not until decades later did some Cantonese migrate back into that area - I hear a Cantonese church opened in Tacoma a few years ago).

                        1. re: HungWeiLo

                          HungWeiLo, My grandfather was part of that mob. It all started because of some soggy egg rolls and poor chowmein. (Early Chowhounds were much stricter than those of today.)

                          1. re: HungWeiLo

                            You hit the nail on the head, Hung. According to the last census (as reported in today's News Tribune), there are a little more than 700 people in Tacoma who are of Chinese descent. This is truly staggering. Not sure Leper's joke about the racially motivated mob chasing out Old Tacoma's Chinese community is funny, either--especially in light of its lingering effects on our city's makeup.

                            @ Ballard Foodie: No, not yet. Mlradin wanted to hear about Cantonese places, anyway. I promise to try Tacoma Szechuan. Promise!

                          2. re: luckywonton

                            Regardless of our HK standards, we now live in the Palm Springs area -- I don't believe I have actually seen a Chinese person here other one family from HK who bought a house here to golf) outside a Chinese restaurant kitchen .... I recently read that a casino has hired a serious chef from China to open a Chinese restaurant (with dim sum!), so we are hopeful, although an HK chef would be preferable! Anyway, we so appreciate all the info about the current Chinese food scene -- I used to live in Seattle, and in those 5 or so years I never found a good place (and I got food poisoning on my big trip to Vancouver with another former HK resident specifically for Chinese food) until my last week there -- which I spent in the hospital while my parents ate lunch daily at top gun. Renton will be too inconvenient, so I think we will look at the top Chow board choices for dim sum. I gave up on Chinese in Tacoma (the trip is ostensibly to see a nephew's play at UPS, with a day of eating in Seattle!), thanks to your warnings!

                        2. re: luckywonton

                          I would say East-West if actually Vietnamese/Thai/Korean/Chinese/French/etc (depending on what they put on as a special)... they aren't that focused. Overpriced and average at best.

                      2. re: luckywonton

                        I signed up on this site just to respond to the Chinese food comment. My girlfriend and I both think Tacoma Szechuan food is really darn good. The prices are kind of amazingly low as well. We keep going back, as it just keeps delighting us each time. For the record, outside of this place, we would otherwise agree that Tacoma might be a wasteland for Chinese food, as far as we have been able to explore.

                  2. Fife Bar and Grill - hands down the best food south of Seattle. Very reasonably priced. American mix, prepared in a classic french style. Fresh. Great variety. Caters to truckers and Tacomomians (?). Locally owned.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: krawdad

                      Fife Bar and Grill has the Best Deserts. She makes them all from scratch and even homeade Ice Cream. Mmmmm

                    2. Nobody has mentioned some of my favorites: Vien Dong (fantastic Vietnamese, great prices) on E. 38th, Gateway to India on 6th Ave, Los Amigos Mexican (and grocery!) on S. Tacoma Way, Silk Thai on 6th ave (sadly my favorite Thai Karachi closed a few years ago) Tons of Korean and Pho down near 100th and S. Tac Way, and Infinate Soup on Tacoma Ave jsut off of 6th downtown is AMAZING!! Winger's on Tacoma Mall Blvd near 56th has really cheap and good happy hour for bar food...The taco truck on 56th just east of S Tacoma way in the Chevron parking lot is really good, Affairs Cafe on Bridgeport is unparalleled for breakfast. The Hob-Nob on 6th has great American diner-type food, as does Knapp's on Proctor. Tacos Guymas on 38th near the mall is good too. Drive-in style burgers go to Little Holland on Center street... The Red Hot on 6th is a bar/gourmet hot-dog joint, and also on 6th is Crown Bar with amazing food. And for an amazing fancy feast, Maxwell's downtown. I recently moved out of the area and am really sad that my favorite places don't get my money anymore. Check 'em out, and enjoy!

                      Vien Dong Restaurant
                      3801 Yakima Ave, Tacoma, WA 98418

                      Silk Thai Cafe
                      3401 6th Ave Ste F, Tacoma, WA 98406

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Puxe

                        Vien Dong is awesome. I'm a big fan of it myself.

                        Vien Dong Restaurant
                        3801 Yakima Ave, Tacoma, WA 98418