I second Vuelve a la Vida--great seafood. Crown Bar on 6th has a tasty and affordable happy hour menu. Doyle's has solid, cheap bar food. The Hub has delicious wood-fired, thin crust pizza. Viafore's in Fircrest has delicious Italian sub sandwiches. Two Koi has very good and relatively inexpensive sushi at lunch. Asado isn't a budget dining destination, but their Asado burger at the bar is a good value in addition to being scrumptious. The Rosewood Cafe has probably one of the best ambiences of Tacoma's affordable, non-chain restaurants, as well as good sandwiches and a sophisticated wine and beer selection.
I second the Pick Quik in Fife and the Southern Kitchen. Also Vuelva A La Vida for great ceviche, authentic tacos, a great oysters. (No chips for you, gringo.) Sapporo in Fife offers exceptional sushi at half of Seattle's prices. (Great soft shell crab appetizer 1/4 the price of Chandlers and every bit as good.) Taqueria La Carreta at 83 & South Tacoma Way is new to the Tacoma food scene and highly recommended. (Great talapia served at breakfast as well as lunch or dinner.) Also, the buffalo tacos at Tatanka Take-Out. Order double meat and chow down on a great food experience. I cannot recommend the Poodle Dog anymore as they have become a total Sysco outlet. Sad.
Taqueria La Carreta
8302 S Tacoma Way, Lakewood, WA 98499
Southern Kitchen Restaurant
1716 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98405
4915 N Pearl St, Ruston, WA 98407