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Tacoma: Looking for not-to-miss, kid-tolerant restaurants AND (separately) excellent PNW cuisine

  • k
  • Kelly Sep 22, 2010 01:07 AM
  • 5

Hi Greater Seattle 'hounds,

We are gearing for our (roughly) annual trip to Tacoma to visit family for Xmas and I'm starting to build my restaurant wish list.

The list below is heavy on ethnic cuisines, something our home city (Brussels) is sadly lacking...so while I know, for example, Tacoma's Chinese restaurant scene might not be up there with some Seattle neighbourhoods, it's still better than we get! :o)

Any recent commentary/not-to-miss dishes/alternative suggestions would be appreciated.

Vuelve a la Vida – Mexican
El Compadre – Mexican
Tacoma Szechuan – Chinese
Hunan Garden – Chinese
Vien Dong – Vietnamese
Warthog (Fife) – barbecue
Southern Kitchen – soul food
Ho Soon Yi – Korean
Gari of Sushi – sushi
Crown Bar – fish and chips, burgers

I'd also appreciate input on a very specific front -- the child-friendliness of the restaurants. Not that they need to have toys and food in bags (God, no), but we'll have our 18-month-old son with us for most of our restaurant forays and will be looking for places where high chairs might be available and where the occasional squawk, or child wandering about in the company of an adult, would not be frowned upon.

(The child-friendliness of the food, alas, is not a consideration. Despite my efforts to raise a little James Beard, the wee one has entered a phase where anything other than yogurt, bread and sausage is viewed with scorn and suspicion.)

And lastly, we will probably sneak away for one or two dinners a deux, so any votes as to what that meal should be are welcome. I'd love to have a knock-me-flat regionally inflected meal (though locavore sourcing in December is tough...) and if there's Dungeness crab available, I will be a happy camper! At the moment, most of the intriguing restaurants I'm reading about are in Seattle and I'm curious as to whether there any equivalents in the Tacoma area. Here are the Seattle names, just as an FYI:

Crush
How to Cook a Wolf
Zoe
Jack’s Fish Spot
Lark
Sitka & Spruce
Matt’s in the Market
Flying Fish
Dahlia Lounge
Tilth

Thanks in advance!

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Sitka & Spruce
2238 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102

Flying Fish
2234 1st Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121

Vien Dong Restaurant
3801 Yakima Ave, Tacoma, WA 98418

Gari of Sushi
1209 S 38th St, Tacoma, WA 98418

Ho Soon Yi Restaurant
8501 S Tacoma Way, Lakewood, WA 98499

Dahlia Lounge
2030 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

El Compadre
4002 McKinley Ave, Tacoma, WA 98404

Southern Kitchen Restaurant
1716 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98405

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  1. Kelly, I see you have done some serious homework. (Your Seattle list is excellent as well.) For Tacoma, Vuelva a la Vita is a must. Excellent seafood including ceviche` and oysters. (Not commonly found in local Mexican restaurants.) El Compadre` has changed hands and is no longer recommended. I strongly suggest substituting Branks BBQ for Warthog. There is no comparison. For Sushi, Sapporo in Fife. Also Vien Dong is nothing special; instead choose Indochiine on Pacific Avenue. (NOT the University Place location there merely shares a name.)
    The catfish at Southern Kitchen is highly recommended. If you get homesick for Belgian ales, the Park Tavern usually has them on draft. Enjoy your stay in T-Town!

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    Southern Kitchen Restaurant
    1716 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98405

    2 Replies
    1. re: Leper

      I think that comparing the Vien Dong to the Indochine is like comparing apples to spiced apply rum cake. Both have apples, but you're going to pay a whole lot more for the latter. The Vien Dong is a great quick lunch place that does what it does very well. The Indochine is a sitdown dinner restaurant. Give me the Dong anyday and I'll walk away happy, full and with $40-50 more bucks in my pocket.

      Don't miss Tacoma Szechuan - has to be near the top in the Puget Sound.

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      Vien Dong Restaurant
      3801 Yakima Ave, Tacoma, WA 98418

      Indochine Cafe
      2045 Mildred St W, Tacoma, WA 98466

      1. re: BallardFoodie

        I agree with BallardFoodie regarding not comparing Indochine to Vien Dong. In addition to the significant difference in their settings and ambience, the cuisine is different. Indochine is Thai and Vien Dong is Vietnamese.

        @Kelly, my favorite Asian restaurant in Tacoma at the present time is Ho Soon Yi Il, a little Korean joint on South Tacoma Way. It's a sketchy stretch of road and the building is an former KFC or fish-and-chips hut, but the food is very good and it's a great value. It's like eating at your Korean auntie's house.

        Also good Asian in T-Town or vicinity: Two-Koi, Gari, and East-West on Proctor if you order carefully.

        Go to Vuelve a la Vida. We take our 4- and 6-year-old there quite often and usually there are other young children there at the same time. If your toddler gets fussy you can always give him (her?) some horchata.

        Other good basic kid-friendly places we have no qualms about taking the kids to: Rosewood Cafe (in the North End on N 26th St)--good sandwiches, great kids menu, inexpensive and surprisingly sophisticated wine and beer list; and the Hub (in the Stadium District)--good wood-fired pizzas and craft beer. There are many kid-friendly places but I won't waste your time with chains.

        As far as where you guys should go for your sneaking-away night in Seattle, I recently had the tasting menu at Tilth and loved it. Almost every course was spot-on (in particular, the tomato soup was transcendent), the service just right, and the setting quiet and special but in no way formal.

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        Vien Dong Restaurant
        3801 Yakima Ave, Tacoma, WA 98418

        Indochine Cafe
        2045 Mildred St W, Tacoma, WA 98466

        Ho Soon Yi Restaurant
        8501 S Tacoma Way, Lakewood, WA 98499

    2. Another idea for you is Copperleaf. It is South of Seattle and not too bad a drive from Tacoma. It has excellent PNW food and a great dungeness bisque. http://www.cedarbrooklodge.com/copper...

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      Copperleaf Restaurant
      18525 36th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98188

      1. I would recommend Two Koi for Japanese food in downtown Tacoma, across from TAM (Tacoma Art Museum). They have an extensive array of sakes.

        I don't think fish restaurants in Tacoma reach Seattle standards.