The scene: Occupying the space formerly known as the St. Helens Cafe, The Hub’s bicycle theme is carried through in its display of vintage photography and prominently displayed logo of a Belle Epoque nude woman riding a bike in a reckless manner. Though The Hub sits above Doyle’s Pub, the entrance for this eatery is on Tacoma Avenue South. Two dining areas are separated by an open kitchen and bar. Earth tones and art make the whole room warm, inviting and relaxing. The flames from the pizza oven add to the mood. In good weather, garage-style doors roll up to add an outdoor dining area.
Type of food: As the menu says, “Pizza, Pasta, Pints.” The “pints” are key here as The Hub operates under the umbrella of the Harmon Brewing Co. You’ll find the Harmon’s five flagship brews as well as two seasonals on tap. The menu is Mediterranean-themed but shares some of the Harmon’s popular offerings.
Dishes sampled: In the appetizer category, we tried the smoked salmon ($8), the steamed clams ($11) and bruschetta ($6). We tried the veggie sandwich ($8), Greek salad ($7), fish and chips ($12), pizzas, a couple of burgers ($10), the Hub brat ($8) and the flat-iron steak ($16).
The food: The salmon appetizer, which came with red onion, goat cheese and crostini, was a nice, light way to start dinner. The clams came in a broth of white wine, garlic and herbs. It was a different and pleasant take on steamers, but the salt levels were so high we could barely finish them. The bruschetta was a nice balance of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella on baguette slices.
We enjoyed the burgers (smokey gouda with caramelized onions and mushroom gorgonzola with pancetta bacon). The patties were big and cooked to our desires. The veggie sandwich was generous with goat cheese – perhaps a bit too much when paired with aioli sauce – along with grilled eggplant and other vegetables. The brat came with sauerkraut, caramelized onions and a sweet, brown house mustard.
The fish and chips came lightly beer-battered, leaving plenty of fish without being overwhelmed by batter. The chips were the house combo of sweet potato and regular fries. A side of tartar accompanied the plate.
The Greek salad was moderately sized and came with cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, feta cheese and a house vinaigrette that didn’t overpower it. It’s not large enough to be a meal unless you were only mildly peckish.
The Hub’s hearth-baked pizzas dominate the menu, and there was a steady stream of them headed to tables on all our visits. They offer nine pizzas of their own design ($9-$17) and more than 30 ingredients in the “build your own” option. We tried only one in the former category. The “funghi” came with mushrooms, garlic cream, herbs and fontina. Our party found its gooey nature not to our liking, but we scored a hit with a “build your own” when we combined goat cheese, basil pesto, mushrooms, caramelized onions and roasted garlic.
A “build your own” pizza base costs $8 for a 10-inch and $10 for a 15-incher with ingredients costing anywhere from 75 cents to $2.50 depending on size and type. From pecorino to sundried tomatoes to housemade sausage, the options are comprehensive. Be your own chef, experiment, have some fun. You’ll have yourself to congratulate – or blame.
Pizza crusts are thin but substantial – the perfect balance between too bready and too crusty. On one visit the chef was offering a cheeseburger pizza as a special. We were intrigued but declined.
The pepper-crusted flat-iron steak was cooked to a tender bite and came with the house fries and vegetables. A cedar-plank wild salmon and chicken picatta round out the entree section.
Drinks: In addition to the aforementioned beer, you’ll find pear cider on tap. The Hub also offers several cocktails with bicycle-themed monikers.
Service: A friendly wait staff seems to be the rule. On one visit to the bar, we were met by a social bartender who introduced himself and asked our names. We were very impressed until a few minutes later when he did it all over again. But we soon realized he was tending a busy bar and waiting on many tables. We assumed it was just “one of those nights” and gave him the benefit of the doubt. Another server at lunch time offered several custom suggestions that didn’t raise the cost of anything we were ordering – a nice touch. Glasses never get close to running dry.
Biggest mistake: Both the sandwich and the brat came on dry, tasteless white rolls. More than one diner thought they didn’t match the otherwise quality ingredients contained therein.
Biggest success: These folks know potatoes. The mix of sweet and baker potatoes in the house fries was unusual and a big hit. Also welcomed were the hearty garlic mashed potatoes with plenty of garlic and nice chunks of potatoes with occasional skin still on them. However, they could have used less salt. But then that’s one more excuse to order another beer.
Wild card: The Hub serves breakfast from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sundays.
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541
Where: 203 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fridays, 9 a.m.- 1 a.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays
Details: All major credit cards except Diners Club
Price Range: $-$$
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