The third time I circled the block in downtown Puyallup, I knew the restaurant was going to be packed.
Crockett’s Public House opened Feb. 21 and has been inundated every time I’ve visited. It doesn’t help that the restaurant has limited parking. Expect to park and hoof it. After a meal of chicken and waffles, I was thankful for that three-block jaunt after dinner. Oy. The food is not for the calorically timid.
Menu choices are a mile wide and the foundation is built on pub favorites with a backbone of comfort eating: steaks, fish and chips, burgers, melts, sandwiches, pasta and home-style eats such as slow-cooked short ribs and house-made meatballs. Kitsch shows up in the form of sloppy joes and chicken and waffles.
In an economy where diners are focused on value and low price points, the menu pricing will find fans. Crockett’s melts, sandwiches and tacos cost as little as $6-$7 (and they come with a side), burgers are $8-$11 and entrees fall in the $11-$12 range, all the way up to $26 for the big steak, a 16-ounce rib-eye called “The Dude.”
The restaurant is the project of Shaun Brobak, who opened the nearby Trackside Pizza in 2006. Crockett’s name is an homage to Hugh Crockett, a founding father of Puyallup who was a hop farmer.
The space is cavernous and awkwardly narrow. Too-close seating and concrete floors do little to dampen the percussive swell of overwhelming noise when crowded. It’s a stylish dining room with muted colors, funky chandeliers and bright lighting.
Service was spot-on friendly and attentive on two separate visits, although slow pacing from the kitchen created painfully long waits between courses. But it’s a fledgling restaurant, so that’s understandable.
From the appetizer menu, roasted oysters ($13) were gently roasted and kissed with a butter sauce but marred by annoying pieces of crunchy shells. From the sandwich/tacos/melts menu, the Mexico City street taco ($6) was a bargain: A griddled flour tortilla stuffed with chili-spiked chicken offered a mouth full of zing from a swipe of zippy chipotle mayo. Pico de gallo and cabbage gave the taco cool crunch, as did a side of house-made creamy lettuce and cabbage slaw.
From the burger menu, the green chili cheeseburger ($9) proved a great value with a hefty toasted bun stacked with lettuce, tomato, roasted poblanos, onions and a well-seasoned patty slathered with melted pepperjack. The same chipotle aioli from the street taco gave the burger a tease of heat. Hand-cut fries were crispy and delicious.
From the entrée menu, chicken and waffles ($16) is a familiar food pairing in the southern part of the United States. It’s not a dish we see much in South Sound restaurants. Crispy waffles smelled of cinnamon and were topped with four pieces of fried chicken holding crispy, salty jackets full of hefty crunch. I don’t even like fried chicken, but this was really good. Butter, maple syrup and hot sauce comes on the side for slathering or dipping as you see fit.
Hardwood grilled sirloin ($18) made my eyes roll into the back of my head. The crusty char on the exterior was perfectly executed on the medium-rare steak that arrived as ordered. Salty, herbed butter (maybe too salty) finished the steak, which came with a cute metal cup loaded with thinly cut, crispy hand-cut fries. That cup kept the fries from getting soggy from the steak juice and butter – a nice touch.
Meatballs ($11) missed the mark – a far too peppery marinara sauce overwhelmed the hefty, tender meatballs, made from a perfect meat trifecta of ground beef, veal and sausage. Serving meatballs in a marinara sauce without spaghetti should be a crime against dining humanity. Tiny pieces of garlic cheese toast on the side did nothing to sop up the sauce. I would have liked some pasta to round out the dish.
Portions are impressive here, which made dessert on my visits a no-go, but I’ll return for the house-made fudge brownie with Olympic Mountain ice cream.
GIBSON’S FROZEN YOGURT SHOPPE
The country’s malls once were full of frozen yogurt stands, and TCBY was a household name. Somewhere along the way, frozen yogurt fell out of favor as a retail business.
I was pleased to see the 20-year-old food trend surface a few weeks ago in the form of a locally owned and operated shop.
Gibson’s Frozen Yogurt opened three weeks ago in the Stadium District, just across the parking lot from the Stadium Thriftway. The shop has a liberal free taste policy, which I liked. With eight choices of frozen yogurt, you’ll want to sample. Flavors change continually.
During my visit, the tart yogurt was less sugary, chocolate was rich and banana had just the right offering of sweetness and pure banana flavor (no artificial flavors, a counter worker told me). Toppings run the full gamut of nut and candy. Hot fudge and warm caramel sauce are available. Something I really appreciated: real fruit for a topping (not stuff packed in corn syrup). I loaded up on fresh blueberries, blackberries and sliced strawberries to top my banana frozen yogurt. The yogurt is YoCream, a Northwest produced product. The shop is owned by Jim Gibson and Judy Jones. Visit the TNT Diner blog for more about this new store.
Philosophical barbecue question: Can a restaurant call itself Mesquite BBQ if it doesn’t use a barbecue grill or mesquite wood in the cooking process?
That was the head scratcher for me when I paid a visit to Mesquite BBQ, which opened in January on South Tacoma Way.
Ssigns outside advertise Texas, American and Hawaiian barbecue. During two visits, what I tasted was slow-cooked meat something akin to pot roast. It had no whiff of mesquite, held no telltale pink smoke ring (the universal early alert system for good barbecue). The meat looked like it had been oven baked. Indeed, that is how meat is cooked at Mesquite BBQ – in a conventional oven. Servers confirmed that for us on two visits and after a lot of questions.
I liked the tasty Hawaiian-style grilled pork ($8.99 with rice and a side) that came with a teriyaki sauce. The swampy, overly sauced pulled pork platter ($9.99 with one side) left me craving the same dish at Bob’s Bar-B-Q Pit on the Hilltop (911 S. 11th St., Tacoma; 253-627-4899), a restaurant that uses alder wood to smoke its meat. The ribs ($11.99 for a half rack with a side) at Mesquite BBQ were simply OK for oven-cooked. They don’t hold a candle to the pure, smoky and supple pork ribs at Brank’s BBQ in Sumner (13701 24th St. E., Sumner; 253-891-1789), my go-to place for smoked meat.
I’d say Mesquite BBQ might be a good destination if you’re craving pot roast-style meat, but you won’t find the permeating smoky goodness of real barbecue in the food.
Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270, firstname.lastname@example.org
Crockett’s Public House
Where: 118 E. Stewart, Puyallup
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. Fridays-Saturday
Gibson’s Frozen Yogurt Shoppe
Where: 8 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma
Online: www.gibsons yogurt.com
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays
Where: 5415 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma
Online: www.mesquite -bbq.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, noon-10 p.m. Sundays