The smell of sizzling beef wafted out the front door, and I could see several rows of whiskey bottles climbing to the very tall ceilings.
Then I walked into a wall of people waiting for a table.
Stack 571 Burger and Whiskey Bar at the Point Ruston waterfront development fetches plenty of walk-by traffic. It’s a few feet from the movie theater that offers a guaranteed stream of people wanting to eat before/after a show. I appreciated that after being seated, a server thought to ask if we needed to get to a movie at a specific time.
The restaurant opened Nov. 10.
Here are first impressions from a solo visit. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service during a restaurant’s first month.
Menu highlights: A focused menu in contrast to the several-page menu at the restaurant’s sibling business, WildFin American Grill, which opened this year across the plaza. At Stack 571, the theme is meat squished between bread and whiskey (about 100 kinds).
Theme: Table service is offered. The overall theme here is casual. An open dining room ringed with tall windows, with clear views of the bar and kitchen. The floor is a shocking shade of green, the walls a matte black. Quirky artwork sparks conversation. A painting above the bar depicts a man standing on a bull, standing on a box.
Function? Occasionally, form trumped function. Attractive metal seats weren’t built for lounging. The water glasses were a nod to the bar theme, about the size and shape of a whiskey rocks glass, but were so small, they required repeated filling. Fries were served in one of those tall, fashionable metal cups that become a frustrating barrier when trying to jailbreak the last of the fries. I miss plates.
Noise? This is an attractive restaurant with thoughtful noise-diminishing design. At capacity, it wasn’t as loud as I thought it should be considering the tall ceilings and hard surfaces. Still loud, not deafening.
The namesake: The restaurant is named with a nod to the site’s former 571-foot smokestack that was said to be the tallest structure in the world at its construction in 1917. It was demolished in 1993 as part of the cleanup of the former ASARCO site where Point Ruston now resides.
The menu: 11 burgers, including a veggie, a burger with chorizo and another with lamb ($8.95-$13.95). Ingredients range from straightforward burger accoutrements to funkier ingredients, such as bacon whiskey jam and tempura fried Parmesan oyster mushrooms. Burgers draw inspiration from sandwiches across the world: banh mi, gyro, bocadillo. Beef burgers come with half-pound patties from Double R Ranch in Eastern Washington. Many other Northwest products pepper the menu.
I tried: A lamb burger ($12.95) with a juicy ground lamb patty stacked with flavor and crunch: cool cucumber tzatziki, peppery romesco sauce and a snappy mint slaw. The 571 burger ($8.95) was the most basic listed. It was constructed with care. Pickle chips, double layered tomatoes and a pile of shredded lettuce gave it extra crunch; the house sauce tasted mustardy with a lick of heat. Parmesan truffle fries and beer-battered onions were crunchy.
Sides and shakes: A la carte burgers means adding fries can get spendy fast at $4.95 an order. Fries, waffle fries, Parmesan truffle fries, beer-battered onion rings, tempura green beans all come built for sharing. Fries and rings came with a trio of sauces, a sweet barbecue aioli, the house Stack sauce and romesco. Half dozen specialty shakes, with or without booze.
Also: Five sandwiches ($9.95-$12.95); four salads ($9.95); 10 appetizers ($1.95-$12.95). For kids, a burger, chicken sandwich, grilled cheese or tuna sandwich with fries or fruit, drink and sundae, $6.95 each.
Whiskey list: 15 specialty cocktails, many featuring whiskey ($8.95-$13.50); three preselected whiskey flights featuring Kentucky, Rye or local whiskeys ($12.95-$14.95). About 50 bourbons; 16 ryes; five each of Irish and Canadian; 14 Scotches; six local whiskeys and a handful of others. Also a terrific local beer list.
Stack 571 Burger and Whiskey Bar
Where: 5061 Main St., Tacoma; 253-301-2962, stack571.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays. Happy hour 3-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-close daily in the whole restaurant.