I penned more than 50 restaurant opening articles in 2016, with mentions of at least a dozen more new eateries. That’s the most I’ve written in any year about new restaurants. That made this an outstanding year for restaurant openings, which makes a best-of-the-year list easy to compile.
At the end of every year, I like to recognize restaurants that fill a void in our dining landscape, excel at their specialty or are just all-around great places to dine.
Here are this year’s best openings, in order of their opening.
1018 72nd St. E., Tacoma; 253-301-0849; facebook.com/Lostamalestacoma.
The Tacoma restaurant from Alma and Efren Mendoza is in a neighborhood already brimming with terrific taquerias, but this restaurant has a secret weapon and knows how to use them: tamales. Find five to eight tamale choices listed on a fresh sheet at the front counter of this casual taqueria with outstanding chilaquiles, chile rellenos, molcajete and the real deal shrimp ceviche. The restaurant officially opened Jan. 30.
HUE KY MI GIA
711 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-272-1268; huekymigia.com.
The Chinese-Vietnamese soup restaurant Hue Ky Mi Gia has become a must-dine destination in the Lincoln neighborhood since it opened in February. Order the braised duck leg with egg noodles, as well as the garlic-licked buttery chicken wings. Find a menu spanning several pages. The restaurant comes from the Seattle restaurant group of the same name. It’s owned by Huy Tat, whose Chinese-born grandfather operated a cart of the same name in Vietnam.
LOAK TOUNG THAI RESTAURANT
3807 Center St., Tacoma; 253-248-9813; facebook.com/LoakToungThai.
The 24-seat Thai restaurant from Jeremy and Maam Ray focuses on Isaan-style food, which the couple describe as Cambodian-inspired Thai cuisine with more assertive spicing. Maam cooked at Tacoma’s Indochine before opening Loak Toung Thai in March. The menu is succinct with just a few pages of reasonably priced choices. Don’t miss the red curry, which is served in a hollowed out pineapple with a chile-spiked curry coconut sauce. The restaurant will be closed in January while the Ray family visits family in Thailand. It will reopen Feb. 4.
CITRON EUROPEAN BISTRO
10716 A St. S., Tacoma; 253-212-1153; facebook.com/CitronEuropeanBistro.
Late April brought the opening of Citron, a small cafe with bright yellow walls from Christophe Durliat, a first-time restaurant owner and a French-born chef. Citron’s menu brings Durliat’s native Alsace to Parkland with a broad slice of French, German and Swiss dishes. Don’t miss the tarte a l’alsacienne, the schnitzel or boeuf bourguignon. Plates often are peppered with unannounced menu surprises.
THE DAILY CATCH
5115 Grand Loop, Tacoma; 253-448-2145, wildfinamericangrill.com/the-daily-catch.
I hesitate to put a restaurant on this list that you can’t visit again until around April, but the outstanding fish and chips at The Daily Catch merit its inclusion. Find yeasty beer-battered cod and crunchy battered fries along with a choice of two tartar sauces and some of the city’s finest fish tacos. The seasonal walk-up restaurant operates approximately from April to October and is a sister establishment of WildFin American Grill, which opened in January at the Point Ruston waterfront development on the edge of Tacoma, and Stack 571, which opened in late 2016 at the development.
3201 N. 26th St., Tacoma; 253-327-1777 or facebook.com/cookstavern.
Cooks Tavern was the first of two restaurants to open in Tacoma in 2016 from Seattle restaurateur Peter Levy of Chow Foods. The kid-friendly restaurant features regional American fare with a revolving menu (New Orleans is on the menu right now). I’ve had two of the best pork chops of my dining career at Cooks, so make that a priority when ordering, along with outstanding cocktails. In late November, Levy opened Brewers Row, the next door companion restaurant with a taqueria-style menu. Both restaurants serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
2101 Jefferson Ave, Tacoma; 253-441-9703; bit.ly/2ihB3Sq.
Tacoma’s newest oyster bar is not where you’ll expect it. 3uilt, pronounced Built, comes from Jaime Kay and Jason Jones, owners of Top of Tacoma in the McKinley neighborhood. This summer, they opened their oyster bar in the taproom of 7 Seas Brewing’s downtown Tacoma outpost. The menu features a daily changing oyster menu with coveted Northwest bivalves not often found here, such as Shigokus, kumamotos and Kusshis. The rest of the menu is composed of flavor-drenched sandwiches, meat-and-cheese plates and other nibbles built to be brew-friendly.
TATTERED APRON BAKERY
14207 Meridian Ave. E., Puyallup; 253-845-4365 or facebook.com/thetatteredapron.
Jessica Duggan’s love of chocolate is a boon for all of us. She started her company selling pies at local farmers markets before opening her first bakery in September in South Hill. Her bakery case displays are built from a dessert philosophy learned from her grandma. The bakery happens to produce what I think is the absolute best Danish you will find in Pierce County. Find cake by the slice, brownies, pies and all kinds of savory and sweet delights at this tremendous bakery gem.
RED WAGON BURGERS
2315 N. Pearl St., Tacoma; 253-212-3705, redwagonburgers.com.
Kyong Kim opened his fast food burger emporium in the Westgate neighborhood in November. Find towering burgers and some of the best and crunchiest panko-breaded onion rings in Tacoma. All burgers come standard with a one-third pound Angus chuck patty. Try the house Red Wagon burger with sauteed onions and mushrooms, two thick slices of bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and house sauce.
THAI PEPPER TRUE THAI KITCHEN
701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-503-3179; facebook.com/thaipepperttk.
Find all kinds of unusual options at Tacoma’s newest Thai restaurant. Thai Pepper True Thai Kitchen opened in November amid a stretch of Pacific Avenue already home to terrific eateries. The menu lists things I love to see at Thai restaurants, such as duck curry, the build-your-own Thai appetizer miang kham and a house dish that everyone should order, Ma’s Favorite (pad kra chai), which is flavored with krachai root. Kane Bunyaketu is the owner, along with his wife and in-laws. They’ve owned close to 20 Thai restaurants in the Puget Sound region.