There's no view from Top of Tacoma, but from where I dined at the 4-month-old bar and 1-month-old cafe in the transitioning McKinley neighborhood, things looked and tasted a cut above bar food.
The meat and cheese platter ($8.50) did not skimp on the better cuts of prosciutto, and the baguette was fresh. Deli slices of ham, turkey and salami, and cheddar, havarti and Swiss were plentiful and fueled me up for a Saturday night on the town, but I yearned for something like chutney or some fruit to round out the plate. Other apps include ubiquitous mozzarella-basil caprese and hummus platters.
Mac and cheese was homey, not gussied up. Three-cheese ravioli were the size of sand dollars, smothered in meaty red sauce. Both were served with garden or Caesar salad for 8 bucks.
Salads and sandwiches (I had a bite of my buddy's sandwich, nicely made from deli meats and Essential Baking Company bread, with Tim's Chips) looked deal-size ($5.50-$7.25) and meal-size.
The bar is a bar -- old-school and neighborhood style. It's also clean and comfortable. Not too dark, no embedded smell of smoke in the walls. Amusements include a pool table and arcade games. There's enough Johnny Cash and Northwest rock on the juke to make everyone feel at home. However, Top of Tacoma's speakers sounded burdened; I heard more gravel and fuzz than rock 'n' roll.
The beer list is smart, with some locals: Georgetown's Chopper's Red and Nine Pound porter, Fish Tale Organic IPA, and Diamond Knot IPA. There's also PBR, Blue Moon, Snow Cap, and Sierra Nevada ESB. The wine list is pretty basic, but the Gnarly Head Zin and Aquinas cabernet look good.
Owner Jaime Kay Newton, formerly a bar tender for seven years at Magoo's in Tacoma's North End, said she'll add more appetizers to the menu, plus a daily dessert like brownie sundaes and creme brulee.
"It's nice to have a healthy option," Newton said of bar food. "I've struggled with this for years. It's hard to find a good cocktail and a good meal."
Food enters Top of Tacoma via a hole in the wall -- literally and figuratively. The small storefront next door to the bar is where Top of Tacoma's kitchen and cafe reside.
Inside the cafe, Newton said, "it's limited seating." She said because the cafe has just one restroom, the health department advised her to use the seats as a waiting area for take-out customers.
Top of Tacoma: 3529 McKinley Ave., Tacoma; 253-272-1502. Bar and cafe open at 11 a.m. daily.