I get calls, I get e-mail, I got a requests from a stumped Seattle food writer. Here's one, forwarded from a Seattle diner:
I know your specialty is Seattle and its glorious bounty, but I was wondering if you could recommend a nice place to have dinner in Tacoma. The menu at Pacific Grill looked good (a little pricey for us); have you heard of/been to other establishments that are equally delicious and affordable?
Thanks in advance for your help.
Welcome to Tacoma. Our restaurants welcome your patronage.
Given that Pacific Grill's entrees range from $24.95 to $39.95 (from clam linguine to Angus filet, with a delectable-sounding spring lamb in the middle at $28), I'll assume that by affordable you mean dinner entrees in $15-$25 range.
But first I'll recommend that you consider Pacific Grill's bar menu for dinner. Yes, you'll have to dine in the bar area (where the service and decor are just as stylish and comforting as in the dining room) but understand this: Pacific Grill's bar menu is better than many dinner menus in Tacoma. A knife-and-fork pork roast sloppy Joe is $11.95. Steak and caviar are $19.95. Lamb tartare is $12. Burger sliders, Kobe hot dog sliders and
pulled pork sliders are all under $12.
For your sit-down dinner needs in the price range I assume you're looking for, I'll direct you toward Primo Grill. Try a grilled organic half chicken or Guinness-braised lamb shank for $21, veggie-goat cheese lasagna for $15, or wood-fired pizzas that stack up with the best pies in your town, $13-$15.
Not far from Primo Grill is Crown Bar, launched by the owners of Primo Grill. Don't let the bar name fool you. Try juicy, tender buttermilk organic fried chicken with mashed potatoes and greens for $18. Like fried oysters? Best ones I've had in the last four years were at Crown Bar. You'll also find steaks, kebabs, falafel, and Cougar Gold mac & cheese, all in your price range.
Want to try some place brand new? Maxwell's Speakeasy + Lounge opened last week in Tacoma's up-and-coming condo district. Maxwell's menu's designed around small plates and sharable entrees and side dishes, most priced $6-$21. (The pricey exception is a $32 rib steak.) On opening night, dinner for two cost $43.56 before tip. Here's what we had: three lamb porterhouse chops from Ellensburg, pink inside, chary outside; onion soup made with Walla Wallas; oysters with pomegranite mignonet; smoked pork rillettes; and a trio of Olympic mountain ice creams (be sure to get the cinnamon).
(Oh, and, Amy, note this: Maxwell's already has attracted veterans of the Seattle dining scene. Tewfik Boulenouar, described by Seattle food writers as a front-of-the-house dynamo from his days at Coupage, El Gaucho and Waterfront Seafood Grill, helped open Maxwell's. He's being replaced by Rich Troiani, a recognizable name from Troiani Ristorante Italiano and other Mackay restaurants in Seattle.)
Not far from Maxwell's is another new place that's equally delicious and affordable, at least when it comes to pizza. Harmon's Hub does seriously good hearth-baked pizza that aims for Tom Douglas territory.
Speaking of Tom Douglas, his sister, Michele, co-owns Tempest Lounge, the tastiest bar on Tacoma's Hilltop. Try homey entrees like ham and scalloped potatoes, roast chicken with spinach, and baked-to-order cookies.
If you're looking for any more tips on South Sound restaurants, Amy, you can search the News Tribune's GO & DO restaurant guide.
Happy eating in the South Sound.
PS to everybody: Do you have any South Sound dining tips for Amy or anyone else from Seattle?