Asado/Masa's Tijuana Dog, left, and Southern Kitchen red beans and rice, right.
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I brought my notebook. My colleague Scott Fontaine lent his appetite. My cousin Bob, a nurse, brought the Prilosec.
Here's how it went for three beefy guys, 60 bucks worth of meal tickets and one wide-ranging lunch today, the opening day of Taste of Tacoma:
GREAT DOG FROM ASADO AND MASA
At the dual booth of Tacoma restaurants' Asado and Masa, a trinity of great ingredients ascends to create a heavenly hot dog: the $5.50 Tijuana Dog. Behold: an all-beef hot dog, wrapped in bacon and grilled until both are blistery. The pork-wrapped dog is stuffed into a hoagie roll and bathed in creamy cheese sauce. The cheese sauce is worthy of a dairy diety: tangy asadero cheese turned silky with heavy cream and cream cheese. Two intenselty grilled chorizo links were partly juicy, partly greasy and fully zesty, served with grilled onions and peppers and topped with garlicky chimichurri sauce, $6.
AN A LAMB SHALL LEAD THE WAY
Sure, there's a Philly cheesesteak stand, but the minute I saw the words "lamb steak sandwich" ($6.50) at Seattle's Chutney's Grill, my sandwich fate was sealed. The meat could have hotter (cooking temperature-wise) but the chopped and grilled meat couldn't have been any tastier: sweet on its on and sweetened with grilled onions and green peppers. Zezty mint chutney stood in for Cheeze Whiz, and I didn't miss the cheese one bit.
WHERE ARE YOU, $2?
I spotted only two of the $2 "tastes" that vendors are supposedly offering this year. One was Seattle's Bambuza's jumbo-sized spring roll filled with cabbage, shredded chicken and glass noodles. A better $2 bite was the quartette of lumpia from Federal Way's Pac Island Grill. The blunt-sized crispy-fried wrappers were loaded with ground pork. If you've got a sweet tooth, Pac Island's caramel-macademia tarts ($2.50 for two) were rich and sugary-gooey.
Famous Dave's ribs, right. Billy McHale's, left.
RIBS, RIBS, RIBS
Famous Dave's kicked Billy McHale's bones. At least in the match-up my meaty lunch mates and I created. For $6, Famous Dave's serves three St. Louis-style pork ribs and one side (beans or slaw). Dave's ribs were charry on the outside, pink to the bone, sweet to the palate and tender to the bite. Dave's gets extra-points for offering individual packets of sauce (I drank Dave's Devil's Spit hot sauce straight from the packet) and moist towelettes. Billy McHale's babybacks ($5.50) benefited from Dave's sauce. The sauce that came on our serving was thin and sweet, barely bold enough to cover up the bland meat. Another drawback to Billy's babybacks was that three of them were served uncut. Individual bones are much easier to eat at a walking-around-festival like this.
LET THE GOOD TIMES EAT
My colleague Scott Fontaine hails from New Orleans, so naturally he made a stop at the New Orleans Cookery for a crab cake over dirty rice. I agreed with Scott about the dirty rice: the lemon-garlic-tomato wine sauce carried the rice, but I thought the crab cake was the cakiest, least crabby crab cake I've ever encountered. As for the red beans and rice at Southern Kitchen ($5), Scott and I agreed: the rice was mushy and the dish desperately needed salt and hot sauce.
A NAP OR A RED BULL?
By the time I proclaimed, "I need a nap," the three of us stood in front of Inta Juice's stand, where the words "intense energy" caught my drooping eye. Wow, what a pick me up: an icy slushy blended with banana, raspberry, orange, strawberry and Red Bull. I got a brain freeze from drinking too much too fast, but it was worth it – cool, full of fresh-fruit flavor and enough caffeine to save me from the food coma I'd just flirted with.
Taste of Tacoma: Point Defiance Park, Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.