The margherita pizza and ham and brie sandwich at Minoela. Craig Sailor/The News Tribune
For popcorn fiends who also like to nosh, it might be a duel between The Grand Cinema's popcorn – I know people who say they go to the Grand just for popcorn – and Minoela, the new bistro wine bar that Danielle Kartes opened last week next door to the nonprofit arthouse cinema off of Sixth and Fawcett. (For background on Kartes, read this story I wrote in May).
I don't know if the popcorn really is better at the Grand, or if it tastes better because the environment provides far more interest than a generic chain movie theater. Regardless, the Grand's popcorn makes for great snacking. But filling, it's not.
Enter Minoela: it seems on first perusal the perfect place to grab a substantial something before a movie at the Grand. And, based on a first taste this week, nosh lovers will like Minoela.
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And it's a girlfriend-friendly place where one can lounge in the back on a pretty, comfy couch and kvetch with pals. Don't worry, dudes will do fine there, too. Just stay clear of us girls who wanna chat, won't you? There are two beers on the menu for you boys (or for beer-lovin' women like me, of course), but whether you're a guy or girl who likes wine, you'll probably find something to like on the short, Northwest friendly wine list.
For noshing, the menu also is brief; composed of a few sandwiches on artisan bread – made daily, the menu boasts– and a short list of pizzas, salads and appetizers. What it lacks in length, the menu makes up for in interest or nice touches – homemade citrus-basil salad dressing; sandwiches with fresh artisinal breads; freshly baked chocolate chip cookies paired with cold milk for dessert. Prices aren't bargain economy, but you won't feel gouged shelling out $10 for a sandwich paired with a salad or $12 for a pizza.
Details seem important to the kitchen. A fresh green house salad ($5, half) arrived with crisp, fresh romaine mixed with spinach leaves, and dressed lightly with a housemade citrus vinaigrette with an herbal kiss of basil. I dislike salad greens dripping with dressing, and Minoela gets it just right with a light glaze of dressing. A few wedges of sweet, ripe tomatoes were arranged symmetrically around the salad. A nice touch.
The margherita pizza ($10) was browned perhaps a bit too much around the edges of the crispy, thin crust, and the toppings of fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and a few leaves of basil perhaps a bit too sparse for those who like their pizza loaded. I liked that the pizza came drizzled with balsamic and olive oil, but not everyone will like a puckery bite of vinegar on their pizza.
The ham and brie on ciabatta sandwich ($10) was the hands-down winner of our first bite. The ratio of sliced ham and oozy brie to chewy ciabatta tilted on the right side of the protein-carb matchup all good sandwiches have to have. A few crisp, fresh slices of Granny Smith apples pushed the texture sour – tart apples always prove a pleasing partner with creamy brie cheese. The sandwich came paired with a generous green salad with the same citrus-basil salad dressing.
Pound cake with brown sugar cream and fresh berries. Craig Sailor/The News Tribune
To finish, buttery dense pound cake ($5) was sweet bliss. Covered in a pool of tangy cream sweetened with brown sugar, the rich cake was finished with fresh strawberries and raspberries.
I liked that service was spot-on and attentive, and friendly. Glasses remain filled, our server curious enough about our experience to ask what we thought of the dishes we sampled. I like new restaurants that actually care to ask what diners think about their food. The space is cavernous with tall, tall ceilings and the color palate earthy with shades of olive green; the tables dark wood. Seating is well spaced and the noise level manageable, except for mysterious thumping from above – which we presumed to be ballerinas practicing in the studio upstairs. Those ballerinas really can jump. We heard lots of thud, thud, thud.
For moviegoers, do remember to save room for the Grand's buttery popcorn. With the weather warm, the Grand's been keeping its doors open, I've noticed. And the smell of popcorn wafts all the way into the street. Yum.
Where: 604 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma (next door to The Grand Cinema)
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Info: www.minoela.com (under construction)
Opened: June 23