Today, we offer our fourth installment of 10-in-1: Meals by the Mile. In our series, we dine at 10 restaurants located in a compact area and report the sights and scents of the restaurant district. Our current installment takes at look at the Parkland restaurant district.
Parkland’s main drag is Garfield Street, the gateway to Pacific Lutheran University. But this street needs help. Buildings, many past their prime, sit among vacant lots and less than busy sidewalks.
One thing this stretch of asphalt doesn’t lack is restaurants. From the casual elegance of Marzano to the college vibe of the Northern Pacific Coffee Company, this area’s eateries appeal to many tastes. On Garfield Street, no one should go hungry.
These 10 restaurants, in no particular order, are within walking distance of each other....
Marzano Italian RestaurantWhere: 516 Garfield St. S.; 253-537-4191 or www.dinemarzano.comHours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (lunch) 4-8:30 p.m. (dinner) Tuesday-Friday; 4-9 p.m. Saturday
This may the closest restaurant to PLU, but you won’t find many students dining here. In their place are professors, administrators and assorted folk who aren’t operating on a college student budget.That’s not to say Marzano is a bank buster – especially at lunch. And you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck here: cloth napkins, chilled salad plates, flasks of herb-infused olive oil. Art and tasteful furnishings fill the home-like building. The staff is attentive and on the spot with service.Cake-like bread with a chewy crust arrived, accompanied by a ramekin filled with pink-tinged butter made of basil, sundried tomatoes and garlic. It was generously refilled.Lunch orders come with a salad made of fresh greens with red onion accents and a sinewy sliced carrot. The balsamic dressing was the right touch, though the salad was a bit overdressed.We tried three entrees: A pizza, a pasta and a sandwich.The San Marco pizza ($15) was our favorite of those three. Meaty prawns, capers, cheese, prosciutto and tomatoes made for a thick and delicious combination.The Caprese sandwich ($8) benefited from fresh mozarella, greens, roasted peppers and pesto.The Caponata penne pasta dish ($10) was comprised of olives, onions, feta, celery and eggplant. It was a hearty yet light dish with its vegetables and olive oil preparation.Marzano is known for quality and hand craftsmanship. But that hand seems to be a little too generous when it comes to olive oil.True, the sandwich was prepared with pesto, but its panini-like bread was soaking in oil. One of my dining partners said he grew tired of wiping his mouth after each bite. Likewise, the pizza was swimming in its own pool of oil.Marzano’s lunch menu includes sandwiches, pizza, salads and pasta dishes ($9-14).-Craig Sailor
Garfield Corner CaféWhere: 417 Garfield St. S.; 253-536-7887Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
Breakfast and lunch are served in this small but shiny eatery on Garfield Street which retired U.S. Army officer David Renaud opened in August. His economical prices no doubt appeal to students. It turns out that’s no accident. Renaud’s daughter, Michele Gowin, graduated from PLU two years ago and advised her dad on making the restaurant appealing to students.A cheeseburger ($3.49) came with onions, pickles, lettuce and tomato. The charbroiled Angus patty was bursting with beefy flavor – notches above those cardboard tasting restaurant supply pucks.The Philly cheese steak sandwich ($5.99) was a delicious version of a popular favorite. Though a bit dry on the edges, it achieved full juicy potential inside. Grilled chopped steak was nestled in a toasted bun with generous portions of onion, green pepper and Swiss cheese.Renaud offers one homemade soup a day ($2.99). We had the chicken rice vegetable. There was no mistaking its homemade quality – but the vegetables could have used a little more time cooking.A garden salad ($2.99) was made with the same iceberg lettuce that came on the burgers. But at least it was from a fresh head and not the abomination that is lettuce-in-a-bag. The pale leaves were piled with red onions, black olives, croutons, tomatoes and cheese, with dressing on the side.Other menu items include French toast, waffles, tuna melt, French fries and salads. ($3-6)-Craig Sailor
Tea Leaf Chinese RestaurantWhere: 528 Garfield St. S.; 253-531-5232Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Chong Sung is the owner, server and cook in this red vinyl booth restaurant with sparse Chinese accents. Sung is all business at first but will reward you with a broad smile if you compliment her food.We tried the lunch special – a $6.90 deal that includes a main dish, fried rice, egg roll and egg flower soup.The egg flower soup was virtually a stew – a hot heaping bowl full of vegetables, tofu, egg and wontons. It’s a meal in itself.The fried rice also was on a stimulus plan, with gigantic chunks of pork. The rice had that wok-fried flavor that makes this dish such a guilty pleasure.The golden brown egg roll was tightly wrapped and stuffed with a flavorful meat filling.For the entrees we tried the Mongolian beef, almond chicken and sweet and sour pork. The predominant flavor for all three was sugar. The beef lacked savory notes and the pork was missing sour. The cloying chicken dish was full of meat, onions, almonds and chestnuts.For those who like Chinese dishes mild and sweet, you’ll be in Nirvana. The main menu has more than 150 items around $8.-Craig Sailor
Lieu’s RestaurantWhere: 12151 Pacific Ave.; 253-535-5680Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Cross Pacific Avenue from Garfield Street and you’ll find a rather unremarkable building adorned with a few Asian elements. But walk inside and you might think you’ve stepped across the Pacific Ocean itself to enter the domain of an emperor’s palace.We’ll get to the food in a bit. Gold dragons dance from walls. Red lacquer columns hold up ornate ceiling panels and paintings 15 feet long adorn walls. Ornate fixtures fill the room with light. It’s all a bit unexpected on your first visit.We tried the lunch special: a choice of six entrees came with egg flower soup, a dumpling, fried rice and chow mein.We tried the Mongolian ribs ($6.25), almond chicken ($5.75) and sweet and sour pork ($5.75) options.Compared with the Tea Leaf, the side dishes were a bit disappointing – with the exception of the pork-filled dumpling (though the menu indicates it’s usually an egg roll.) But the entrees hit the mark with the Mongolian ribs being a nice mixture of sweet and savory – though the meat was too chewy – and the pork packed a nice punch with big chunks of vegetables and pineapple. But the almond chicken left much to be desired. A short supply of meat and almonds rested in a brown and generic sauce with oddly big chunks of cauliflower.Lieu’s has an extensive regular menu.-Craig Sailor
Reynas Mexican RestaurantWhere: 411 Garfield St. S.; 253-538-2368Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays and noon-9 p.m. Sundays.
Nopalitos aren’t listed on many menus at South Sound Mexican restaurants, but they’re a staple at Reynas, a family restaurant light on atmosphere and heavy on flavorful Mexican eats.Reynas calls the dish nopales on its menu, and I’ve seen Mexican restaurants list them as either nopalitos or nopales. Either way, it’s a delicious, unctuous vegetable dish made from the pads of prickly pear, a cactus.Reynas prepares its nopalitos with diced tomatoes, onions and peppers. A touch of chile peppers delivered a light but lasting lip sting. I appreciated that the cook left some crunch in the nopalitos. A minute overdone and the cactus turns slimy – it trends in the neighborhood of okra that way.The nopalitos come as a side dish with about a half-dozen menu items from the restaurant’s specials lists. From that list, I ordered the tacos al carbon ($13.95), a dish of grilled sirloin steak, diced and sauteed with onions and peppers. The mixture came tucked into double-stacked corn tortillas and coated with a pepper-punched tomato sauce. Slow-simmered whole pinto beans provided toothsome bites, but underseasoned rice at Reynas registered flavorless.Shrimp enchiladas ($12.95) were undersold on the menu, listed as containing “baby shrimp.” Baby shrimp turned out to be chunky medium-sized shrimp. The plump shrimp were butterflied and sautéed and tucked into corn tortillas with a creamy sour cream sauce. Freshly fried chips nicely scooped up the salty pool of refried beans on the side. I skipped the rice on this dish: It was just flat.The fish tacos ($11.95) were a strange combination of tilapia jacketed with an eggy batter that almost tasted like an omelet. The eggy fish came wrapped in plain flour tortillas. The shredded iceberg lettuce, yellow cheddar cheese and diced tomatoes didn’t supply much to turn up the dish a notch.-Sue Kidd
Wagon WheelWhere: 11811 Pacific Ave. S.;253-537-3211The Wagon Wheel is one of those restaurants that seems frozen in time. It’s a restaurant that still offers free dessert with dinner entrees; a place that serves breakfast all day and a menu that’s solidly centered around meat. Just walk into the restaurant and see the open display case of fudge and you’ll feel transported back to 1973. And the period décor helps to reinforce that.I was seated under the wagon wheel chandelier in the dining room on older wooden chairs that felt their age. The menu is classic American: a turkey plate, fried chicken, meatloaf, “lo-cal plate,” chicken fried steak and a long list of sandwiches.We were pulled to a classic – chicken fried steak ($10.75) – and were richly rewarded. We were grateful for a server who steered us to the brown gravy (the white gravy is near flavorless, she told us). The chicken fried steak was a pretty fair version of the classic diner dish – a thin cutlet breaded and crispy fried, heavily peppered, and smothered in a salty, rich brown gravy. Creamy mashed potatoes on the side were flanked by green beans that were overcooked. The complimentary dessert turned out to be a dish of warm, homemade peach cobbler that wafted the scent of cinnamon. Double thumbs up for the pile of whipped cream on top. It was a perfect diner dessert.I was expecting the Monte Cristo sandwich ($9.45) to be a rich, buttery, crispy sandwich – but it was none of those things. Turkey and ham deli meat alternated between layers of partially melted Swiss and American cheese. The limp, eggy bread reminded me of French toast that had been previously made, then reheated in a microwave. It had no crisp to it. The onion rings on the side were greasy.Fudge isn’t something you see offered at many restaurants, and we ordered a few pieces out of curiosity. We were worried when we saw that the fudge was sitting on the counter exposed to the air, and were even more worried as we saw the cashier wrestle the slab of fudge to cut off a piece. It looked and tasted hard and dry. If peach cobbler is on the menu for the day, order it, but skip the fudge unless it’s been freshly made.-Sue Kidd
Café MoonWhere: 504 Garfield St. S.; 253-539-0363Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-SaturdaysCafé Moon is exactly what every college neighborhood needs – a quick stop-in coffee shop with good, cheap eats.It’s a café that tries to please every palate with a list of seven sandwiches, frozen yogurt, coffee drinks and a daily soup special. It also offers something unusual – sushi rolls on Fridays that are made fresh and inexpensively priced at $3. The cafe also offers waffles for morning visits.Sandwiches are freshly made, which may turn a quick stop into a five minute wait – but worth the time. I appreciated that I got my choice of bread – multigrain, sourdough, croissant and others. The Italian ($4) came on lightly toasted sourdough and was piled with pepperoni, salami and ham. Shredded lettuce, thinly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and chunky pieces of onions and green peppers gave the sandwich height. Mayo and provolone cheese added richness. The sandwich was a two-fisted affair and a bargain.The tuna ($3.50) was more of a one-handed sandwich. It came on toasted multigrain and came with shredded green lettuce and bits of onion. The flavor was heavily powered by mustard-mayo in the tuna salad mix.The atmosphere is cute and laid back. Stylish couches make for good lounging. Free wi-fi would keep me around for a few hours.-Sue Kidd
Chopsticks Where: 12154 Pacific Ave., S.; 253-537-7598Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
If not for this restaurant review series, I might never have wandered into Chopsticks. It appears to be another of those ubiquitous teriyaki restaurants, save for the tag line of “Pan-Asian Cuisine” on the sign outside the gritty looking building. This is no typical teriyaki joint – although the menu does list teriyaki (along with hamburgers, inexplicably). But the menu also lists a variety of cuisine from many regions of Asia – Singapore noodles, Japanese style curry, phad Thai, general Tsao’s chicken and beef short ribs, among many other dishes. The atmosphere is pretty bare bones, but the price is right for nearby college students, and the restaurant always seems to be full of them. I saw droves of students ordering takeout and bubble tea.Shumai ($5.99) were shrimp-topped steamed dumplings filled with veggies and pork. They were as good as I’ve had at many a dim sum restaurant (that’s one thing Tacoma really is missing, a good dim sum restaurant).Singapore noodles ($7.49) with pork was a dish of thin noodles stir fried with egg, cabbage, bamboo shoots and carrots. The noodles were coated in a kicky yellow curry sauce. Sunshine curry with prawns ($8.49) reminded me more of a delicate Japanese curry than an assertive Thai version. I wanted more kick and seasoning in the sauce.Tokyo street yakisoba with chicken ($7.49) was an oversize dish of yakisoba noodles stir fried with crisp broccoli, red peppers, cabbage, onions, mushrooms and chunky pieces of grilled chicken in a savory-sweet sauce.Chopsticks lists its Vietnamese style rice noodle salads as “Fresh Salad Bowls,” but fans of Vietnamese cuisine will recognize the dish as bun, or vermicelli Vietnamese salad. The fresh salad bowl with fried rolls ($7.49) was a combination of cold rice noodles laced with shreds of green lettuce, chopped mint, cilantro, shredded carrots, zucchini and topped with two pork- and veggie-filled fried rolls. On the side was a sweetvinegar-based dressing.-Sue Kidd
Farrelli’s PizzaWhere: 210 Garfield St. S.; 253-538-0202 or www.farrellispizza.comHours: 11 a.m.-midnight Sundays-Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays.
If you want dinner and a show, Farrelli’s Pizza is the place to go in the Garfield restaurant district. Farrelli’s is one of few restaurants in the area with an atmosphere that makes you want to sit and stay awhile.The showpiece of the restaurant is its wood-fired pizza oven, and it’s on full display from the dining room.Farrelli’s, a small, family-owned chain with other locations in Tacoma, Sumner, DuPont and Lacey, centers its menu on wood-fired pizza, but also lists lasagna, calzones, appetizers, salads and a few other menu items.Grab a seat and watch the pizza chefs at work as they spin the dough in the air and shuttle pizzas in and out of the wood-fired pizza oven. We warmed up for the show with a shared appetizer of stuffed mushrooms ($8.99), which were caps stuffed with Italian sausage, chopped onions, bread crumbs and a mozzarella-provolone cheese blend. The mushrooms should have been cooked just a bit longer to temper the crunchiness, but the gooey interior pleased.Undercooking was a theme on my visit. I’ve had Farrelli’s pizza at other locations and I know that when the pizza is fully cooked, it is a sturdy, chewy pizza with blistered edges. On this particular visit, both pizzas arrived undercooked, the dough barely kissed by the heat of the oven, and with too much pizza flop to yield a sturdy slice easy to hold in the hand. The pizza flop meant this pizza had to be eaten with a fork.The ratio of cheese to toppings provided just enough interest, and didn’t overload. The James’ Favorite pizza ($16.09/12-inch, $24.59/16-inch) came with a tasty base of whiskey alfredo sauce that was more garlicky-cream sauce than boozy whiskey flavored. The pizza was a full-protein meal with sliced chicken breast, crispy bacon and zippy Italian sausage. The entire pizza was dosed with garlic and covered with a cheese blend of provolone, mozzarella and cheddar.The meatball pizza ($15.09/12-inch, $23.59/16-inch) started with a lightly sweet tomato sauce, a cheese blend of mozzarella and provolone; handmade, sliced meatballs that were meaty and dense, sweet caramelized onions and shredded fresh basil.If you’ve got room after loading up on all those carbs, the big chocolate cake ($5.99) is a devilish dish with a hefty dose of thick, rich chocolate. Prepare to dig in with three forks or more, it’s not a dessert meant to be eaten solo.- Sue Kidd
Northern Pacific Coffee CompanyWhere: 401 Garfield St. S.; 253-537-8338Hours: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays.
Would a college eating district be complete without a coffee shop that has an artsy vibe? I think not. Northern Pacific Coffee Company fills the niche with an eclectic atmosphere and a revolving schedule of musicians, open mic nights and author signings. You never know what entertainment you’ll get at Northern Pacific. And if there isn’t someone performing or reading from their latest book, you can cozy up on the couch with a book borrowed from the restaurant’s wall of random books (I saw everything from Jackie Collins to how-to gardening books).By day, it’s a coffee shop with all the usual coffee drinks and a menu of sandwiches and wraps. By night, it turns into a tavern-like scene with a selection of about a half-dozen microbrews on tap, a modest bottled beer selection and a small wine selection.The menu stays the same throughout the day, with additional choices listed on the white board, and a revolving soup selection.Sandwiches are straightforward here, save for kitschy names that evoke ’70s television shows (think Partridge Family and Captain Kangaroo).The French dip ($6.99) was a hefty sandwich with toasted focaccia bread with a soft, airy bite. Layers of tender roast beef were covered with melted provolone and served with a side of au jus that was more salt lick than beefy broth. The sandwich had enough juicy flavor, it didn’t need the dipping sauce. The BLT came on thick, toasted sourdough bread with mayo, crispy lettuce and thick-sliced tomatoes. It doesn’t get any more classic than that.The reuben kincade ($6.99) started off right with toasted rye, but the chewy pastrami inside was nearly impossible to bite through. It was so chewy that we sent it back to the kitchen and instead got the provolone pesto wrap ($6.49), a whole wheat tortilla wrapped up around a sour-cream pesto sauce with spinach leaves, tomatoes, olives and provolone cheese.- Sue Kidd
Editor's note: This is the fourth installment of Ten-in-One, where we eat at 10 restaurants grouped in a compact area. Read our South Tacoma Way Ten-in-One report, published last October, our McKinley Ten-in-One report, published in February, and our Freighthouse Square Ten-in-One report published in August.