As I traverse the county eating for my job, I sometimes stumble upon hidden gems - restaurants that seem to be tucked into nowhere land. I find them stuck in the recesses of an office building. Sometimes they're restaurants with no visible sign, sandwiched between two other more prominent businesses. Sometimes they're located off the street and virtually hidden, save for that lone sandwich board on the sidewalk advertising the menu. This week, I'll tell you about three restaurants that are hidden out of sight, but are worth a visit and your dining dollars. Today, I'll feature The Pickled Pepper, a tiny sandwich cafe tucked into a business complex on East Main Street in Puyallup.
When Colleen Lindberg sent me an email earlier this year telling me about her sandwich shop The Pickled Pepper, I was perplexed that there was a downtown Puyallup cafe I’ve never heard of, and it had been operating for eight years. How could I never have seen it?
A drive to the location told me why - it’s tucked into an office building on East Main Street near the 512 overpass. From the street, it’s virtually impossible to find unless you look for the sandwich board. The glare of the glass makes the sign on the building difficult to see.
I paid two anonymous visits to the cafe over two months and liked what I found. It’s a cute, tiny cafe with comfy chairs and a stylish palate. It has indoor and outdoor seating. Medical offices and the municipal court next door provide a steady stream of customers, but owner Colleen Lindberg said it’s been a struggle since the economy took a dive four years ago to keep diners coming in, so she’s focused on take-out lunches for businesses.
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Chef Kaytii Helland designed a menu of toasted subs, grilled paninis, wraps and focaccia sandwiches - $6.49 to $9.49. I like the layering of textures and flavors in the sandwiches - there are crunchy twists and flavorful turns. A toasted roast beef sandwich on parmesan-garlic focaccia ($7.49) was smeared with wasabi mayo. An Aussie chicken focaccia sandwich ($7.49) was gussied up with cubed bacon and a honey-mustard spread. Here’s something neat - the focaccia bread is from Puyallup’s Pioneer Bakery. On another visit, a hot pastrami special ($10.49 with a salad) was piled at least five slices deep on toasted rye, smeared with stoneground mustard and topped with creamy sweet slaw and melted Swiss. I liked the concentration of flavors and the contrasting crunch of the slaw with that big pile of thin-shaved pastrami. A chicken pasta salad made with a mayo dressing was far from ordinary - it came with snappy, sweet peas. I had a bowtie pasta salad on a previous visit made with a ginger-soy dressing that was equally good.
The Pickled PepperWhere: 929 E. Main St., Puyallup (inside the Puyallup Executive Park)Info: 253-445-8462 or Facebook hereHours: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday