Aviateur French Diner opened last week, bringing French bistro fare to a downtown dining space in the Umpqua Bank building that's been empty more than it's been occupied. Aviateur is owned by Bertrand Young, who also operates the French bistro La Creme Brulee in Steilacoom. Posted below are dinner menus, as well as directions for finding the restaurant's front door - a tricky endeavor.
Finding the door: I don't think there's a restaurant in Tacoma with a more confusing front entry. Diners won't find a street-level entry off Pacific, despite the Pacific Avenue address. Rather, climb the sidewalk on 15th up the hill toward Commerce. The entrance is just off Commerce, beyond the outdoor patio seating.
Part of the "where is it?" problem is that no noticeable sign marks Aviateur - save for a small printed sign tucked inside one of the restaurant's second-story windows. Young said by phone last week he's working on a sign.
The decor: Walking into the restaurant will remind diners of Zara Mediterranean because nothing physically has changed since that restaurant served its Eastern Mediterranean fare in that space from 2011-2012. The same fabric adorned the booths; the same chairs; the same carpet. That delightfully curved, round bar remained untouched. So did the compass rose on the bar ceiling.
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It's an attractive restaurant, but the modern decor with a nod to fine dining felt at odds with the informal, bistro-focused French menu. Young said in a phone interview last week that diners should expect a makeover of the restaurant, but did not offer details on when that would be or what it would look like.
Menu: Entrees were $16-$34, with five entrees in the $20s, two below $20 and three above $30 - see the menus below. Also posted below are the appetizer/starter menus, priced in the $5-$12 range. The menu is decidedly French bistro fare, an unexpected changeup for downtown Tacoma dining.
Spirits and wine: Aviateur lists the usual cocktails. Many lean toward the sweet side, which I find unappealing (my mantra: beware of any cocktail menu that lists anything "cake" flavored). What was appreciated was the list of classic champagne cocktails. Wine was offered by the bottle and glass. Take a look at the wine menus below.
Hours: This week, the restaurant will serve dinner and a bar menu Tuesday-Saturday. Young said lunch would be offered in the future, but did not say when lunch service would begin.
Background: Young opened his French bistro eight years ago in Steilacoom after moving to the Northwest for his wife’s military assignment. That restaurant is open for dinner service Thursdays-Saturdays. Find La Creme Brulee at 1606 Lafayette; 253-589-3001.
Staff: The chef de cuisine at Aviateur is Christophe Durliat. The pastry chef is Amber Maxwell and Robin Boireau is head bartender.
Aviateur French DinerWhere: 1498 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-573-9000