Since its opening two weeks ago, Tacoma’s Cooks Tavern has struggled to meet demand. Lines are long, so are waits.
That’s why the restaurant is waiting to extend its hours, which right now begin daily at 11 a.m. The original plan was to open at 8 a.m. daily for breakfast, but so far that has not happened.
“The response from the neighborhood has been thus far overwhelming and extremely gratifying,” said owner Peter Levy of Chow Foods, which operates a number of Seattle neighborhood restaurants, including the Hi-Life and Endolyne Joe’s. “We do typically expect a big bubble in the first couple of weeks of opening a restaurant, but the response to Cooks thus far has far exceeded our expectations and been a bit overwhelming, most specifically in our kitchen.
“While we we are getting incrementally better, we still have not made the move to open at 8 a.m. for breakfast as promised,” he said. “While weekdays would most likely not be too much of a problem, we want to be more fully prepared for the busier weekend breakfast meal periods.”
Here’s the good news: Breakfast fiends can still get breakfast at Cooks when it opens daily at 11 a.m. But those wanting breakfast before 11 a.m.? You’ll have to wait until June 27. That’s when daily hours will extend to 8 a.m.
Here’s a quick first-bite tour based on a single visit. It’s this newspaper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service during a restaurant’s first month. Analysis of the menu and concept are included here.
That building: Wait, what? This was a hair salon and a nail shop that was home to the $20 shellac-mani special? It looks as if it’s been a neighborhood joint forever. The building’s interior was taken down to the studs and rebuilt. The exterior was painted and freshened to meld into the neighborhood full of old, charming homes (plus a few more modern buildings and a gas station).
Those surfaces: Glossy subway tile, a wood-wrapped back bar, wooden booths, octagon floor tile, schoolhouse pendant lamps. Levy and crew sourced decor with nods to the original era of the circa-1925 building.
Those windows: Accordion windows traversing two sides of the building were flung open. A breeze danced across the dining room. The windows open at table height, so diners don’t exactly spill out onto the street, but the dining room’s openness lends a palpable connection to the neighborhood. The wrap-around windows also yield plenty of natural light, which will be important once winter returns.
Menu: Modern pub cuisine with a strong Northwest backbone.
Lunch: Mostly sandwiches, $7.50-$11, served a la carte; salads ($6-$15.50) and soup ($3.50-$5). Add salad, soup or fries to a sandwich for $3.
Lunch highlights: There’s the lamb burger with Tutto Calabria peppers ($11); a fried chicken sandwich with a Tapatio aioli ($8.50) and achiote-braised pulled pork sandwich with habanero pickled red onions ($9.50).
Dinner: Small plates ($6-$13), sandwiches ($12.50-$15.50) with a side, entrees ($13-$22).
Small plates: Tuna ceviche ($9), chorizo clams ($13), pan-fried oysters ($12), duck fried rice ($9.50).
Dinner sandwiches: Similar to lunch menu, with a Tavern burger ($12.50); the lamb burger ($15.50); and a torta sandwich made with black beans and plantains ($12.50).
Dinner mains: Pan-seared pork chop with rhubarb grapefruit marmalade ($19); seared duck breast with polenta cake and heirloom tomato ratatouille ($22); skillet tavern tri-tip steak with sofrito butter, crushed red potatoes and roasted broccolini ($21); spaghetti carbonara ($15.50).
Breakfast: Served daily until 3 p.m. Cereals and small bites ($5-$8); egg dishes, hashes and Benedicts ($11.50-$14); griddle cakes and waffles ($7-$12.25).
Breakfast highlights: Duck confit Benedict with bitter orange hollandaise and a salad ($13.50); wild mushroom omelette with gruyere ($12.50); cast iron pork enchiladas ($12.50); biscuits and gravy ($8.50); and buttermilk flapjacks with Vermont maple syrup ($7).
For kids: Breakfast includes seven choices, $4-$6.25; close to a dozen lunch and dinner choices, $3-$6. Highlights include pork tacos ($5.50); a plantain and black bean torta ($6); and ham, pineapple and scallion fried rice ($5.50).
Put on your radar: Starting June 26, Sunday-night family dinners will be served, with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables and biscuits. Meals are $15.50 for adults, $7.75 for kids.
Noise level: Manageable, at capacity, but the partially open kitchen facing the dining room generated a lot of noisy chatter among the cooks.
Gluten free? A dozen mentions, plus vegetarian/vegan options.
Parking: Mostly street parking, and it’s at a premium. A few stalls are adjacent to the building. Expect to walk a few blocks. That doesn’t bother me because this is one of the best neighborhoods in Tacoma for house gazing. Beautiful, old homes meander in every direction.
Brew: You could do a South Sound brew tour without leaving your bar stool. Taps come from Wingman, Narrows, Puyallup River Brewing, Harmon, 7 Seas, Odd Otter and Gig Harbor.
What’s next: Brewers Row is the companion restaurant from Levy that will open at the edge of the same building later this summer. That casual restaurant will feature counter service, 34 draft beers, and 100 bottled beers and ciders. The menu will focus on pastries, biscuits and more portable fare at breakfast, then move to a more substantial lunch and dinner menu. It also will be kid-friendly.