TNT Diner

Looking for a bargain breakfast? Check out Hilltop’s newest cafe

A feta, spinach and mushroom womelette at Red Elm Cafe in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.
A feta, spinach and mushroom womelette at Red Elm Cafe in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.

I don’t remember the last time a restaurant opened that had a cafe menu with sandwiches, soups and waffles with the most expensive item at $5.75.

Consider newly-opened Red Elm Cafe a bargain cafe. It opened two weeks ago in the Hilltop neighborhood in a space that’s been rehabbed and turned into a cute little cafe with a full espresso menu.

Here’s a first-bite look. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service during a restaurant’s first month.

The owners: Look closely at the logo of the Red Elm Cafe to see the hidden faces of the sisters behind the cafe. The tree in the logo also symbolizes the roots that sisters Sarah Joslyn, Adina Joslyn and Jennifer Richardson have put down in the community. They live on the Hilltop and are Tacoma-area natives.

The dining room: Long, narrow and totally adorable. Exposed brick walls run the length of the building. Order at the counter and find your own seat. A handful of tables for two to four diners, a lounge area with comfortable club chairs, a back room with seating for a dozen in a private space. Way in the back is a children’s play area.

Breakfast menu: Waffles ($3.75-$5.75); egg sandwiches ($4.25-$4.50); womelettes (see note) with toast ($4.25).

Lunch menu: Grilled sandwiches with chips ($3-$5); soup/salad ($2.50-$5); waffle dog ($2.25); avocado toast ($2.25).

Coffee: A full espresso menu with coffee from Oregon’s Caravan. A drip coffee starts at $1.25. Lattes at $2.60.

About the prices: One of the lowest-priced options in the neighborhood other than the fresh rolls at the nearby pho places.

Dietary restrictions: Gluten-free options in many cases for a $1 upcharge. Several vegetarian offerings.

Womelettes: About those funky creations. The sisters were stuck with a small kitchen and limited kitchen equipment (a panini press and waffle iron). They wanted omelets on the menu, and the panini press certainly can’t make an omelet. So the waffle iron it was. There’s no actual waffle batter in the recipe. It’s simply an omelet cooked on a waffle iron that comes out with the familiar grid pattern.

Try: The spinach, feta and mushroom womelette with a fluffy texture. The bacon, ham and cheddar was extra cheesy. Both are $4.25 and served with a side of buttered toast.

Red Elm Cafe

Where: 1114 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma; 253-327-1791;

Hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sundays.