TNT Diner

New Ruston restaurant has charbroiled burgers, a drippy roasted pork sandwich, cheap cocktails and 16 taps

The American Joe burger with American cheese, ketchup, diced onions and pickles at Cole’s Bar and Grill. The burgers are charbroiled at the Ruston restaurant and bar.
The American Joe burger with American cheese, ketchup, diced onions and pickles at Cole’s Bar and Grill. The burgers are charbroiled at the Ruston restaurant and bar.

For decades, the brick building off North Pearl and North 51st streets held a bar. Locals and this paper’s archives tell me it had a number of names, including Monaghan’s Blues Bar, Cole’s Oasis and, way back when, the Idle Hour.

The one thing in common seemed to always be beer and music.

In recent years, the old Ruston building sat empty following a devastating fire. That is, until Jeff and Helen Fraychineaud bought the derelict building and spent more than a few years working on the space that now holds Coles Bar and Grill. It opened earlier this month.

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.

That neighborhood: Ruston went from the sleepy afterthought of Pierce County’s dining universe to the restaurant hot spot within a few years. Coles joins newer neighbors Point Defiance Tap and Grill , Defiant Goldish and Mitchell’s Cafe. A short drive away is the Point Ruston development with Two Town Pub and Cafe, Dolce Si Sicilian Bakery and Cafe, Mio Sushi, WildFin American Grill, Stack 571, Jewel Box Cafe, The Blue Octopus champagne bar and coming soon will be another Farrelli’s and Fish Brewing Pub and Eatery.

The owners: The Fraychineauds have a habit of owning excellent neighborhood bars. In addition to Coles, they also own the Parkway Tavern and Hank’s Corner Bar. Their next project is working on a neighborhood bar in Proctor, but that project will be several years in the making, said Jeff Fraychineaud. The manager at Coles is Sheri Houck, the longtime manager of Hank’s.

Decor: Yes, that is a really cool brick floor you’re looking at. The bricks came from a salvage company, and construction workers had to hand clean them before sinking them into the floor. “There’s nothing there that was original other than the roof,” said Fraychineaud, who described an extensive remodeling that included replacing the walls.

Now, brick walls flank the room, and wood beam ceilings soften the buzz. Neon lighting on the back bar adds some funk to the place, as does the electronic jukebox on the wall. Four flat-panel screens blast sports games. This is the place you’re going to want to be when baseball starts.

Seating: The comfortable digs hold seating for about 75 spread across a bar, six four-top tables and booths that line both walls. A communal table for 12 sits near the bar.

The menu: Much like the Parkway and Hank’s, the greatest hits of pub fare make up the menu, and all are well priced. Nothing is more than $12. Eight appetizers, all priced $5. There are seven burgers ($8-$11) and eight sandwiches ($8-$10). Fish tacos, fish and chips, and beer-battered prawns, $10-$12. All come with fries and slaw.

Weekend breakfast: Scrambles, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, hash and eggs, and more for $7-$10.

On a first visit: Try the classic American Joe burger with diced onions, ketchup, pickles and a charbroiled patty covered in a gooey blanket of American cheese on a toasted, fluffy bun, all for only $8. The burger was served on a paper-lined metal tray — just like a school cafeteria!

The house-roasted pork sandwich is not to be missed. The $10 sandwich was stacked with thin slices of roasted pork on grilled rye. The pork was dipped in an apple-sage gravy that tasted straight out of a Sunday supper. Ask for extra napkins, because this one’s a wrist dripper.

The burger and sandwich are served with golden brown hand-cut fries and a lightly dressed coleslaw with dried cranberries. I appreciated that the kitchen went the extra step in offering house-cut fries, plus house-made gravy, barbecue sauce and tartar.

Adult beverages: 16 taps with several craft handles and one local (Pacific Brewing and Malting). Also, a full cocktail list with drinks in the $6 range.

Coles is for patrons 21 and older only.

Coles Bar and Grill

Where: 5811 N. 51st St., Ruston; 253-267-1914;

Serving: Lunch and dinner daily, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Weekend breakfast starts at 8 a.m. Saturdays-Sundays. 21 and older only.