TNT Diner

Casco Antiguo bringing tacos al pastor, tasty cocktails and rockfish ceviche to Tacoma’s waterfront

Rockfish ceviche with a honey sweetened marinade from Casco Antiguo. The restaurant is known for its pretty plating and cocktails.
Rockfish ceviche with a honey sweetened marinade from Casco Antiguo. The restaurant is known for its pretty plating and cocktails.

When Casco Antiguo opens locally, the Seattle Mexican restaurant will offer a list of things Tacoma could use: Octopus, rockfish ceviche, tacos al pastor, solid cocktails and a view of Tacoma’s working waterfront on the Foss Waterway.

“It has the same exact view as the glass museum,” said co-owner Harvey Ward Van Allen, who opened Casco Antiguo in Seattle’s Pioneer Square in 2015. For Tacoma’s Casco Antiguo, he’s partnering with Paul, Steve and Tom Lyman of High Country Contractors.

If all goes as planned, the 5,000-square-foot restaurant with seating for 100 should officially open early next month.

Casco Antiguo won’t be the first Seattle Mexican restaurant transplanted to Tacoma with Mexican fare that transcends our casual taquerias and family-run Mexican-American chains. It won’t be the last — another Seattle Mexican restaurant is heading to Sixth Avenue this year.

Matador did it first in downtown Tacoma in 2006. That 21-and-older bar has a gothic Tex-Mex vibe with a menu of prettied up Mexican fare with Texan accents.

Casco Antiguo in Seattle is the light, beachy cantina antidote to Matador’s brooding cowboy motif. Enter Seattle Casco Antiguo through curtains — like the kind you’d pull back at a beach cabana — into a light-washed dining room dominated by blocky communal tables sporting low metal stools.

A test field trip to Seattle’s Casco Antiguo found a bustling restaurant in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Here are dining notes — and what you can expect in Tacoma.

Overall impressions: This will be an appreciated addition to Tacoma’s cocktail and Mexican cuisine landscape. Upscale enough for a date night, yet not fussy. Table service offered. Did I mention the barkeeps make outstanding cocktails?

Seating: Bench seating lined both walls — one climbing with wood, the other exposed brick. Down a hallway was a bar with a dining area with roll-up garage doors.

Mexican spirits: One-page menu of tequila, sotol, raicilla and mezcal by the shot. Served neat, and there was no mucking it up with lime and salt here. Three flight choices with tequila, mezcal and agave spirits ($12-$18). Overall, more abbreviated than Matador’s, but still respectable.

Also: Seven specialty cocktails, heavy on Mexican spirits ($8-$15). Seven handmade or from-the-tap margaritas ($8-$12).

Best cocktails sampled: A puckery rhubarb from-the-tap margarita ($9) with a salt-and-lime zested rim. The Double Platinum was the best variation on a paloma I’ve ever encountered, made with Hacienda sotol platinum, assertive grapefruit, lime and just enough St. Germain to add a whiff of elderflower ($13). The Norte Oeste was another floral-tinged drink with sweet-and-sour citrus (orange/lime), plus lavender at the base of the blanco tequila cocktail ($12). The Hot Pepper Margarita was slap-your-face aggressive with tequila infused in-house with serrano and habanero peppers and a splash of orange liqueur ($11). All were excellent.

Lunch sampling: Chips ($5) flanked by mason jars brimming with kicky house habanero salsa and lime-heavy guacamole ($3 upcharge). Rockfish ceviche was a don’t-miss. It was made with a citrus marinade sweetened with chamomile honey, threaded with crunchy jicama, cucumber and onions and plenty of thick-cut chips for scooping ($12).

A duo of handmade corn tortillas held jiggly slabs of slow-cooked pork belly served al pastor style with pineapple and guajillo sauce ($9). A vegetarian-friendly taco duo came with roasted poblanos tangled up in a creamy sauce with corn and salsa verde ($8).

Menu notes: Upscale Mexican fare with polished presentation and fine ingredients. Moderate pricing and modest portions. Lunch a la carte items and plates, $8-$13. Dinner offered a more robust menu with a la carte items and plates from $8-$18. Van Allen said about 90 percent of Seattle’s Casco Antiguo’s menu will be served in Tacoma.

Note: Children will be allowed at the Tacoma outpost.

The Tacoma opening: Invite-only soft opening events will happen later this month, but the official opening won’t be until May.

Also coming: El Borracho Seattle is expanding to Tacoma later this summer on Sixth Avenue. It will take over the Marrow restaurant space. El Borracho is known for its menu of 20 a la carte tacos, its vegan fare and $4 margaritas.

Casco Antiguo

Tacoma: 1901 Dock St., Tacoma.

Seattle: 115 Occidental Ave. S., Seattle; 206-538-0400;