TNT Diner

Meaty, smoky brisket gives diners another reason to savor Fridays

Three slices of smoky brisket from The Valley, a tavern in Tacoma’s Dome District.
Three slices of smoky brisket from The Valley, a tavern in Tacoma’s Dome District. skidd@thenewstribune.com

Some restaurants advertise Saturday night steak specials. Others promote Taco Tuesdays.

On occasion, I’ll be floored by a great deal, such as the Harmon’s $3 steak night on Mondays at its Pacific Avenue location.

Right now, Friday is my favorite day for a restaurant special for one beefy reason. That’s the one day a week The Valley serves its house-smoked brisket.

The chef behind the smoker at The Valley is James Bacher. He joined the staff of the Dome District tavern in October.

Smokehouse Fridays started last summer and now are an every Friday thing year round.

Brisket is a three-day process under Bacher’s watch. He smokes the meat in an Alto-Shaam, which is a fancy cook-and-hold commercial oven. The oven is outfitted with a basket for wood chips and a heating rod that Bacher says applies even smoke through the cooking process (he uses applewood). Restaurants use them for prime rib or other low-and-slow cooking processes.

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Brisket is served on a tray with two sides, a biscuit and sauce at The Valley. Soon the trays will come with three sides. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Day 1 starts with a dry spice rub. He smokes the meat on Wednesdays. The oven is out back under a cover in the beer garden.

Of course, I asked whether a customer in the beer garden ever has opened the lid to sneak a taste. Bacher said he takes no chances. On crowded days, he padlocks the cooker to preserve his meat investment.

And it’s a hefty time investment. Smoking takes 20 hours total. The day after a trip in the smoker, he braises the meat. That’s a process he thinks helps the brisket’s texture. “Sometimes when you get to the middle piece, it’s drier,” Bacher said. “When I braise it, it helps loosen it up and put the juices on it.”

Was what I tasted at the restaurant a perfect version of brisket? No. I’ve given up on finding that after a few tours. I’ve made peace with the finicky nature of brisket and how impossible it is to find a flawless version in restaurants here. I’ll settle for good and this version certainly was that.

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A brisket platter with baked beans and macaroni cheese from The Valley. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Three thinly sliced pieces carried a balanced smoky flavor that complemented brisket’s beefy nature. The meat yielded a tender bite. Some pieces erred a bit dry, but overall, a pleasant texture. My other quibble was uneven seasoning, but that was an easy fix with a salt shaker.

The plate was $13.50 with two sides. There’s snappy coleslaw with a cilantro-chipotle dressing, sweet-and-tangy baked beans, macaroni and cheese or collard greens. Bacher is about to make a change, though. He’s taking collard greens off the menu and serving the brisket plate with three sides— macaroni and cheese, baked beans, coleslaw, plus that delicious split-and-grilled buttermilk biscuit.

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Excellent cheddar cheese from The Valley. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Sauce always comes on the side (as it should) and usually has some kind of beer in it, but the recipe changes. The version I tried carried sweet tang and a boozy backnote.

Alongside the brisket, another smoked option is offered every Friday. That option can include pork ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, smoked chicken or another smoked meat.

In case you didn’t know: The Valley is a 21-and-older bar operated by X Group Restaurants and brothers Robbie and Justin Peterson, who own/co-own two other great Tacoma bars, The Eleven and Eleven and Peaks and Pints. X Group runs Asado, the Pine Room Event Center, Engine House No. 9, plus a food truck and catering operation.

Smokehouse Fridays

Where: The Valley, 1206 Puyallup Ave, Tacoma.

When: Lunch and dinner every Friday, until supplies run out.

Note: 21 and older only.

Contact: 253-248-4265; thevalleytacoma.com.

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