The Carpenters Building is proving among the most eclectic of Tacoma gathering spaces.
The two-story 22,000-square-foot building on South Fawcett is home to the arts organization Alma Mater and its 500-person concert hall, recording studio, art gallery space, shared offices — and now restaurants.
The first of the two restaurants opened March 15. Honey Coffee + Kitchen is a daily breakfast restaurant with a single menu from morning until late afternoon.
Its sister restaurant, Matriarch Lounge, will operate in the evening with a planned debut in April.
Here’s a first-bite look. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.
Owners: Honey’s owners also own the building and oversee the concert hall, arts spaces and recording studio inside. The trio behind Alma Mater are Rachel Ervin, operations director, executive director Jason Heminger and program director Aaron Spiro.
In the kitchen: Executive chef Kyle Wnuk, who locals will know as the original co-owner of Tacoma’s Marrow. Wnuk and co-owner Jaime Kay Jones sold the restaurant in 2014 and it later closed. Mike Joinette, formerly of Marrow, and Mike Parker, formerly of Eleven Eleven, also are in the kitchen.
Location: Right side of the ground floor.
Service: Order your food and drink at the counter. Take a number, find your own table. (Table service might happen later).
The space: Much like Marrow, the space is airy with a wash of light from broad windows and light-colored wood tables. The wood-clad ceiling, paneled walls, clusters of potted plants and eclectic artwork softened the industrial vibe of exposed pipes and concrete pillars. Catch a peekaboo view of downtown Tacoma.
Parking: Adjacent lot coming soon.
The menu: From the Netherlands to Switzerland to Scandinavia, Wnuk’s menu spans broad European territory with the occasional Northwest flavor. Like Marrow under Wnuk’s direction, the menu lists unusual finds you won’t see on other Tacoma menus: beef heart steak, pig head scrapple, oxtail marmalade, duck eggs.
Opening menu: Priced attractively. The opening menu includes aquavit-cured arctic char with dill cream cheese, smoked trout caviar, pickled red onion and fennel, plus a dill scone ($12), tamarind oxtail marmalade toast with a salad and duck egg ($11), dried and smoked beef chip S.O.S. with provolone scrambled eggs and hash browns ($12), three styles of Dutch babies ($11), fingerling potato hash with harissa-spiced tofu ($11) and more.
The coffee: Details are tended here, from the espresso pull to the bean origin. Portland-based Heart Coffee Roasters is the bean provider. Those beans will draw the coffee crowd.
Mimosas? Breakfast cocktail menu on the way.
Presentation: Pretty plating. Flower petals and fried sage leaves adorned most dishes.
Order on a first visit: The baked eggs were a dreamy concoction. Eggs were cracked into a skillet, fortified with cream and speck, then baked until the yolks were just set ($12).
I used the well-toasted slice of baguette to hoist those creamy eggs and speck from the skillet and into my eager mouth. Do not miss this dish. It’s served with slices of speck (like prosciutto, but smokier and more aromatic) cooked bacon style, plus an arugula salad and hash browns.
The ebelskivers will please the pastry crowd (3 for $5/7 for $10). The Danish pancakes look like doughnut holes, and they’re meant to be dredged through their accompaniments: Elderflower whipped cream was soft and poofy. A fruit compote was sharp and tangy.
Don’t be afraid of the name pig head scrapple ($12). Think of the Pennsylvania Dutch staple as a tasty breakfast meatloaf, a simple and flavorful combination of pork and binder. This fork-and-knife version was spiced with mace and nutmeg, fried until its edges were crispy and served perched on toasted brioche with a fried duck egg that spilled a river of golden yolk into the drizzle of maple syrup.
The coffee-rubbed beef heart steak carried the beefy minerality and squeaky texture that is a signature of that cut of lean meat. It was seared and sliced for service ($12). It was flanked by creamy provolone scrambled eggs (this kitchen is going to be known for its eggs).
Hash browns, with most entrees, tasted like gussied up latkes on steroids, with a seesaw of crunch on the outside and creamy potato inside. Order extra.
Matriarch: When Matriarch Lounge opens, it will be an evening lounge with a focus on skewers of unusual meats cooked over a Japanese charcoal grill. Like Honey, the menu will draw from broad array of culinary influences. “Taste and texture, regardless of origin, is the concept,” said Wnuk, speaking before the opening of Honey. “I’ve got everything from Western Chinese to North African and Nigerian flavors.”
Longtime barkeep Jackie Casella is designing the lounge’s cocktail menu, which will focus on a wide range of brandy.
Honey Coffee + Kitchen
Where: 1322 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma
Info: 253-302-3405, almamatertacoma.com
Hours: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday