The downtown Tacoma entertainment and arts organization Alma Mater became a restaurateur in March when it opened the outstanding breakfast destination, Honey Coffee + Kitchen in its 22,000-square-foot Carpenters Building. That building also houses the group's 500-seat concert venue, art gallery, recording studio and now a second restaurant.
Matriarch Lounge opened Tuesday.
It begins serving daily at 4 p.m., picking up the night crowd when Honey ends its all-day breakfast menu at 4 p.m.
The lounge’s menu is an assemble-your-own adventure with an assortment of skewers and small plates. Cocktails come with a brandy emphasis. The lounge is for diners 21 and older only.
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The structure is similar to one of my favorite Tacoma lounges, En Rama. Just swap cognac for sherry and skewers for small swirls of handmade pasta.
Matriarch chef Kyle Wnuk designed the menu featuring skewers cooked over binchotan, Japanese charcoal. Mike Joinette, formerly a chef at Marrow, also is in the kitchen at Matriarch.
Wnuk was the original co-owner and executive chef of Marrow, the former Sixth Avenue restaurant known for featuring unusual meats. That focus continues with his new restaurants. At Matriarch, there’s camel, beef heart, lamb belly and bone marrow.
Skewers, which come in pairs, demonstrate Wnuk’s penchant for far-flung flavors, too. Lebanese, Peruvian, Korean and North African, to name a few.
From that skewer menu, pork belly is flavored with either Korean peppers ($9) or harissa ($9). Lamb belly is rubbed with ras el hanout, the African spice mixture ($12). Camel kefta gets dual Lebanese and Moroccan spicing ($10).
Seafood skewers include Oregon albacore tuna with blood orange aioli ($11) and saffron butter lobster tail ($14).
From the small plates list, seafood choices sound even more fetching. Grilled octopus tops a salad with a bonito vinaigrette ($11). An octopus sashimi plate is served Peruvian style with aji panca pepper sauce ($11). There are also halibut cheeks with mushrooms ($14) and Baja shrimp with a piquillo romesco ($11).
Two options look well suited for vegetarians, a beet salad ($10) and mushroom toast with cured egg yolk ($11).
A cheese board ($21), beef heart tartare ($14) and bone marrow with tamarind oxtail marmalade ($17) complete the small plates menu.
Table service will be offered at Matriarch, a departure from neighboring Honey, which has an order-at-the-counter protocol.
Heading the cocktail program are Joe Korbuszewski, front of house trainer, and Jackie Casella, bar co-leader.
“The push for the first menu will be a brandy focus,” said Korbuszewski. “It’s one of the last spirits that hasn’t had a modern (revitalization). And it’s still brown and it’s delicious and comes in a lot of variety. There’s a lot of things we can do with it. There will be brandy-based cocktails. There will be a range of brandy (to taste).”
Cognac shows up as one component in the Baroness, a cocktail with amaretto, citrus, chocolate bitters and an egg white ($9). Cognac also is in the Necromancer, a cocktail with a double punch of apple brandy from calvados and pommeau, plus walnut bitters and Cynar ($9). Gin, tequila and mezcal cocktails also are listed on the specialty list ($7 to $9).
The bar will have four tap handles rotating craft beer and a bottle selection featuring Belgian beers.
Expect a modern decor, much like Honey. Matriarch Lounge is located at the front of the Carpenters Building, to the left of Honey.
The trio behind Alma Mater is Jason Heminger, executive director; Aaron Spiro, program director and Rachel Ervin, operations director.
Where: 1322 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma
Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday
Note: 21 and older only