Liz Gilham swore she’d never open another restaurant after fire shuttered her last one.
It’s a lucky thing for lovers of diner food that she ignored her instincts.
Her breakfast-and-lunch only Midland Eatery had its grand opening Sept. 26, about two years after her other restaurant, Boxcar Grill, closed.
Not able to keep one foot out of the restaurant world, she occasionally scrolled through restaurant spaces on Craigslist when one night she spotted an empty storefront that had beckoned her to exit her car. That night, she was steering clear of freeway traffic, opting to travel Portland Avenue through Midland to get home to Parkland. It seemed a perfect spot for a neighborhood eatery, so why was it empty?
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She remembered that question when she saw it listed on Craigslist and impulsively messaged the owner.
She took a look and told her mom, Velda, who co-owned Boxcar Grill. Mom balked. Did they really want to go down that road again?
Liz Gilham decided to make a modest offer, which she thought the landlord would dismiss. To her surprise, the landlord took her offer and sweetened the deal with extras.
She set up a Facebook page and within an hour collected 100 likes. It was her first inkling of the overwhelming reaction the neighborhood would have to her diner in Midland, a community between Parkland and South Hill that is short on restaurants, save for the excellent Bar Bistro nearby.
Neighbors dropped by daily, asking about the opening.
“We opened to a packed house at 7 a.m. and it stayed that way all weekend” Gilham said. “The neighborhood has been crazy for us.” A neighbor baked them bread when she knew they were working late one night. Another brought in a KitchenAid mixer as a gift. “A guy came in today — he got a Reuben. He said he wanted to tell me, ‘Thanks for opening in Midland.’ ”
Gilham has kept the menu more simple than her last restaurant. Midland Eatery is tiny, with only seven tables and a basic menu of about a dozen breakfast and lunch items, plus a daily specials list. Nothing on the regular menu is priced more than $9.99.
Among the breakfast offerings are biscuits and gravy, breakfast combo plates, French toast and pancakes. At lunch, there’s a Reuben with house-made corned beef, a French dip, patty melt and basic burger. There’s no fryer, so side dishes are slaw or potato salad. Soups change daily. Because the menu is so small, special order or gluten-free requests are no trouble, Gilham said.
And here’s a tip: Get a cinnamon roll, a specialty of Velda’s. They don’t last long and they usually come in two or three flavors with a choice of caramel or cream cheese frosting.
Where: 9823 Portland Ave. E., Tacoma.
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 8 a.m-2 p.m. Sunday.