There are certain things we’re short on in Tacoma’s dining landscape.
A full-time dim sum joint. More ramen. A traditional French pâtisserie.
Historically, brunch deserved a place on that list, but now that Tacoma’s top-tier restaurants and favorite bars have jumped on the breakfast bandwagon, you no longer can call Tacoma weak on brunch.
Since the beginning of 2015, more than a dozen Tacoma-area restaurants and bars have launched weekend breakfast service (see box).
Here’s a look at four of the newest plated brunch spots with tasting notes based on single visits. The restaurants are listed in the order in which you should visit.
Do call ahead for reservations.
1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-627-3535; pacificgrilltacoma.com.
Brunch served: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays.
Downtown Tacoma’s most fetching restaurant began offering brunch in March, for the first time in its 10-year history. Co-owner Gordon Naccarato was a newcomer to brunch when he started offering it at his other restaurant, Smoke + Cedar, which operated from March 2014-October 2015 at the Allenmore Golf Course. Although that restaurant is gone, find some of Smoke + Cedar’s brunch favorites on the Pacific Grill brunch menu.
Alex Anton, the former Smoke + Cedar chef, is the executive chef for weekend brunch service at Pacific Grill.
Try this: The Hot Mess ($16) was evidence that Naccarato and Anton are the best in town at breakfast potatoes. Those potatoes perfectly harnessed crispy and creamy, thanks to the merge of shredded and cubed potatoes. The mess came with a tangle of house-made pastrami with a tang that complemented the pucker in the braised red cabbage. Perfect Italian sausage gravy helped the dish deliver on its name. Well-buttered toast and over-easy eggs finished the dish.
Biscuits and gravy ($11) combined two split-and-grilled buttermilk biscuits and the creamiest gravy you’ll find in Tacoma, with a porky punch and peppery finish. It came with those creamy-crispy hashed brown potatoes I love. Add eggs for an upcharge of $4.
Smoked salmon Benedict ($18) showed the kitchen’s talent with in-house fish smoking (the smoked steelhead is another must-try). The lemony Hollandaise lightened that smoky salmon, served atop crunchy muffins, the plate dotted with salty capers and shaved red onions. Poached eggs spilled golden rivers, the whites just barely set. Potatoes wafted with rosemary.
Breakfast cocktails: The best of the tour. El Burro ($12), with tequila, prosecco and the unexpected addition of housemade marmalade. Boozy coffee ($10) with Kahlúa and rum; Bloody Mary ($10, or $15 for bottomless).
Coffee: Federal Way’s Caffe D’Arte.
Also on the menu: Prime rib Benedict ($19), Dungeness crab and brie Waddell omelet ($20), vegetarian and gluten-free root hash ($16), bagel with house-smoked steelhead ($14).
Service: Professional, doting when it needed to be, frequent table check-ins.
2715 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-327-1862; thetabletacoma.com.
Brunch served: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays.
Derek Bray’s Sixth Avenue dinner-only eatery, which opened in July 2015, began offering brunch in mid-February. Like his dinner menu, weekend brunch takes a playful spin on New American/Northwest bistro fare. Bray repeats his favorite dinner flavors in the morning, namely the duck-and-pork sausage (it shows up as a burger at dinner) and pork belly, which Bray is a wizard at. A brunch menu change is coming soon.
Try this: Benedict dork ($15), a coarsely-textured, and quite lean, duck-pork sausage that piggybacked, so to speak, perfectly on a citrus hollandaise. Fontina biscuits were a rich stand-in for English muffins. Poached eggs topped the dish. Crunchy jacketed fried chicken ($12) sat atop a tangy buttermilk biscuit, with a mustard gravy that sang in perfect key. A sunnyside-up egg topped the beautiful mess. A soft scrambled egg sandwich ($9) threaded with herbs and cheddar on toasted brioche was flanked by thick-cut bacon — and tastier than any scrambled egg sandwich you’ve ever made at home.
On the downside: Poached eggs on the Benedict had begun to set, but they did spill a bit of yolk.
Breakfast cocktails: A fancy red beer ($9), mimosa ($8), rosé and zinfandel sparklers ($10-$12).
Also on the menu: Pork belly and grits ($12), sweet potato hash ($12), sausage gravy pot pie ($14), ricotta apple pancake ($12), blueberry cream cheese stuffed French toast ($11). A children’s menu ($7-$8) with pancakes, French toast or sausage scramble.
Service: Friendly and relaxed.
2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-272-4177; crownbartacoma.com. 21 and older.
Brunch served: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays.
Crown Bar’s new owner, Christina Smyre, started brunch in February, just a few months after buying the restaurant and bar from owners Jacqueline Plattner and Charlie McManus (who own Primo Grill next door).
Smyre’s brunch reads like a pork-lover’s fest: pork belly hash, biscuits and sausage gravy, a bacon or sausage breakfast burrito and even the eggs Benedict include candied bacon.
Try this: Skillet-baked squishy cinnamon rolls ($7.50) served floating in a pool of butter and brown sugar. Crispy wedges of pork belly tossed with cubed fried potatoes created a chunky, thick hash ($10), the appreciated opposite of a gloppy diner hash. Shishito peppers and wilted spinach added subtle bitterness, the sunnyside up egg brought creamy richness. (Note: this dish now is made with pulled verde pork.)
Eggs Benedict ($12) came with a hollandaise more buttery than lemony, spilling over a tier of crunchy muffins, candied bacon, thick-cut tomatoes (too pale) and poached eggs that released golden yolk ribbons.
On the downside: The temperature was off on the eggs Benedict, probably because the tomato was ice cold.
Breakfast cocktails: Two kinds of Bloody Marys ($9-$10), two sizes of mimosa ($8-$11) and a spin on a tequila sunrise ($9).
Coffee: Seattle’s Caffe Vita.
Also on the menu: Avocado toast ($6), breakfast burger with Beecher’s cheese and an egg ($11), breakfast burrito ($9), biscuits and sausage gravy ($12), French toast with candied nuts and apricot compote ($9).
Service: Excellent, with several table check-ins.
WILDFIN AMERICAN GRILL
5115 Grand Loop, Tacoma; 253-267-1772; wildfinamericangrill.com.
Brunch served: 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays.
WildFin American Grill is Tacoma’s newest waterfront restaurant. The Northwest-based restaurant opened in January at Point Ruston, the retail-residential development that straddles Tacoma and Ruston. This is a third restaurant for the restaurant group that has locations in Issaquah and Renton.
Plated brunch service started shortly after the restaurant’s opening.
Try the: WildFin masters the art of amuse-bouche for breakfast. Every table was sent deviled eggs (divine) and buttery blueberry scones with butter and jam. Unfortunately, the freebies were the most successful part of the meal.
Mixed results: A Benedict ($17.95) with crab and shrimp cakes, touted lemon in the braised spinach, but what I got was a mouthful of butter, without a hint of lemony pucker —or much seasoning. House potatoes on the side were oddly battered, and cold. The best part was the poached eggs, which yielded the right amount of yolk.
I expected a crunchy jacket on the chicken fried chicken ($14.95), but it was more of a sauteed chicken breast. It was a monstrous tower built on terrific buttermilk biscuits, but where was the signature crunch? The accompanying bacon, and andouille sausage gravy, partially salvaged the dish. The sunnyside up egg on top needed seasoning. Grits on the side barely registered the promised chipotle.
Breakfast cocktails: A clear win here. Try the Bloody Mary bar, a build-your-own bargain at $7.95. The barkeep pours your booze, you pick the mixer, salt and pickled add-ins from a broad assortment. Mimosas also are bargain priced at $4.95.
Coffee: Caffe D’arte.
Also on the menu: Seafood scramble ($15.95), traditional Benedict ($14.95), gluten-free garden frittata ($12.95), breakfast tacos ($13.95), open-face crab and shrimp ($14.95).
Service: Outstanding. Friendly and on point. Communicative, but not intrusive.
Restaurants new to brunch service