Oh, there are so many food lists in the world. People who claim to have identified the best burgers, the best happy hours, the best brunches … We set out to create a list that captures the more interesting places to wine, dine and munch in the South Sound. It’s a bit unconventional, a lot delicious and admittedly a little quirky — we tell you where to get a Mimbo after all. We researched, nibbled and asked our readers a lot of questions to develop it. Tell us what you think below. And go eat!
Sweet Tooth Secret Finds
Reader Kate DeWeese heads to Blazing Onion (Gig Harbor, Tacoma and more) for something many people might miss after they stuff themselves with the signature giant burgers and hot fries and onion rings. She always has her eye on something sweet there. Don’t Miss: Mocha Mudd Pie made with ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream. Oh, my.
You probably go to The Rock Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits (Tacoma, Federal Way, Lacey, Lake Tapps, Puyallup and more) for the wood-fired pizza, the buckets (those mixed drinks served in a souvenir pail) or the cool vibe. Don’t Miss: The skillet cookie. It’s hot, gooey and topped with ice cream. Don’t share it.
Reader Mary Reed Piltz goes to BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse (Puyallup, Tacoma and more) with her husband, Will, with her mind on what’s coming next. She loves the salads, entrees and overall selection at BJs, but that’s not why she goes. Don’t Miss: BJ’s Baked Beignet dessert with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
Hole-In-The-Wall Meets Gourmet
It’s down Opera Alley in Tacoma so we threw it into this category. However, Over the Moon Café is a little gem that’s also beautifully decorated. They serve lunch and dinner, and according to South Sound reader Halley Knigge, they serve the best potato salad anywhere. Don’t Miss: An out-of-this-world grilled cheese sandwich experience — with thick and gooey gruyere melted between crisp slices of grilled sourdough bread soaked in sweet wine sauce. No wonder it’s their bestseller.
Top of Tacoma Bar, 3529 McKinley Ave., is not the sort of place you’d expect to find gourmet goodies like mac and cheese with pork belly, plentiful vegetarian options or Taylor’s Shellfish, but you will. Don’t Miss: Nachos (one of our designers swears by these). Get them with barbecue chicken, steak or roast. All topped with cheese and the expected fixings and something way better than plain sour cream — their house spiced crema sauce. And nachos are half price on Taco Thursdays!
As Seen on TV
Little Jerry’s, 8233 S. Park Ave., Tacoma is for “Seinfeld” fans, who will love this little spot dedicated to everything Jerry Seinfeld. On the menu, you’ll find bites named after your favorite “Seinfeld” moments and episodes. Go For: The Mimbo (remember Elaine’s man-bimbo, Tony?). This burger is sandwiched between grilled cheese sandwiches and topped with a fried egg.
Ranch House BBQ, 1084 Kennedy Creek Rd., SW, in Olympia has been featured on the Food Network several times. This small barbecue joint is nestled amongst trees and the parking lot doesn’t lie — this place is popular and for good reason. The awards on the walls prove this is the real deal. Go For: The brisket.
Crown Bar on Tacoma’s hopping 6th Avenue was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on The Food Network for their kabobs and homegrown beet salads. But they have so much more to offer, all with a slight Northern Ireland flair. Go For: The amazing Blue Plate specials daily and their Cougar Gold cheeseburger or mac and cheese.
If you’re craving Korean food that’s delicious and affordable, look no further than Cham Korean BBQ Buffet, 10518 S. Tacoma Way SW, Lakewood. They are open for lunch and dinner every day except Monday. Get your fill of bulgogi, kimchi, soup and more. Don’t Miss: The pork belly.
While there is no actual brick-and mortar-restaurant, Pampaena Empanadas offers authentic empanadas out of its kitchen at the Cultural Event Center, 5602 S. Washington St., in Tacoma. You can pick up frozen empanadas every Monday through Wednesday, 10am to 5pm and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm. Call 253.973.6589 to preorder. You can also find Pampaena Empanadas at the Proctor and Steilacoom Farmers Markets.
Olympia’s La Petite Maison, 101 Division St. N.W., is your best bet to find authentic French cuisine in the South Sound. Chef Justin Wells prepares menu items like coq au vin, rillettes and more. The menu items are all written in French (with helpful English descriptors), and the restaurant sits in a tiny house, offering the perfect atmosphere for a romantic French dinner. Don’t Miss: Chef Wells’ daily preparation of foie gras.
Experience Eastern European deliciousness like schnitzel and latkes without leaving Tacoma thanks to Bruno’s European Restaurant, 10716 A St. S. It’s a small place in an unlikely location. And everything is made from scratch. Don’t Miss: The Hangover soup — a meaty, veggie-filled, sour cream and spice delight, served with a buttered roll.
Olympia’s Acqua Via, 500 Capitol Way S., offers up a constantly changing Mediterranean menu full of seasonal cuisine. Don’t Miss: The cheese and charcuterie menu, which you can use to you can build your own tasty plate full of selections from goat, cow or sheeps cheese from all over the world and pair them with specialty meats.
Blink and you’ll miss it. Kwan Tip Thai, 29426 Pacific Hwy. S., is a delicious little hole-in-the-wall along Highway 99 in Federal Way. It only has a few tables and the owner, Diane, will likely be serving and cooking for you most nights of the week. Don’t Miss: The pumpkin curry. It’s hot, sweet and unique.
Hit Hess Bakery & Deli in Lakewood, 6108 Mount Tacoma Drive S.W. for the best breads, meats and service. The staff speaks German! There are German magazines, beer, sandwiches and coffee. A true South Sound gem. Don’t Miss: The pretzels. In all shapes and sizes — salty and soft goodness.
Looking for artisan breads for your carb fix? Check out the The Bread Peddler, 222 N. Capitol Way, Olympia. Baker and owner Andre Lerest, who hails from Brittainy, France, creates incredible pastries and breads. He also offers gluten-free items and a full café-style menu for lunch and dinner. Don’t miss: The croissants. They’re flaky, airy and oh-so buttery.
Order the Painted Hills grass-fed beef, fresh duck or salmon and let your taste buds tell you why quality, locally sourced food is better. At Iron Rabbit, 2103 Harrison Ave. N.W. in Olympia, you can pick anything off their menu and know it is as fresh as it gets. Don’t Miss: Try the Pot O Fire house potato chips with fire sauce and gorgonzola for starters. And make sure whatever deliciousness you order, you wash it down with their craft beers on tap or Iron Rabbit Root Beer.
The Mark, 407/409 Columbia St. S.W., Olympia, is one of the area’s few certified-organic restaurants. Chef and owner Lisa Scott Owen offers rustic Italian cuisine prepared with organic local ingredients. Her hand-made pastas are divine and meats and seafoods are prepared over an applewood-fired grill that makes everything extra tasty. Don’t miss: The Stokesbery Farms whole chicken for two stuffed with lemon and garlic. It’s baked, then finished on the grill. You have to order this in advance, but you won’t regret it.
Play with your Food
Is your kiddo a budding pizza chef? At i.talia Pizzeria, 2505 4th W. Unit 108, Olympia, kids make their own pizzas. The offer is available for kids under 12. The restaurant, which offers mostly organic ingredients, also has salads, pastas, sandwiches and adult beverages. The restaurant also relies on green power, and recycles produce waste for compost with GRuB (Garden Raised Urban Bounty), a local organization committed to teaching low-income students and families how to grow their own food. Don’t miss: The Pear Gorgonzola Pizza. This savory and sweet pie is made with local Washington pears.
Shabu Shabu is Japanese-style fondue, and Kabuki Japanese Restaurant, 2919 S. 38th St., Suite B, Tacoma, is where you can find this delightful dinner option. You cook your beef, noodles, vegetables and tofu in a seasoned broth that heats up at your table. Shabu shabu is for a minimum of two people and only available Monday through Thursday by reservation. Don’t miss: The expansive appetizer menu, which includes everything from sashimi (raw sliced fish) to gyoza (dumplings) and more.
The Melting Pot, 2121 Pacific Ave.,Tacoma, is a great restaurant for hands-on dining. The fondue hot spot offers set menus like beef and lobster fondue for dinner and chocolate fondue for dessert. Don’t miss: The perfectly priced happy hour where you can get cheese and chocolate fondue for half off in the bar.
These side dishes, add-ons and appetizers are reason enough to go to these places!
- The polenta that comes with the flat iron steak at Asado on 6th Avenue in Tacoma is why one of our readers orders that steak every time.
- The bacon candy at Dirty Oscars Tacoma Public House is addictive. Reader Kathy Horton-Schmidt can testify to this.
- Don’t miss the meatballs at the Adriatic Grill in Tacoma. Seriously.
- The sugary and sweet cornbread at The Buttered Biscuit in Sumner.
- Try the succulent and silky lobster mashed potatoes at El Gaucho.
- Pacific Grill’s skinny fries with olive oil, garlic and crispy herbs are worth the trip.
- Lunchbox Laboratory’s mac and cheese is another sider not to miss!
From top to bottom photo courtesy whitneydesign.net; Willow’s Photography; Pampeana Empandas; Jeff Hobson; Gilberto Covarrubias.