Unassuming white walls, a 20-seat communal table, and Edison bulbs suspended from rustic ladders make up the backdrop that is quickly becoming a standout on Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue restaurant row.
The Table is nestled near Marrow and Asado and boasts hearty fare and a fuss-free atmosphere. On a typical Friday night you’ll hear, “What is that?” as diners ask folks at a nearby table what they’ve ordered as amazing dishes are spied.
The aroma of spicy vanilla house wine wafts through the air and all eyes are drawn to the finishing table where executive chef Derek Bray inspects and finesses each dish served.
Locally sourced ingredients make up a meat-centric menu that will make your mouth water. While Bray’s entrees demand attention, the shareable plates and sides are noteworthy on their own. Pillowy ricotta gnocchi is smothered with velvety cream sauce and fresh parsley. Braised elk with hints of jalapeño and chipotle swims in red pepper tomato sauce. The hanger steak is delicately topped with porcini mushrooms, and finished with mustard gravy.
Save room for dessert. Specifically for piping hot beignets tossed with cinnamon and sugar and dipped in cream and huckleberry jam or the cinnamon roll bread pudding that pulls apart effortlessly with cream cheese frosting melting into every bite.
As delectable as the plates served at The Table are, what leaves a lasting impression is the heart behind it. Bray cares for his team like family and the community like a close friend. His cooks and wait staff sing his praises, claiming it’s unheard of in the restaurant industry to be so encouraging, kind, and calm.
“He makes time for us and builds us up to thrive. He makes me a better person, and I want to help him achieve his goals,” server Angelica Harvey said.
Bray’s interest in culinary arts found him while finishing his last year at Washington State University. While preparing simple bar food at the Cougar Cottage in Pullman, the Enumclaw-raised Bray discovered a passion that would alter the rest of his life. Armed with a degree in fine arts, he made his way to Olympia. He convinced a local diner to hire him, promising he would work harder and faster than anyone else. As years went on, he worked his way up in restaurants around the South Sound, including Stanley and Seafort’s and Adriatic Grill, both in Tacoma.
He also worked at the Rescue Mission as the food services coordinator, serving more than 800 people a day.
After two years at the Rescue Mission, he was back in the restaurant business, and nine months later was drawing up plans, creating menus, and scouting out a location for his first restaurant. He dreamed of a space that was centrally located in Tacoma, where strangers could become friends.
He opened The Table in July and began fundraising efforts with local nonprofits. By fall he helped raise $52,000 by auctioning off his time to cook exclusive meals in private residences, and the restaurant. He partners with other local chefs to help nonprofits, too.
“What sets Chef Derek apart is, as a young operator, he has his pulse on the business, the right approach, and he’s a great leader and teacher. He emanates passion for the community, which stems from his core beliefs,” Chef Matt Schweitzer of Marrow said. “He draws others in to participate with him; it’s contagious.”
One day Bray would like to teach culinary arts in local schools and manage a café where men and women hustling to rebuild their lives can learn the basics of the restaurant business.
“I’ve found a way to express my culinary and philanthropic passions,” Bray said. “The Table is a place to serve others, and meet needs of both the stomach and the heart.”
When You Go
2715 Sixth Avenue, Tacoma
Open 4-11 p.m.