TNT Diner

Good eats and drinks around Tacoma, Pierce County and South Puget Sound

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Archives: 2008


Soup for what ails you

It’s cold and flu season, and it seems to have bitten much of TNT staff (me included, I’ve been out since last week).

Soup is what I seek when I’m sick. If you’re ailing and looking for the same, my picks to help feed your cold:

Corn chowder at Alt Heidelberg. If I hadn’t been nailed with this terrible virus, I would have had a dining report today of the new German restaurant Alt Heidelberg (watch for it next Friday). Last week, I ordered the corn chowder at Alt Heidelberg and it was close to the

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“I’ll drink to that”

I saw an obituary for Peggy Fulton in today’s TNT. The header was “I’ll drink to that.”

The obit said Fulton’s and her late husband Ken’s happiest days were spent owning and operating “The Flame” restaurant “where no one stayed a stranger for very long.”

They sound like a great couple.

I did some quick research on The Flame but came up empty. I asked a couple of our old timers here and they vaguely remembered the restaurant but couldn’t say where it was.

Anybody out there remember it?


California dreamin’

I’ve just returned to Tacoma from a few days in central California where I traveled on the cheap by mooching off relatives. Hey, times are tough.

I helped myself to Meyer lemons, persimmons (top photo), pomegranates and a few leftover wine grapes right off vines. I also picked a bunch of olives (bottom photo) to try my hand at home curing. I’ll let you know if they turn out.

I ate at some great Mexican and Ethiopian joints but the highlight of the trip was a day spent wine tasting in the growing appellation of Paso Robles. If you haven’t heard of it yet you will. There are now over 200 wineries operating in the area. Gigantic facilities were going up and vineyards were being planted wherever I looked.

Click below to read more about it and some interesting California dining trends here.

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Tacoma’s venerable Shakabrah thrives under new owners

Tacoma transplant Tina Kalinowski just couldn’t sit by and watch as her favorite neighborhood cafe went belly up.

So in late October, she rallied her husband, Caesar, and some friends – Jeff and Jayne Vanderstelt – and together they bought Shakabrah Java, a pioneer business that helped launch the revival of Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue business district in the early 1990s.

Kalinowski, who owned a banquet hall back in Illinois, moved to the Sixth Avenue neighborhood in 2004 and promptly fell in love with Shakabrah’s funky hippie-dippy atmosphere, blueberry pancakes and "magical" potatoes.

"We bought it because we

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Massimo and Merende: Two Italian restaurants open

Life is good. Two Italian restaurants have opened just in time for the holiday noshing season.

Merende opened today.

Massimo opened yesterday.

We’ve written plenty about Merende here, here and here, the small plates Italian restaurant with Jeff Bishop as the top toque, but we haven’t reported on Massimo, which quietly took over the old Beach House at Purdy building after a short-lived wings and pizza restaurant poofed in the middle of the night.

I stopped in to talk to owners Massimo and Cindy Terracciano today, and to confirm that, yes, the view is still pretty spectacular. Click “read more” for their story.

The restaurants are located at:

Merende: 813 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-722-1993,

Massimo: 13802 Purdy Drive Northwest, Gig Harbor; 253-514-6237,

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Southern Kitchen, welcome to Fern Hill

Gloria Martin, owner of Sixth Avenue’s Southern Kitchen, has good news for neighbors in the Fern Hill neighborhood. She plans to open a café concept there, also called Southern Kitchen, sometime in the spring.

She is purchasing the small house that formerly operated as the Fern Hill Coffee Shop (it closed in November) at 8310 S. Park Ave. Her interest in the building was because of the yard and its homey appeal, among other things. "I want to grow herbs there in the garden," she said on the phone just a few minutes ago. Her love of the house, and its architecture, and the small Park Avenue neighborhood is evident. She believes her cafe will be a good addition to what’s already there.

"It’s the cutest little neighborhood. I just love it. It looks like a little downtown," she said.

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Cheesy competition

The Bayview School of Cooking, located at Bayview Thriftway in Olympia, wants your recipe for grilled cheese. Click read more for contest rules.

The best grilled cheese I’ve made lately was a panini I made with thin slices of Fuji apples, havarti cheese and homemade focaccia bread.

What’s yours?

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A reader in search of tamales

Photo by Janet Jensen/The News Tribune

TNT Diner reader Olemag asks in the You Plate Special thread, “But WHERE ARE THE REAL TAMALES?”

When I think of good tamales, I think of Vuelve a la Vida on Pacific. A few years ago I was invited to a gourmand potluck with chefs, sommeliers, food writers – completely lovable, but snobbish food elitists, all of them. The theme was “best Mexican ever.” I presented a tray of Vuelve’s tamales. I didn’t even get one, they flew off the table in a tamales flurry. My friends pledged allegiance to Vuelve.

TNT Diner readers agree with the lure of Vuelve. Here’s what they said:

TNT Diner reader kalvyn:
If you like Mexican food, and you’ve not yet eaten at Vuelve A La Vida, do so immediately if not sooner. Thursdays are homemade chiles relleno night. Don’t do on those nights, so I’ll have some chiles left for us when we get there!
For what it’s worth, I’ve been to Mexico twice in the last few years. I’ve STILL not had better Mexican food than what you get at Vuelve, even in Mexico!

TNT Diner reader steilacoomtaxpayer: I totally agree with you,kalvyn, Vuelve A La Vida cannot be surpassed in T-Town, or anywhere in a radial 100 miles (thus falling short of Yakima, though they would have a real go at it there). Wow! That is good Mexican food.

YOUR TURN: Where do you get your tamales? Click the read more button to see a few places around town that serve tamales (it’s not a complete list).

My standards: a good ratio of sauce to masa, with an ample amount of meat inside. I like a small sting of spice in the sauce. And a lightly sweet corn flavor to the masa. What are your tamales standards?

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