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

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Archives: Feb. 2009


Meals by the mile: Ten Mexican restaurants in East Tacoma

Jaime Beltran the owner of Taqueria La Fondita holds a plate of pork tacos in front of his taco truck on the corner of South 38th and South G Streets in Tacoma. Janet Jensen/The News Tribune

Editors note: Come along as we eat our way through the heart of Tacoma’s Mexican food neighborhood in another installment of our 10 restaurants-in-1-mile series where we visit 10 restaurants in a compact area. This week, we eat our way around McKinley and Pacific.

By Sue Kidd and Craig Sailor

Over the years, we’ve beaten a well-worn path from The News Tribune headquarters to Mexican eateries, such as Vuelve a la Vida on Pacific Avenue, the taco truck on South 38th Street and the old El Compadre on McKinley Avenue.

After countless burritos we began to notice something: When we said, "Let’s get Mexican!" we always headed to the same places. That’s not to say you can’t get a good south-of-the-border meal elsewhere in our area, but there is a clear concentration of Mexican restaurants in East Tacoma.

For this edition of our 10-in-one restaurant series, we look at Mexican eateries in the area from South 38th to South 56 streets, and from Pacific Avenue to McKinley Avenue. Okay, we had to stretch our 1-mile radius to snag a couple of other restaurants, but we’re hoping you won’t call us on that.

(Read our last installment of Meals by the Mile, the South Tacoma Way edition, published in October)

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Test driving Starbucks Via

Starbucks was handing out free packets of its new instant coffee, dubbed Via. I’m a caffeine addict and coffee snob, eager to try any new variation of the sacred bean.

The packet is tiny, not really feeling like a dollar’s worth of coffee. Dumping it into my favorite ceramic mug, it looked like finely ground coffee. Not Folgers-crystally at all. It had a very nice coffee aroma and dissolved instantly (!) after adding hot water from the office water station.

I did add more than the recommended 8 ounces. It was

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Infinite Soups turns two

Laura Adams with Cuban Black Bean(big cup), Senegal Stew(medium), and Ajiaco(small).Infinite Soups is located in downtown Tacoma. Lui Kit Wong/The News Tribune

Happy birthday to Infinite Soups, which marks its second year in business Saturday.

They’ve got plans to celebrate. "Come get a cupcake," said Wendy Clapp, who owns the Tacoma takeout soup restaurant with husband Todd DeShazo and Clapp’s daughter Laura Adams.

Last year, they gave away 60 Corina cupcakes to mark their first anniversary and ran out of the cupcakes quickly. This year, they ordered 150 – although Clapp and DeShazo just realized the anniversary falls on a Saturday, a typically slower day for the small restaurant that only sells soup. Clapp says come one, come all for soup this Saturday. They offer more than a dozen kinds of soup every day –in fact, that’s all they sell is soup. Although it’s a micro-focused concept to sell soup and only soup, the business has become successful enough that the three now plan to expand.

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Drop-In Dining: Jake’s Bar and Bistro in Steilacoom

Jake Hathcock, owner of Jake’s Bistro in Steilacoom enjoys micro brews and good food including appetizers crab artichoke dip, left, and sundried tomato pesto tenderloin tips, center. Dean J. Koepfler / The News Tribune.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Drop-In Dining is a restaurant dining report where reporters drop in unannounced and sample the food, on TNT’s dime, then report what the scene and the food were like. Have a suggestion for a Drop-In Dining feature? E-mail us at

Jake’s Bar and Bistro
WHERE: 215 Wilkes St., Steilacoom
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
CONTACT: 253-581-3300, www.jakesbarandbistro.comcq
PRICES: $-$$ (entrees under $30)

By Sue Kidd

Jake Hathcock knows that spending $10 or $12 on a single bottle of extreme beer at a bottle shop can give some beer fans pause. Will they like it? Is it worth the price?

His advice: Come to his upscale beer pub in Steilacoom – Jake’s Bar and Bistro – and plop down $5 or $6 to taste and decide for yourself.

Hathcock is a fan of extreme beers – those flavor-packed high-octane beers (sometimes with elevated alcohol content) that appeal to beer enthusiasts. Extreme beer has a cult following, with the trend capturing national attention. As Beer Advocate magazine describes it, extreme beer "exceeds the ordinary, usual or expected."

Extreme beer is full of flavor and it makes sense to pair the big-taste beers with upscale eats. Beer-centric pubs around the country are doing it, and so is Hathcock.

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In search of pierogi: meat-filled deliciousness at Friendly Foods

Friendly Foods on Center Street in Tacoma sells three or four different kinds of pirozhky.

I caught just a brief mention of pierogi on a food show a month or so ago. It was enough to get me intrigued with making that at home.

And so I launched Project Pierogi. Or Project Piroshky. Or Project Piroghi. There are a lot of ways to spell and make meat and vegetable stuffed vessels. Update alert! Until recently, ahem, I knew little about the differences between all these meat-filled vessels. Readers have told me about the difference between pierogi (boiled meat vessels, dumpling like) and piroshky (fried meat vessels, turnover like), and have given me a big list of all the versions of all kinds of Eastern European meat vessels (there are many). A dozen readers have offered me recipes for pierogi, piroshky, piroghi and __ (insert various names and variations there) and I intend to share them with you in a story. I love that when you know little about something, TNT readers line up to tell you what you need to know. And give recipes for it. Lots of recipes. I love recipes. Please send me recipes.

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Burgerville comes to Tacoma, too

First, Sonic – now Burgerville. The burger scene in South Sound is about to get really meaty.

TNT business columnist Dan Voelpel reports today that Burgerville is the latest burger chain with a cult following (me included) to eye Tacoma for a location. No announcements yet on locations, but company officials said they are coming to the Tacoma-Olympia market this year.

Read it here in Voelpel’s column in today’s News Tribune.

If you’ve never made the 50-mile track to Centralia, where the closest Burgerville is located, you are missing out on burger joy. My

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Drop-In Dining: Massimo Italian Bar and Grill in Purdy

Massimo Terracciano, owner and chef of Massimo Bar and Grill with a involtini marsala dish. Lui Kit Wong/The News Tribune

EDITOR’S NOTE: Drop-In Dining is a restaurant dining report where reporters drop in unannounced and sample the food, on TNT’s dime, then report what the scene and the food were like. Have a suggestion for a Drop-In Dining feature? E-mail us at

Massimo Italian Bar and Grill
Where: 13802 Purdy Drive N.W., Gig Harbor; 253-514-6237
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to closing daily, twilight menu specials 3:30-5:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday
Prices: $-$$ (entrees under $30)

By Jeffrey P. Mayor

The scene: You have to start with the view, looking down Henderson Bay, when you visit Massimo Italian Bar and Grill. The row of red taillights from the steady stream of commuters heading out to the Key Peninsula helped highlight the Purdy Spit. The line of cars made us happy to be seated at our table and not behind the wheel.

Inside, the decor is neutral and understated, with tan walls and white trim offering a clean look. A gas fireplace gives one seating area an added touch. There are five high-definition TVs – two in the bar and three in one of the dining areas. We were seated in an area without a TV but could still hear its cheering soccer fans. Tables might be better option for larger patrons as our booth was tight.

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