TNT Diner

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

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Archives: March 2010


First bite: Thrill of the Grill on Tacoma Avenue

The blue cheese bacon burger at Thrill of the Grill.

Dave Rector’s first piece of Coca Cola memorabilia was a mirror his mother bought for him at an estate sale more than 25 years ago. That mirror hangs in the dining room of the Thrill of the Grill, the tiny walk-in burger restaurant he and wife Anita Rector opened four months ago on Tacoma Avenue. They’re just a few blocks from another newly opened restaurant, Hot Rod Dog. I’d say that block now has burgers and dogs covered.

Tucked onto shelves that span the small dining room of the Thrill of the Grill, dozens of other Coca Cola collectibles catch a diner’s eye – from old bottles of the famous soda pop to toys carrying the Coca Cola logo. The collection once filled an entire room of the couple’s Spanaway home. They sold that house to fund the Coca Cola theme burger diner. Read more »


More sushi spin in Puyallup: Sushi Station coming to Sunrise Village

A second conveyor belt sushi restaurant is coming to South Hill this spring.

Sushi Station will open in the Sunrise Village Shopping Center, which also is home of the Ram brewery restaurant. Sushi Station’s opening comes on the heels of the December opening of Sushi Land, a conveyor belt restaurant that opened just a few miles away, also on Meridian. I wrote about that restaurant’s opening here.

Manager David Lim and owner Gi Hwan Chon will operate Sushi Station. Read more »


It’s cold and rainy. Get yourself a bowl of Irish stew.

Guinness brased Irish beef stew with white and wheat soda bread at Paddy Coyne’s Irish Pub in Tacoma. Photo by Peter Haley/Staff photographer

Irish stew seems surface simple. Meat, potatoes, maybe some carrots, some kind of Guinness-based gravy to pull it all together.

That’s Irish stew.

Not so fast.

“It’s always the simple things that are the hardest,” said Ted Furst, a consulting chef who developed the recipe for Irish stew at Paddy Coyne’s Irish pub in Tacoma, one of a handful of local restaurants that serve Irish food in a pub atmosphere.

There are as many ways to make Irish stew as there are to make home-cooked favorites such as chicken and dumplings or pot roast. Some say Irish stew should start with browned beef, while traditionalists might insist it be lamb or that it should be boiled in the style of a white stew. It’s a hodgepodge recipe that has been twisted, bent and refined to fit so many palates, who’s to know what’s authentic anymore. Read more »


First bite: Mona Pizza and Pasta on Sixth

The Mona Special at Mona Pizza and Pasta, a restaurant that opened last week on Sixth Avenue.

Mona Pizza and Pasta opened last week on Sixth Avenue in the space that formerly housed Opa, the Greek restaurant I wrote about here and here.

This is the first restaurant venture for Asya Alendar, who lives in Seattle, but she grew up in a restaurant family. Her father owned and operated Italian restaurants in Bulgaria.

In keeping with the food her father served, Alendar said the food at Mona is hand crafted. The pastas, she said, are made fresh daily in the kitchen, as are the sauces. Read more »


A life of spice: Profile of Anne Buck of Olympia’s Buck’s Fifth Avenue

Anne Buck doesn’t consider herself a foodie, even though her Olympia spice store, Buck’s Fifth Avenue, is deeply important to people who cook for fun and profession.

She balks at the title of businesswoman. She thinks of herself as an innovator. “I saw a need and I filled it,” said Buck, who has owned and operated Buck’s in downtown Olympia since 1973.

It’s a one-of-a-kind store in the region: a shop devoted to spices, and nothing else, save for a few kitchen implements.

Read my full profile here
of Anne Buck and her wonderfully

Read more »


Old Town Pie Company opening delayed

The Desserted Island Pie from the Seattle Pie Company. Photo by Janet Jensen/Staff photographer

Permits and details are taking longer than expected for the Old Town Pie Company to open on schedule this month. The pie store and cafe is the Tacoma outpost of the Seattle Pie Company that I wrote about in February. Click more to read the details about the opening date. Read more »


This weekend’s Burgerville Nomad visit delayed

This just into my inbox: The visit of the Burgerville Nomad burger truck to Tacoma that I reported about here has been delayed. The Nomad still will come to the Mobile Chowdown competition March 13 in Seattle, but there isn’t time to make a stop in Tacoma, say the Nomad folks. Click more to see what the email I got about when they will visit Tacoma. Read more »


Paninis without pain: Villa Caffe & Imbibery offers scrumptious sandwiches

Villa Caffe & Imbibery of Tacoma Co-owner Robyn Murphy, left, checks with lunch patrons Whitney Park, (with back to camera), and Melissa Pope, right. Murphy and Co-owner Jason Alexander, say they will use local suppliers, organic and natural ingredients, to create a fresh menu of in house creations. Dean J. Koepfler / Staff photographer

I call them mouth bruisers.

Crusty paninis so brittle and crisp, they’ll scrape the roof of your mouth. Nobody should risk a mouth injury while eating a sandwich. Paninis are on menus all over town and there’s a good reason for that. The panini grill is a convenient piece of kitchen equipment. It makes a gooey, grilled sandwich with little tending, but requires good timing.

And that’s where some restaurants derail: timing. Too long on the press and the crust becomes too crunchy; the interior so compressed, the ingredients are no longer individual components. Paninis for me are best when there’s a fair ratio between ingredients and a separation between the layers. I still want to be able to identify the spinach on a mozzarella-ham panini, I don’t want it to become a slimy layer of Army green disaster between meat and cheese.

At Villa Caffe & Imbibery, a nearly two-month-old restaurant located near the Greater Tacoma Convention Center, the paninis are pillowy soft, with separation and distinguishable layers. The bread is kissed, but not overly compressed by the panini grill. The grill marks are there, but there are not crunchy, mouth-bruising peaks and valleys. In the kitchen is someone who knows how to craft a sandwich.
Villa Caffe owner and chef Robyn Murphy uses as her foundation the soft and airy panino roll from Essential Baking Company, a Seattle bakery with a mission statement to bake organic. Read more »