I expected flat panel televisions aplenty at a sports-focused restaurant such as The Office Bar & Grill.
But Lou Reed from the speakers was a nice surprise.
Not that I’m complaining about digging on “Walk on the Wild Side” as I dug into my risotto. Unfortunately, I wasn’t so wild about the risotto.
The restaurant opened Aug. 6 and is the project of business partners Matthew Henderson and Travis Scheff. This is the first restaurant for Scheff, who grew up in a restaurant family in North Dakota; the second for Henderson, who owns a sub shop in West Seattle.
The menu is a mix of kill-your-diet eats heavy on burgers, bacon and cheese, with most burgers and sandwiches falling solidly in the under $10-and-worth-it price category.
The restaurant barely resembles its former life as Il Trattoria Di Merende, save for the exposed-brick walls. High-set tables and chairs span the dining room, with plenty of seating at a cozy-up-to-me bar. You can barely turn your head 45 degrees without eyes hitting a flat panel. A Mariners game was the center attraction at a packed lunchtime visit.
A visit during the first full week of operation showed a scrambling restaurant. Service was annoyingly slow despite a mostly empty restaurant, napkins and silverware didn’t appear until we asked about them, appetizer and entreés irritatingly arrived within moments of one other.
The food suffered more misses than hits. A spinach-and-jalapeno artichoke dip appetizer ($7.99) paired a small portion of dried-out dip with too many greasy, fried pita chips. A flat-flavored mushroom-and-zucchini risotto ($12.99) was more fluffy pilaf than creamy risotto and drenched in oil that held none of the promised balsamic flavor.
The burgers on that visit held a glimmer of the restaurant’s promise. A Southwest chicken burger ($8.99) with smoky roasted poblano peppers, avocado, melted jack and cheddar was flavor-zapped with a tasty cilantro lime spread. The signature Office burger ($9.99) was a delicious juicy hand-formed patty with a swipe of roasted red pepper mayo, smoked cheddar (unfortunately unmelted), sautéed onions, bacon and a dose of snappy, sweet slaw. But sides failed: a balsamic-dressed side salad wilted limp from a hot plate and sweet-potato fries were crunchy and undercooked.
A second visit two weeks later showed vast improvement in service, pacing and food. Fried mac and cheese ($5.99) were puffy, beer-
battered balls that broke to macaroni with a gooey, cheesy bite inside. Burger construction is something The Office gets right – mushroom ($9.99) and regular cheese ($7.99) burgers arrived with crunchy, grilled buns that stayed sturdy to the end. The mushroom burger had just the right ratio of sautéed shrooms to gooey Swiss. Both burgers were finished with green leaf lettuce, crispy slices of tomatoes, pickles and onions.
A turkey melt ($8.99) was stacked high with thin layers of grilled turkey breast, melted Swiss, chewy bacon, tomatoes and green leaf lettuce, along with a healthy smear of mayo on crunchy grilled sourdough. Sides this time pleased: balsamic dressed mixed greens with crunchy fresh raddichio and frisee. Skins-on fries were crispy with a creamy interior.
Where: 813 Pacific Ave., Tacoma
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Sundays-Thursdays and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays
Contact: 253-572-3222 or www.theofficeonpacific.com
Tip for cheapos: $5 off coupon on the website now. Also, bargain happy hour daily from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-11 p.m.
Note: All guests must be 21 or older.