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

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Archives: Oct. 2010


Cliff House upstairs dining offers much to savor, but lunch needs some work

The scenic view from the dining room of the Cliff House Restaurant in Tacoma. Photo by Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer

Readers started calling within days of The Cliff House Restaurant’s closure last December. Then followed e-mails. More phone calls, then e-mails. Never have I received such an outpouring in response to a closure.

As many readers noted, the Cliff House long has been a Tacoma treasure. “A Browns Point landmark,” one caller lamented about the closure. “I loved going down there,” said Federal Way resident Mark McConnehey with dismay when he phoned after the restaurant shuttered. He wistfully recalled his habit of taking out-of-town visitors to the Cliff House to soak in the sweeping Commencement Bay views with the backdrop of downtown Tacoma and Mount Rainier. Read more »


Magical ribs: Get your paws on these pork lollipops at Porter’s Place in Tacoma. And a question: Where do you get your ribs?

The smoked pork ribs at Porter's Place Southern Cuisine & BBQ are supple, smoky and three-napkin good.

Southern barbecue and the Northwest aren’t necessarily synonymous. Finding restaurants here that serve slow-and-low authentic Southern style smoked meats is akin to finding El Salvadoran or French restaurants around the South Sound. They’re a rare find, and as soon as you find a good one, you should visit often to keep it smokin’.

This week, I’ve written about two new barbecue restaurants –Barrel No. 51 mobile barbecue trailer and Dowd’s BBQ & Southern Cuisine, a tiny startup located in a back corner of a Tacoma 76 station.

Those new restaurants join just a handful of other South Sound restaurants serving slow-and-low barbecue: Porter’s Place Southern Cuisine & BBQ, as well as longtime barbecue restaurants Warthog Barbecue Pit in Fife and Brank’s BBQ in Sumner. There’s also the Po-Boy & Bar-B-Q in Puyallup, Shorty’s Grub House in Federal Way, Bob’s Bar-B-Q Pit on the hilltop. Heading southward, there is South Bay Dickerson’s BBQ and the very popular Ranch House BBQ in Olympia.

I’m sure I’m missing a few others, and that’s where you come in.

YOUR TURN: Which restaurants in the South Sound (emphasis on SOUTH) make your favorite ribs, pulled pork, brisket? Where are they, and why should we eat there? I’m compiling a list for a story. Your input is needed. Please comment below.

Click “more” to see my hallmarks of a good barbecue restaurant, and to read about the ribs at Porter’s Place, a restaurant that has operated since 2005 near the Tacoma Dome (and on 72nd Avenue before that). Read more »


Market fresh: Hotel Murano Chef Matt Stickle draws inspiration and ingredients from Tacoma Farmers Market, which closes for the season Thursday

Cedar-wrapped duck was one special Bite Executive Chef Matt Stickle served as a weekly farmers market special at the restaurant located inside the Hotel Murano.

All summer and fall, I have been a “CC” line on a group email delivered to kitchen staff members at the Hotel Murano’s Bite Restaurant.

The emails from Executive Chef Matt Stickle almost always have the same subject line “Farmers Market Special.”

For months, Stickle has spent Thursdays sourcing ingredients at the Tacoma Broadway Farmers Market, which will operate its final Thursday market of the season tomorrow, Oct. 28, from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Ninth and Broadway.

When Stickle shopped, he wandered the stalls, talked to farmers and then returned to the Bite kitchen to craft really interesting specials that ranged from pheasant marinated in porter to ancho marinated skirt steak, cedar-wrapped duck breast and wild salmon with blackberry compound butter (with a paired blackberry martini). The highlight of my Thursday was clicking on Stickle’s emails to see what he was cooking. Now, you get a look, too. Click “more” to see a gallery of photos and descriptions of his farmers market specials from July to October. Also, read a Q&A with Stickle about incorporating seasonal, locally produced ingredients into the Bite’s menu. Read more »


Gas station barbecue? Don’t be scared. Dowd’s BBQ & Southern Cuisine in Tacoma serves sublime ribs

Pork ribs at Dowd's BBQ & Southern Cuisine offer supple, tender bite. They come glazed in a vinegary molasses sauce.

There are certain things I never would eat from a gas station. Sushi is at the top of that list along with deviled eggs. And I remember stopping at a gas station once and seeing “homemade lunch meat” haphazardly wrapped in plastic. It looked terrifying.

But, on occasion, gas stations yield unexpected surprises. Dowd’s BBQ & Southern Cuisine was my recent discovery. The tiny barbecue restaurant is in the back corner of the 76 gas station on Steele Street. A handful of tables offer seating for dining in. Read more »


Barbecue on wheels: Barrel No. 51 mobile restaurant relocates to Tacoma

Barrel No. 51 serves smoked pulled pork and chicken sandwiches at its new Lincoln neighborhood location.

Have wheels, will travel. Such is the culinary path for mobile restaurants like Barrel No. 51, a barbecue trailer that I first visited when it was serving sandwiches in the parking lot at American Lake park last summer.

Flash forward to October and the restaurant now has a new location in Tacoma’s Lincoln Business District just off 38th and M (near Safeway), and has a newly expanded menu with more smoked meat offerings. Read more »


Savor fresh Italian classics

Chef Franco Cannava shows off two of his top-selling dishes – cheese-stuffed ravoli with fresh asparagus and Dungeness crab (left) and veal Milanese with scampi – at Sorrento Ristorante Italiano in downtown Olympia. TONY OVERMAN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

By CRAIG SAILOR; Staff writer

Meet Franco Cannava. If you dine at his Olympia restaurant, Sorrento Ristorante Italiano, it’s pretty much a given. Sorrento is Cannava and vice versa.

Chances are he’ll greet you when you walk in, visit your table several times during your meal and toss you an “Arrivederci” as you leave.

Cannava, a native of Sicily, has spent his adult life in restaurants. His mother sent him to Sorrento, Italy, when he was 14 to stay out of trouble. He ended up living there for eight years and learned the craft that would define his life.

Since then, he’s worked in restaurants in Asia, Europe and local restaurants such as Tacoma’s Europa Bistro, where he was sous chef. He opened Sorrento six years ago in a corner spot on Legion Way, adjacent to Fish Brewing Co.
Read more »


Coffee collective: Amocat Cafe in Tacoma brews up community in food and drink. And soon it will make wine.

The Il Manzo roast beef panini, front, and Al Capone, rear, are sandwiches made by Europa Bistro in Proctor and served at Amocat Cafe on St. Helens.

I don’t know what I like best about Amocat Café, a newer coffee house that opened in June on St. Helens.

Is it that it’s a gathering place and showcase for artists and community? Is it because it has nooks and crannies perfect for meeting friends or talking business? Is it because of the truly delicious Europa Bistro sandwiches and salads in the refrigerator case? Is it because owner Morgan Alexander intends to make and sell his own wine?

I pick all of the above. Read more »


Fuse Cafe Imbibery & Events opens at Point Defiance Casino in Ruston

Fuse Café Imbibery and Events opened Saturday inside the Point Defiance Casino in Ruston. The restaurant is a small operation and will keep weekend-only hours for now. I had a brief conversation with owner Laurie Kimmel, formerly of Tacoma’s Il Fiasco, just before Fuse opened over the weekend and here’s what she had to say: Read more »