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First bite: Crockett’s Public House in Puyallup offers a mile-wide selection of comfort eats. And, yes, they have chicken and waffles

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on March 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm | 5 Comments »
March 11, 2011 3:09 pm
Juan Jimenez, executive chef at Crockett's Public House, shows off an order of fried chicken with cinnamon waffles served with maple syrup, butter and Louisiana hot sauce. Photo by Janet Jensen/Staff photographer

The third time I circled the same block in downtown Puyallup, I knew the restaurant was going to be packed. Crockett’s Public House opened Feb. 21 and has been inundated every time I’ve visited. It doesn’t help that the restaurant has limited parking. So expect to park and hoof it.

After a meal of chicken and waffles, I was thankful for that three-block jaunt after dinner. The food is not for the caloric timid. Mile-wide menu choices offer pub favorites with a backbone of comfort eating: steaks, fish and chips, burgers, melts, sandwiches, pasta and homestyle eats like slow-cooked short ribs and house-made meatballs. Kitsch shows up in the form of sloppy Joes and chicken and waffles. Presentations can be engaging and this is a place with a sense of humor. It’s a great place to dine with kids and friends. Bring grandma, too.

In an economy where diners hound me about value and low price points, the menu pricing will find fans. Melts, sandwiches and tacos cost as little as $6-$7 (and they come with a side), to burgers from $8-$11, entrees in the $11-$12 range, all the way up to $26 for the big steak, a 16-ounce ribyeye called “The Dude.”

The restaurant is the project of Shaun Brobak, who opened the nearby Trackside Pizza in 2006. Executive Chef Juan Jimenez met Brobak while both worked operations at the pizza chain Zeek’s, based in King County.

The restaurant’s name is an homage to Hugh Crockett, a founding father of Puyallup who was a hop farmer. That spirit of hopiness shows up in a menu of Northwest sourced beers: Snoqualmie Brewery, Diamond Knot, Schooner Exact and Mac & Jack’s among the local offerings. Other domestics and imports are served too, along with a full bar.

The space is cavernous and awkwardly narrow. Too-close seating and concrete floors do little to dampen the percussive swell of overwhelming noise when crowded. That either makes for a great and loud experience for friends, or a night of annoyance for diners who like peace and quiet. It’s a stylish dining room, with muted colors, funky chandeliers and bright lighting. An open kitchen means everything made to order is on display. The kitchen crew appeared unruffled on my visits; operating like a pleasantly choreographed dance. They were even joking and laughing when clearly they were overwhelmed with orders. It’s good to see a kitchen that doesn’t show the pressure, even if it’s feeling the pressure.

The service was spot-on friendly and attentive on two separate anonymous visits, although waits between courses stretched painfully long. The new restaurant is still finding its footing, so be patient or wait to visit. There may be another good reason for the long waits for food; much of the menu features house-made food – meatballs, cole slaw, hand-cut French fries, house-made chili, and sauces and dressings. It seemed every time my dining partners asked questions about the menu, the answer was “We make that in house.” I liked that answer and I don’t hear it enough. I also know that making food from scratch isn’t fast. For that, I’m patient.

From the appetizer menu, roasted oysters ($13) were gently roasted, kissed with a butter sauce, but marred by annoying pieces of crunchy shells. From the sandwich/tacos/melts menu, the Mexico City Street Taco ($6) was a bargain: A griddled flour tortilla stuffed with chili-spiked chicken with a mouth full of zing from a swipe of spicy chipotle mayo (beware spice haters). Pico de gallo and cabbage gave the taco cool crunch, as did a side of house-made lettuce and cabbage slaw barely touched with a creamy dressing.

From the burger menu, the green chili cheeseburger ($9) proved a great value with a hefty toasted bun stacked with lettuce, tomato, roasted poblanos, onions and a well-seasoned patty slathered with melted pepper jack. The same taco chipotle aioli gave a tease of heat. Hand-cut fries were crispy good.

From the entrée menu, chicken and waffles ($16) is a funny food trend in the southern part of the United States, but not a dish we see much here in South Sound restaurants. Crispy waffles smelled strongly of cinnamon, topped with four pieces of fried chicken holding crispy, salty jackets full of hefty crunch. I don’t even like fried chicken, and this was really good. Butter, maple syrup and hot sauce comes on the side for slathering or dipping as you see fit.

Grilled sirloin ($18) made my eyes roll into the back of my head, the crusty char on the exterior was perfectly executed on the medium-rare steak that arrived as ordered. Salty, herbed butter (maybe too salty) finished the steak, which came with a funky metal cup filled with a vertical tangle of crispy hand-cut fries. The cup wasn’t just for funny kicks – it kept the fries from getting soggy from the steak juice and butter – an appreciated touch. Everybody hates soggy fries.

Meatballs ($11) missed my flavor mark – a far too peppery marinara sauce overwhelmed the hefty meatballs, made from a perfect meat trifecta of ground beef, veal and sausage. And serving meatballs in a marinara sauce without spaghetti should be a crime against dining humanity. Tiny pieces of garlic cheese toast on the side did nothing to sop up the sauce.

Portions are impressive here, which made dessert on my visits a no-go, but I’ll return for the house-made fudge brownie with Olympic Mountain ice cream.

Crockett’s Public House
Where: 118 E. Stewart, Puyallup
Phone: 253-466-3075
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Here is the menu:

NOTE: Some menu prices have changed.

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