The sophisticated Italian restaurant Marzano. The mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant Reyna’s. The now-defunct Cajun eatery From The Bayou. Parkland long has been a destination for interesting dining.
Here’s something even diehard foodies might not have on their radars for the neighborhood near Pacific Lutheran University: Parkland is enjoying another culinary awakening.
New Parkland restaurants give reasons to head to the land of the Lutes. There’s Bruno’s European restaurant, whose cabbage rolls I wrote about last week (the restaurant relocated to Parkland from Lakewood earlier this year). And in May, I wrote about Yummers, a funky new cupcake shop with irreverent flavor combinations and a solid student following.
Here are two more you should track: 208 Garfield, a restaurant operated by PLU with dishes that reminded me more of Manhattan than Tacoma; and Margret’s, a plucky, cute and hidden sandwich cafe with an emphasis on scratch cooking that recently was taken over by two culinary school graduates. Read on…
Where: 208 Garfield St. S., Parkland
Information: 253-538-5990 or www.208garfield.com
Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. Bar menu served 3 p.m. to closing weekdays, noon to closing weekends.
The menu reads Manhattan, the scene is casual Parkland. The coffee shop turned restaurant six months ago and has been an ever-evolving project under the direction of 1990 PLU grad Erin McGinnis. She also is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and oversees all campus eateries. The restaurant is not located on the campus but is operated by the university.
Despite a minor cosmetic makeover, 208 Garfield still shows its roots as a former Forza: Diners can order at the counter or take a seat for table service. Sit down and stay awhile was my preferred mode on two separate anonymous visits to the restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a wash of light in a modern space with polished concrete floors and an earthy color palette. McGinnis describes the menu as eclectic European. I saw glimmers of Spain and Italy colored with Northwest flavors and ingredients. McGinnis also draws Scandinavian influence.
By day, a panini sandwich menu beckons students short on time, but a “bar” menu kicks in at 3 daily. Don’t let the “bar” moniker dissuade you; you don’t have to be 21 to imbibe and the atmosphere is more modern coffeehouse than bar.
The small bites menu, priced at $5-$9.50, showcases a kitchen that pays attention to details. Each plate is a careful composition of color and flavor. Pork belly is a cut of meat that sounds foodie precious – I saw it all over trendy menus on a visit to New York City this spring – but it’s a cut of meat better known as bacon when cured and sliced into long strips. Pork belly ($7) is a caloric nightmare, so I was fine that it showed up in a velvety cube of just a few bites. The belly is slow braised in lard (how fitting!), and glazed with brown sugar, honey and mustard. What goes well with fat? Sharp and tart: A vinaigrette-dressed shaved fennel salad, a scoop of pickled mustard seeds and a spoonful of lingonberry preserves.
Two meaty bones of braised short ribs ($8) paired swimmingly with a generous mound of butter-fortified Yukon gold potatoes and a small salad of crisp greens. The kitchen deconstructed a beet “salad” ($6) into fork-tender sliced beets flanked by a few lightly dressed arugula leaves and a small wedge of Samish Bay Ladysmith Cheese, a silky fresh Washington-made cheese that might remind you of a drier, more firm ricotta salata (but not nearly as salty). The honey and black pepper on the cheese was a thoughtful and flavorful touch.
Fondue ($9.50) was a do-it-yourself affair. Saint Marcellin cheese was warmed in a ramekin and left whole in the rind – a little direction would have been nice from staff, but we figured out quickly that stirring the cheese turned it into fondue form. The pungent cheese (think brie with a hint of blue) found a sharp companion in sliced, tart green apples and pickled mustard seeds, and sweetness from cherry conserve. Cubes of chewy ciabatta provided a worthy cheese-dunking vessel.
Panini on the daytime sandwich menu come in interesting flavor combinations with prosciutto a prominent player (no complaints). A rosemary-kissed ham was paired with buttery Bel Paese cheese and red onion ($6), tuna salad got a makeover with white bean puree instead of mayo ($7), prosciutto was the meaty yin ($7) to the sweet yang of fig spread. All sandwiches come with a side salad of crisp greens dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.
Many restaurants pay lip service to serving Northwest grown or produced foods, but prying questions can reveal weak links to local purveyors. At 208 Garfield, McGinnis walks the talk. Chocolate sauce comes from Gig Harbor’s Trop’s. Cheese come from Samish Bay Cheese and Rogue Creamery. Bread is from Seattle’s Grand Central Bakery. They even have partnerships with local businesses. Pork belly and short ribs come from the Meat Shop of Tacoma.
Wine and beer trends micro local – six breweries and wineries have Tacoma and Lute ties; most notable is Wingman Brewers, a new Tacoma brewery with a PLU grad on staff. Benson Vineyards, Gard Vintners, Zerba Cellars, Mountain Dome Winery and Blue Mountain Cider Company all have Lute ties and are Northwest companies.
Where: 11812 Pacific Ave. S., Parkland
Information: 253-539-2711 or www.margretscafe.weebly.com
Hours: Lunch served 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, brunch served 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays and prix fixe dinners served 5-9 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays.
A little more than two months ago, Andrew Brooksher, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Seattle, purchased Margret’s from Patricia Rudd, who operated the soup-and-sandwich spot for four years, and for whom Brooksher previously worked. He now operates the 24-seat cute-and-bright cafe with Holly Uhde, who he met in culinary school.
Brooksher has put his own touches on the menu, which Rudd operated primarily as a sandwich cafe that was named after her mother. One of Brooksher’s touches is the recent offering of fixed price four-course dinners served Thursdays through Saturdays for $16 and featuring cafe food with European flair. Also under Brooksher’s watch, the cafe has switched from plastic plates to the more formal service of linen napkins and proper dishes, though there’s nothing stuffy about this cute cafe.
I have not yet given dinner or the brunch a try, but I stopped in for two lunch visits and the cafe’s from-scratch edict caught my attention.
Brooksher told me most of the sourdough, French and wheat breads are house baked. Mayo and salad dressings are from scratch.
Pecans and housemade mayo in a creamy-crunchy chicken salad sandwich ($7) was a step up from what could have been a staid offering on a croissant. A Reuben ($7) was puckery with a house-made Thousand Island deliciously heavy on crunchy pickles and perfectly grilled pastrami and Swiss. A burger ($6) was small but beefy big on flavor. The chicken mango salad ($8) with perfect pan-roasted chicken, crisp wild greens and a tart house-made raspberry vinaigrette would have been better if the mangoes weren’t from a jar, but they’re working on upgrading to fresh, Brooksher said.
Sandwiches are a la carte. From the sides menu, chili ($3 cup/$4 bowl) was thick with chunky bits of ground beef, threaded with kidney beans and chiles, and came with a smoky tomato and cinnamon flavor.
Finding the restaurant is a bit of a challenge because the storefront is obscured by a bus shelter. It’s sandwiched between a tattoo parlor and a pet food store. Parking is behind the building.