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Brunch battle: Ruston waterfront showdown at C.I. Shenanigans and the Lobster Shop

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on June 8, 2012 at 12:01 am | No Comments »
June 25, 2012 9:24 am
Jack Livingston's father dishes up some salmon at the Sunday brunch buffet at The Lobster Shop on Tacoma's waterfront. Photo by Peter Haley/Staff photographer

This is a tale of two brunches. A showdown on the Ruston waterfront. A smackdown of omelets and prime rib carving stations. Whose bloody Mary reigns supreme?

The winner is … well, it’s a tie.

Two Ruston waterfront restaurants – C.I. Shenanigans and the Lobster Shop – are on equal footing for elegant Sunday brunch buffets. It’s the season for special-occasion dining and both make ideal upscale destinations for Father’s Day, graduation celebrations or a pre-wedding function. They’re both wide on selection, high in quality and come with beautiful surroundings. They’re both sure to please even persnickety foodists. (The pricetag is equally persnickety.)

Even your mother-in-law will be impressed.
Well, maybe.

Beth Cavanaugh of Portland (left) and her friend Jenny Jacobs of Tacoma dish up in the Sunday brunch buffet at C.I. Shenanigans on Tacoma's waterfront. Photo by Peter Haley/Staff photographer

C.I. Shenanigans
Where: 3017 Ruston Way, Tacoma; 253-752-8811
Brunch served: 9:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m. every Sunday. $26.99 per person for adults ($24.99 for seniors; $9.99 for kids 6-10; kids 5 and younger pay $1 per year). Reservations recommended.

This is just one section of the bloody Mary bar, which is impressive. Build your own drink, the bartender adds the booze. There's a surcharge.

Standard every week: Made-to-order omelets and crepes, a carving station with ham and roast beef, chilled seafood, bagels and lox, waffles, French toast, salads, egg and potato breakfast items, bacon and sausage, serve-yourself Bloody Mary bar, multi-tiered dessert bar, serve-yourself yogurt bar, pastries, fresh fruit, vegetables.
What changes: A handful of hot and cold dishes are changed to reflect a theme, from American to Asian.

What they do best: Omelets made to order with clarified butter tasted absolutely decadent. Made-to-order crepes came in a half-dozen fruity flavors; get the cheese blintz, but skip the apple (which tasted straight out of a can). Crab legs were perfect, sweet and fresh. Potatoes and eggs were texturally impressive despite being held in a warming dish. The Bloody Mary bar is a build-your-own deal for a surcharge; available ingredients include pickled vegetables, pepperoni sticks, bacon salt, olives and onions galore. The bartender pours the booze.

These crab shell slicers are handy.

Appreciated touch: Crab leg slicers that zip through shells like a letter opener.
Carving station: Roast beef was a touch chewy, ham was fork tender.
Salads: Salad bar, pasta salads, and salads with international flavors.
Chilled seafood: Oyster shooters, crab legs, lox, chilled clams, peeled prawns.
Dessert: Mini-cupcakes, bread pudding, apple crumble and single portion servings of cakes, bars and creamy concoctions.
The surroundings: Spectacular views of the Ruston waterfront and Commencement Bay.
Service: The front desk seemed removed, but the serving staff was warm and ever present. Glasses never sat empty.

The Lobster Shop
Where: 4015 Ruston Way, Tacoma; 253-759-2165 (another location in Dash Point, but not reviewed for this post)
Brunch: Served 9:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m. every Sunday. $25.95 per person for adults ($22.95 for seniors, $12.95 for kids 6-12, 5 and younger eat free). Reservations highly recommended.

Bagels and lox are served every Sunday.

Standards every week: Made-to-order omelet and crepe waffle stations, carving station with prime rib and ham, chilled seafood, bagels and lox, waffles, salads, hot entrees, pasta dishes, egg and potato breakfast items, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, dessert bar with a chocolate fountain, fresh fruit, vegetables.

What changes: Hot and cold dishes with regional themes, from American to Asian to Italian. Food is grouped by region.

What they do best: The chilled seafood selection makes the Lobster Shop a destination, with an 8-foot display of crab legs, smoked mussels, lox, smoked salmon, prawns, crawfish, Ahi poke, oyster shooters and ceviche. The seafood tasted fresh, save for a few musty crab pieces. Soft biscuits with a cream sausage gravy were melt-in-your-mouth amazing. Corned beef with potato wedges came punched with mustard seeds. Don’t miss the gregarious guy cooking at the omelet station who turns out fluffy masterpieces. Canoe-shaped crisp waffles are worth the wait – the accompanying fruit sauces come with whole blueberries and raspberries. Made-to-order Eggs Benedict, with ham, florentine or smoked salmon, were tasty with a lemony Hollandaise and leaked yolky rivers on a second try (the first try was rubbery, so we asked for a do-over). Order those from your server.

A dessert bar also has a chocolate fountain.

Carving station: Juicy prime rib, sweet ham.
Salads: A larger selection here with pasta salads, olive medleys and fresh fruit. Salads were fussily arranged in attractive displays.
Dessert bar: Single-serving desserts heavy on lemon with a chocolate fountain and plenty of dipping vessels.
The surroundings: Tiered seating offers endless Ruston waterfront and bay views from nearly every table, with deck seating, too.
Service: Perfect from entry to exit, with seasoned veterans.

Our pledge to readers: Sue Kidd dines anonymously and all meals are paid for by The News Tribune.

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