Peterson Brothers 1111 – or the Eleven Eleven as the tavern is nicknamed – opened six weeks ago and already is gaining a reputation as a fun neighborhood joint (like the Parkway) that makes excellent sandwiches (like Doyle’s) and attracts an eclectic crew of Tacomans (like The Swiss).
A true Tacoma story: The bar was born at The Swiss. Twins Justin and Robby Peterson were having a beer at that Tacoma bar when they were approached about leasing the building at 1111 S. 11th St. The address full of elevens humored them. The neighborhood was one with which they were familiar – the brothers have eaten at Thai Garden since they were kids and know the neighborhood as one full of interesting food – LeLe, Quickie Too, Bob’s Bar-B-Q, Thai Garden, Pho Bac, the Fish House, Johnson Candy Company and so many more.
Two popular Hilltop bars also seemed good neighbors. “It’s an eclectic neighborhood, it’s owner-operated bars. You have the care from the owners – they’re there working every day,” said Justin Peterson by phone. He was referring to Chris Langston, owner of 1022 South, the acclaimed Hilltop lounge that has been written up in the New York Times for its apothecary cocktails and Tempest, the funky-stylish neighborhood destination with owner Denise Tempest behind the bar.
And one more is on the way to the Hilltop neighborhood. Broken Spoke, a new bar from local artist Ben Davis, is expected to open later this summer. His place next to the Vietnamese restaurant LeLe will serve sandwiches, craft beer in cans and will double as a working art studio.
The Peterson brothers have ties all over Tacoma’s bar scene. The brothers worked at The Swiss and Hell’s Kitchen. Their kitchen manager and chef, Mike Parker, is the former kitchen manager at the Top of Tacoma – a McKinley neighborhood destination with a truly interesting bar menu.
“We were talking about exactly what we wanted to create. We were talking about sandwiches and a comfortable bar modeled after a dive bar – small and comfortable, but somewhere where you want to eat at,” said Justin by phone.
They nailed that – all the way down to the wooden bar that they installed themselves. It’s made from wood harvested from the old Nalley pickle factory. The space is long and narrow and full of tongue-in-cheek humor. A creepy clown head, vintage comic book covers, an old Olympia beer sign and a mounted deer head loom over gritty Tacomans whose drink of choice appear to be tall-boy cans of Rainier, Olympia, Pabst and Hamms ($2.50 a can). It’s a bar to see and be seen – and full of bearded young hipsters, which has got to be the most sweltering summer fashion statement ever seen in Tacoma.
Parker has created a menu of grilled sandwiches, pastas and salads. They get the sandwiches just right.
The Cuban ($8.50) was a flavor-walloped porky masterpiece with pork shoulder that was slow cooked overnight in a citrus bath flavored with cumin and oregano. The grilled hoagie sandwich got a double porky punch from sliced ham and a puckery finish with pickle slices and Dijon mustard tempered with a touch of honey. What gave it the garlicky thump? Whole garlic cloves cooked with the pulled pork that Parker mashed into a garlicky spread.
The Reuben ($8.50) was built on something I’ve never seen in a restaurant here – a marble rye hoagie. Parker said it’s a custom bread from a Kent bakery. Why a hoagie? For consistency with all the other hoagie sandwiches, said Parker. He grilled the thin-sliced pastrami and the sauerkraut separately, melted Swiss over that, then stuffed it into a marble rye hoagie smeared with garlic butter and grilled. The pop in the housemade Thousand Island dressing came from the addition of horseradish, said Parker.
The meatball hoagie ($8.50) was tasty – if not a bit mushy – and made from a beef-pork meatball braised for two hours in a housemade marinara.
All sandwiches are served with chips.
More food on the Hilltop: Like the Lincoln District and South Tacoma Way, the Hilltop is home to eclectic eateries. Here’s a review of 10 restaurants in that neighborhood.
Peterson Brothers 1111/The Eleven Eleven
Where: 1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma, 253-284-1111
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily
Note: This tavern is 21 and older only
Our pledge to readers: Sue Kidd dines anonymously and The News Tribune pays for all meals. Reach her at 253-597-8270 or email@example.com