TNT Diner

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

Archives: Jan. 2013

Jan.
18th

The smoke, the oven, the pasta – Primo Grill delivers polished fare from its bustling display kitchen

Charlie McManus, executive chef and co-owner of Primo Grill with wife Jacqueline Plattner, prepares seared Alaskan sea scallops, potato gratin, broccoli, citrus tarragon beurre blanc. In the foreground is steamed Kamilche Farms mussels (from near Shelton) with chive curry cream.Peter Haley / Staff photographer
Charlie McManus, executive chef and co-owner of Primo Grill with wife Jacqueline Plattner, prepares seared Alaskan sea scallops, potato gratin, broccoli, citrus tarragon beurre blanc. In the foreground is steamed Kamilche Farms mussels (from near Shelton) with chive curry cream.
Peter Haley / Staff photographer

When Primo Grill opened in 1999 off Sixth Avenue, it was just ahead of a period of openings that turned Sixth into Tacoma’s destination for dining and nightlife.  If you call Primo Grill anything, it should be the patriarch of Sixth Avenue. That makes husband-wife owners Charlie McManus and Jacqueline Plattner the parental unit of that neighborhood. Their broadly interpreted Mediterranean restaurant – home to a display kitchen and fruitwood-fired oven and grill – is a mature eatery nestled in a newish eating district big on dining choices and frenetic nightlife, but light on restaurants that appeal to the wine-and-dine-me crowd the way Primo Grill does. Read more »

Jan.
18th

Q&A: Charlie McManus and Jacqueline Plattner of Primo Grill

This 2008 photo shows  Charlie McManus shopping at the newly opened  Sixth Avenue Farmers Market. The market that operates in the summer is located steps away from his restaurant Primo Grill. Peter Haley/File photo 2008
This 2008 photo shows Charlie McManus shopping at the newly opened Sixth Avenue Farmers Market. The market that operates in the summer is located steps away from his restaurant Primo Grill. Peter Haley/File photo 2008

Ask chef Charlie McManus a simple cooking question and you’ll get a five-minute earful about technique and history, you might exit the conversation with a much broader knowledge of something fun or complicated – like how a biga works (it’s a sourdough starter that McManus uses to give his pizzas their distinctive tang). Wife Jacqueline Plattner is a daily fixture managing the operations at Primo Grill, the Sixth Avenue Tacoma restaurant the couple opened in 1999. They also opened Crown Bar, a few blocks away, in 2007. That eatery is a pub serving high-end bar food and cocktails. Read a review published today about Primo Grill here.

Of all the chefs I’ve written about in Tacoma, McManus is the one who consistently has served diners locally sourced ingredients. He’s had a longtime partnership with Cheryl Oullette, who locals may know as Cheryl The Pig Lady, who provides McManus with a whole pig one Friday every month that McManus roasts overnight in his wood-fired oven and serves as a special all weekend. Dan Hulse, who owns Tahoma Farms in Orting, said he valued working for Primo Grill – he worked in the front of house busing tables while a college student.  After Hulse started his own farm,  McManus became a customer. Hulse said in a message that McManus and Plattner have made a difference for farmers who want to reach diners with their produce – a philosophy he said needs more support from Tacoma chefs. Wrote Hulse in a message, “When I started working at Terry’s Berries, a couple of years after graduating, and then when we started our own farm, Charlie and Jacqueline both have always been supportive of the local food and farming community. In a town with very few chefs and restaurants willing to work directly with farmers, their support makes a big difference. I just wish we saw more of it in Tacoma.”

Read more »

Jan.
17th

Doughnut bakery opening in Puyallup

The opening has been delayed by several weeks, but if building upgrades are approved, Epic Donuts will open in Puyallup later this month or early next. Signs for the business have been up for weeks and South Hill residents have been asking me about the doughnut shop. Here’s what I know. Read more »

Jan.
16th

Coming to Sixth Ave: A spice store and tea shop

SPICESA spice and herb store that also will serve tea and coffee will open on Sixth Avenue. Ubiquitous Journey plans a Jan. 24 opening and will operate in the storefront formerly occupied until two months ago by Caffe Dei, a combination coffeehouse-cafe that catered to vegetarians and vegans.

Ubiquitous Journey will be owned and operated by Robyn Liss, who opened the Ubiquitous Journey spice and tea store in October 2008 in Puyallup’s South Hill neighborhood. Read more »

Jan.
14th

Organizers announce brew lineup for February beer festival in Tacoma

Organizers announced the lineup of brewers who will pour at the Big Beer Festival, held Feb. 16 in Tacoma. The Big Beer Festival is named after the big flavored brews that will be on the tap list. The festival is from the same people who throw the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival every summer.
Read more »

Jan.
11th

Never been: A dining series digging into American classics

Chicken fried steak is a diner classic served at Ma's Place in Puyallup. Staff photo/Lui Kit Wong
Chicken fried steak is a diner classic served at Ma’s Place in Puyallup. Staff photo/Lui Kit Wong

You know those quirky restaurants that have been there for an eternity, yet you never bothered to try? I have a whole list of those. I call them “never beens.”

This year, I’ll visit some of my “never beens” and report back, and I’d appreciate reader suggestions for this occasional series. (Find my contact info at the end of this story.) Parameters are easy: The restaurant should be at least 15 or 20 years old (the older, the better) and it should have an aura of grit (read: diners, dives and places known for serving a stiff drink). Better even are restaurants that serve good ol’ American classics. You know, like chicken and dumplings and chicken fried steak. Bonus points will be awarded for meatloaf on the menu.

Take a read now of two “never beens” I’ve finally conquered: Ben Dew’s Clubhouse Grill and Ma’s Place. Read more »

Jan.
9th

Beer crisis? Not really. Local bottle shops recommend what to drink in Pliny’s absence

Beer bloggers are throwing around words like “shocking” to describe the loss of the sought-after double IPA from California’s Russian River Brewing – Pliny The Elder. The brewery informed its Washington customers recently that it no longer will be distributing its beers here. Different bits of information have appeared giving insight into why the brewery made the decision. A letter the brewery sent to distributors was published here. The final word from the brewery Jan. 4 on their Facebook page was that demand had outpaced supply. Sounds like a decent problem to have.

I tried the beer on tap a few years ago at Jake’s in Steilacoom (now Topside Bar). It’s a terrific beer, but I can’t say that I’ll miss it much because it was so difficult to find, I didn’t drink it much. Here’s something to consider: The craft beer market is flooded with robust IPAs. I turned to two local bottle shops for their recommendations for what to drink instead of Pliny. Barry Watson of Pint Defiance in Tacoma and Tiffany Adamowski of Federal Way’s 99 Bottles weigh in: Read more »