TNT Diner

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

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Category: All-purpose stuff

Aug.
1st

Restaurants on wheels: A guide to Pierce County’s food trucks

Ande Dunn and Darrin Shaw were happy to split a "Bad Ass Burger" from Budha Bear Bagels when the truck appeared last month at Food Truck Fest in Tacoma's Wright Park.
Ande Dunn and Darrin Shaw were happy to split a “Bad Ass Burger” from Budha Bear Bagels when the truck appeared last month at Food Truck Fest in Tacoma’s Wright Park.

A diner complaint I hear too often: “We don’t have a food truck community.”

Or do we, and you just don’t know where to find it?

That’s where I come in, your handy newspaper restaurant critic.

I traversed every pocket of Pierce County, cross-referenced with the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department, hunted down social media, and relied on readers to assemble my most comprehensive list to date of food trucks based in Pierce County. The list is current as of today, but an unfortunate consequence of businesses that operate on wheels is that they might be serving today, but could easily roll out of town tomorrow. My advice: Call first, or check social media before trekking across the county.

In all, I found nearly 30 trucks serving — and licensed — in Pierce County that I’ve categorized into three groups. The first is the region’s oldest category of mobile dining: taco trucks serving traditional taqueria eats. The second is a list of trucks with semipermanent locations or regular serving spots. The third is a list of what I call “floater trucks.” Those are for-hire trucks you’ll occasionally encounter at public gatherings or festivals, but are trucks without permanent homes.

After all that traveling – and eating – I might’ve missed a truck or two. That’s where you come in. Have a Pierce County truck you want to tell me about? Call me at 253-597-8270 or email sue.kidd@thenewstribune.com and I’ll update this story with your additions. Read more »

April
11th

The tale of the South Sound Smitty burger, part II

A Smitty burger at Goofy Goose, although it's not called that.
A Smitty burger at Goofy Goose, although today it’s called a Goofy Burger.

You always can tell a Smitty burger by its shape. Think of the Smitty, served in these parts for more than 50 years, as something of a burger hoagie – a hamburger patty formed into a stretched-out oval with a hoagie or French roll standing in for a bun.

The fillings can fluctuate, depending on who’s assembling it, but a Smitty typically comes dressed with the cool crunch of iceberg lettuce, sliced or diced onions, thick tomato slices, pickle chips and almost always some kind of special sauce. If you’re doing it right, you’ll order it with cheese.

The story and lore of the Smitty burger stretches more than half a century in the South Sound. There’s actually two Smitty burgers – one still served locally, the other a burger an artifact of the Puyallup Fair (more on that in a minute).

Last week, I reported about the new coffee house and cafe Amp replacing Jubilee, one of just a few burger joints in the South Sound that was still serving the oblong Smitty. As a burger community service project, I wanted to make sure readers knew that Don’s Drive-In in Puyallup and Marcia’s Silver Spoon on South Tacoma Way still serve their versions of the Smitty.

I asked and readers bit with their own recommendations of where to still find a Smitty, whether or not it’s still called that. What follows is a touch more to the history of the Smitty burger, as told by Tacoma native and second-generation restaurateur Larry Zarelli, as well as burger recommendations from readers. Read more »

March
28th

Favorite Chinese restaurants: Yen Ching, Tacoma Szechuan and newcomer Malri Hyang

Frank Luu is head waiter at Yen Ching Restaurant on South Tacoma Way in Lakewood. He's the longtime face of the Chinese restaurant that's served Lakewood diners for 30 years. Peter Haley/Staff photographer
Frank Luu is head waiter at Yen Ching Restaurant on South Tacoma Way in Lakewood. He’s the longtime face of the Chinese restaurant that’s served Lakewood diners for 30 years. Peter Haley/Staff photographer

Readers frequently ask me about my favorite Chinese restaurant.

My answer is a neighborhood, not a specific restaurant.

Along a one-mile stretch of South Tacoma Way, in a Lakewood neighborhood known for Korean dining, three restaurants comprise what I call the Chinese Restaurant Vortex of South Sound.

One is an old-time find, a Chinese-American restaurant reminiscent of the chop suey houses of yesteryear. A second is a stylish, modern Chinese venture featuring some of the best Szechuan dishes you’ll encounter around here. The third is an unproven hybrid that offers something new for diners: a handsome Chinese-Korean bistro. Read more »

March
21st

Destination Walla Walla: Restaurants worth sampling

The Hemingway cocktail, found at Public House 124 in downtown Walla Walla. The formerly rural wheat town has awoken into a major wine and food destination in recent years.
The Hemingway cocktail, found at Public House 124 in downtown Walla Walla. The formerly rural wheat town has awoken into a major wine and food destination

Walla Walla as a wine destination is well-documented, but the recent growth of restaurants in that town might surprise a visitor.

It surprised me, at least, when I pulled into town earlier this year for a weekend of winery exploration and found a town with so many restaurants, it would take me a month to sample them all.

I had a tough time whittling down where to eat. Our Northwest Getaways section, published in Thursday’s paper for home subscribers, includes minireviews of where I dined as well as where to sip wine. But here is a bonus column: eight dishes you’ll want to eat the next time you’re visiting Walla Walla. Read more »

March
14th

It’s National (Pi) Pie Day – here’s where to grab a slice

Blackberry pie at Copper Creek Inn Restaurant in Ashford has been famous for decades.
Blackberry pie at Copper Creek Inn Restaurant in Ashford has been famous for decades.

This is a fun day for lovers of pi and pie. 3.14 = March 14, get it? Lovers of math (or not) can celebrate with a slice. Below I’ve got 11 of my favorite places for pie. If you don’t see your favorite listed, feel free to post a comment telling readers where to find great pie. Read more »

March
1st

Mardi Gras party? Celebrity Cake Studio has King Cakes

 Little plastic babies are traditionally baked inside colorful King Cakes. Looking for the baby in the cake is a Mardi Gras tradition. Tradition has it that the person who gets the serving containing the baby is automatically designated the host of the next Mardi Gras party.  News Tribune file photo
Little plastic babies are traditionally baked inside colorful King Cakes. Looking for the baby in the cake is a Mardi Gras tradition. Tradition has it that the person who gets the serving containing the baby is automatically designated the host of the next Mardi Gras party. News Tribune file photo

Tacoma pastry chef Odette D’Aniello is fresh from a trip to New Orleans and she’s not afraid to use her nearly learned pastry powers in whipping up king cakes, the official pastry of Mardi Gras.

I checked in with D’Aniello on how she’s making her king cakes at her Tacoma bakery, Celebrity Cake Studio. So many variations of the cake abound, it’s tough to describe  exactly how a king cake should taste. They can be yeasty and fluffy or dense. They can be filled with nuts or cream cheese. They can be highfalutin affairs or a downscale quick bread. They can be frosted, glazed or dusted with sugar.

The unifying factor? The colors used to decorate the cake, usually green, purple and gold.

Here’s how D’Aniello is making hers: Read more »

Feb.
19th

Store grazing: Puyallup South Hill store sells root beer – and only root beer

Root Beer

Corey Anderson categorizes root beer three ways.

“Strong and bitey.”

Those are the root beers made with heavy wintergreen notes or other sharp flavor.

“Smooth and creamy.”

Those are made with heavy notes of vanilla.

The third category’s a little more troubling to define, but Anderson said he knows one when he tastes it.

“You take a sip and you look at the bottle. You have to look at the bottle a second time. I’ve got a few of those that don’t fit the strong or the smooth and creamy – so I call them amazing.”

Consider Anderson an expert-level curator of root beer. His love of root beer grew from making it with his dad when he was a kid.

His third store featuring America’s most nostalgic non-alcoholic beverage, The Root Beer Store, opened in November on Puyallup’s South Hill. Read more »

Feb.
18th

Check out Beats and Eats, a South Sound produced food podcast

I’ve got a list of podcasts that amuse me while puttering around the house – such as this, this, and this - but there’s a locally produced podcast that you food folks will appreciate. Ty Ray, a Tacoman and former sports broadcaster turned local radio personality on KLAY, has a witty series. I emailed a few questions to Ray to learn a bit more about his podcast. Here’s what he had to say. Read more »