TNT Diner

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

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Category: Drop-in Dining reports

July
18th

Fish and chips find: The newly opened Johnny’s Seafood and Bistro

Some diners prefer fried fish with a crunchy coating.

Others prefer the puffy texture of a beer batter.

At the newly reopened Johnny’s Seafood and Bistro, diners get both: a quick dunk in a beer batter followed by a coating of bread crumbs. The result is a crispy jacket with a delicate interior. I’m a fan.

That Foss waterway restaurant has become a new favorite. It’s not fancy. It’s not cutting edge. But it’s reliably good, and easy prices top out at $14.95. It also comes with a remarkable waterside view of Tacoma’s working Foss waterfront.

For nearly four decades,

Read more »

July
14th

Big on banana: Pudding made right at Corina, Lizzie Lou’s Too and Southern Exposure

Banana pudding makes me happy. This version comes from Tacoma's Corina Bakery.
Banana pudding makes me happy. This version comes from Tacoma’s Corina Bakery.

Baked into bread might be ideal for winter, but come summer, I want my bananas in a pudding, preferably layered with fresh-sliced bananas and Nilla Wafers (whole or crushed, I’m not picky). I’ve found three different puddings worth exploring around the South Sound. Take a look: Read more »

July
11th

Sip on this: Summery cocktails from Hilltop Kitchen and Smoke + Cedar

One of Dean Shivers' signature cocktails, an Old Smoky at Tacoma's Smoke + Cedar restaurant. Drew Perine/Staff photographer
One of Dean Shivers’ signature cocktails, an Old Smoky at Tacoma’s Smoke + Cedar restaurant. Drew Perine/Staff photographer

With summer heating up, so is my thirst for cocktails. Recently, I encountered two lounges with cocktails worthy of your attention. My first stop was Smoke + Cedar for the smoky creations of Dean Shivers, lead bartender at the new Tacoma restaurant. My second stop was Hilltop Kitchen, the Tacoma lounge with a menu of Latin-leaning sippers. Read on. Read more »

June
24th

Burger lust: Chalk Talk Bistro in downtown Tacoma

A Special Sauce Burger from Chalk Talk Bistro, $6.99, with fresh-cut fries.
A Secret Sauce Burger from Chalk Talk Bistro, $6.99, with fresh-cut fries.

My most recent burger journey took me to the newly made over Mary’s Burger Bistro in downtown Tacoma. Now called Chalk Talk, the burger joint got a dining room facelift with chalkboard walls for doodling and switched from griddled to flame-broiled burgers. Check it out: Read more »

June
20th

Go explore: Port Orchard Public Market, a new destination filled with food finds

The newly opened Port Orchard Public Market opened with seven vendors, two of which are restaurants.
The newly opened Port Orchard Public Market opened with seven vendors, two of which are restaurants. Dean Koepfler/Staff photographer

On the way down to Bay Street from State Route 16, I made an unexpected discovery about Port Orchard.

Convenience stores. The bank. Even the feed store. They all come with fetching, million-dollar waterfront views.
Port Orchard’s proximity to Sinclair Inlet made it an ideal waterside timber town, and it was the first Kitsap County city to incorporate in 1890.

And its current life still is rooted in its working waterfront.

Much of Bay Street’s businesses surround an active marina – with guest moorage – and in the middle of the business district is a foot ferry that shuttles explorers between Port Orchard and Bremerton.

New attractions along Bay Street make this town a quick half-day trip for eaters in search of a food adventure.
The newly opened Port Orchard Public Market was my first stop on a recent visit, followed by a handful of restaurants recommended by the locals. Read more »

May
16th

Ramen on the rise in the South Sound

Shoyu ramen at downtown Tacoma's Fujiya Japanese Restaurant is flavored with a soy sauce broth.
Shoyu ramen at downtown Tacoma’s Fujiya Japanese Restaurant is flavored with a soy sauce broth.

I’m just going to say this now, for the record: You won’t ever find me waiting four hours in line for ramen.

In certain pockets of the country, ramen chefs achieve rock star status for fancying up a culinary underachiever long relegated to American dorm room cooking.

Last week’s opening of Ivan Orkin’s ramen shop in New York City yielded a media frenzy, and diners lined up for a bowl.

It’s not just an East Coast weird food thing. Seattle is in on the ramen frenzy with more than a dozen eateries opening there.

But long lines for ramen in Tacoma? Would that — could that? — ever happen here, in a region that practically prides itself in snubbing precious foodie trends? Read more »

May
9th

Escape to gardens of eatin’ – Watson’s and Windmill

A club sandwich piled high with tomatoes, turkey and bacon is one of the lunch offerings at Anton's, located in a garden center. Drew Perine/Staff photographer
A club sandwich piled high with tomatoes, turkey and bacon is one of the lunch offerings at Anton’s, located in a garden center. Drew Perine/Staff photographer

My Japanese maple resembles Cousin It and my mock orange is drooping.

I’m currently playing a weekslong game of “ignore the shot weed.”

Like plenty of other procrastinating gardeners, I fell prey to a seasonal affliction I call Garden Center Time Suck. It’s a phenomena in which I intend to spend 15 minutes perusing variegated hostas only to emerge two hours later with a dazed look and a wagonload of blue fescue.

I’m looking at you, Watson’s Greenhouse and Windmill Gardens.

While wandering aimlessly (envisioning fairies magically making over my garden) through two East Pierce garden centers that offer sprawling campuses with plants aplenty, I also found something for diners: nicely appointed cafes.

They’re cafes for a bite with your gardener Mom – especially considering this is her weekend, after all – or a destination for ladies who lunch.

Dining alone? That’s fine, too.

Get digging. I know I need to. Read more »

May
2nd

Fuel up on gas – or ribs – at these two South Sound gas stations

Rib Ticklers owner Dennis Ofsthun holds up a rack of ribs while his stepson Jake Herron holds a six ribs meal at Rib Ticklers in Gig Harbor. Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer
Rib Ticklers owner Dennis Ofsthun holds up a rack of ribs while his stepson Jake Herron holds a six ribs meal at Rib Ticklers in Gig Harbor. Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer

Has Daniel Vaughn ever discovered a sketchy-looking barbecue restaurant he was too afraid to enter?

“Absolutely not,” said the hard-working Texas Monthly food writer, the country’s only “barbecue editor” who has reviewed more than 800 barbecue restaurants in barbecue country.

We were conversing by phone on the subject of today’s topic – gas station barbecue – and a theory a reader once shared with me: “The uglier the restaurant, the better the barbecue.”

That’s untrue, Vaughn said laughing. “You’ll hear so many other rules – the parking lot should have an equal amount of Mercedes and beat-up pickup trucks. There are so many rules people place on what barbecue joints should look like in Texas. But generally, the rule is that what the person grew up eating at, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.”

My take, as well as his: There’s really no way of gauging whether a barbecue restaurant is any good until you get yourself three bones deep into a half rack of ribs. And, after all, one of the country’s most discussed barbecue restaurants is in a gas station in Kansas City.

Today, I encourage you to suspend prejudices you might harbor against gas station dining. Forget those mystery meat burritos and five-day-old hot dogs. I’m about to tell you about two barbecue restaurants inside gas station mini marts that are staffed with guys who know their way around smokers and sticky ribs. Read more »