TNT Diner

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

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Category: Drop-in Dining reports

April
18th

Strip-mall dining: Sushi restaurants from Tacoma to Gig Harbor

Strip malls. Oh, how we love to loathe them.

Our region is cluttered with those architectural eyesores harboring boring destinations from our mundane must-do lists. I’m talking dry cleaning, dental work, check cashing and spinal adjustments.

But restaurant lovers, I offer this advice: Add strip malls to your to-dine list.

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 »

Feb.
25th

Five-buck lunch: Sushi Revolution in Tacoma

Splurge a little and get this roll for $3.50 at Sushi Revolution.
Splurge a little and get this spicy crunchy roll for $3.50 at Sushi Revolution.

Conveyor belt sushi at Tacoma’s Sushi Revolution yielded a dream scenario for a five-buck lunch.  Dozens of colorful plates filled with maki, nigiri and Japanese nibbles – priced $1-$3.50 – roamed around the belt and all a diner had to do was reach out a greedy little hand and pluck off a plate.  Consider kaiten sushi the fast-food option of the sushi world.  It’s not exactly refined, it lacks the complex flavors of, say, Gari of Sushi or the pristine plating of Sushi Tama or Fujiya, but conveyor belt sushi fills a universal need of daytime workers – lunch in 15 minutes for five bucks.

Read more »

Feb.
21st

Burger Smackdown: Three new South Sound burger restaurants

The Ranch Hand cheeseburger at Blazing Onion in Tacoma. Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer
The Ranch Hand cheeseburger at Blazing Onion in Tacoma. Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer

Since 2008, I’ve taken you on tours of burger stands, bar burgers, highfalutin burgers, fair burgers and the finest handcrafted veggie burgers in the South Sound.

With three gourmet burger joints that have just opened in the South Sound — one in October, two in January — I thought it time for another burger pilgrimage.

Today’s burger trail encompasses the land of “chain restaurants,” a term that usually strikes fear deep in the gut of a dining critic.

Don’t worry. These aren’t those mindlessly homogenous could-be-in-Toledo-or-Tacoma chains. These chains are small and Washington-born and bred: Blazing Onion, Lunchbox Laboratory, and Bob’s Burgers & Brew.

Whose burgers proved best? That designation goes to Blazing Onion for superior burger construction, skilled service and pricing that won’t bust your wallet.

I rated each restaurant for variety, construction and flavor. I ate similar burgers at each: a “classic” cheeseburger, a blue cheese burger, a burger with a smokey flavor profile, and a wild-card burger from the “other than beef” category. Each restaurant was visited twice. Read more »

Feb.
7th

Rise and shine: Eight breakfasts in downtown Puyallup

Prime rib hash in a skillet at Charlie's, a downtown Puyallup eatery that produces quality breakfasts. Dean Koepfler/Staff photographer
Prime rib hash in a skillet at Charlie’s, a downtown Puyallup eatery that produces quality breakfasts. Dean Koepfler/Staff photographer

Ditch your jammies and that stale bagel tomorrow morning. Steer your car to downtown Puyallup instead.

Breakfast cafes sprawl from Meridian to East Main. I was struck by the breadth of the offerings. Simple cafes served uncomplicated American breakfast fare. Downtown restaurants better known for dinner service boasted gussied-up weekend brunch menus.

I also found bar breakfasts, delicious doughnuts and coffee houses worth your patronage, but for brevity, I skipped those for this report.

My top four restaurant destinations nailed every element of breakfast. Eggs arrived cooked to order. Gravy tasted homespun. And, most importantly, my coffee cup never sat empty. The four restaurants I liked best came with an extra helping of solid service.

The other four didn’t make it into my top tier for one reason or another, but they all provided something worth noting: They serve breakfast during all operating hours. That’s important for people who prefer to eat the most important meal of the day for lunch or dinner.

Count me as one of those. Read more »

Jan.
24th

Project pastrami – searching for the best South Sound sandwich

The Andres is a pastrami Reuben offered at Foley's on the Green at Tacoma's Meadow Park golf course. Peter Haley/Staff photographer
The Andres is a pastrami Reuben offered at Foley’s on the Green at Tacoma’s Meadow Park golf course. Peter Haley/Staff photographer

I relish readers who ask me to go looking for the perfect something or other.

In 2013, readers sent me searching for the crispiest fish and chips, sloppiest meatball sandwiches and cheesiest chile rellenos.

I start 2014 with a mighty mission: to find the perfect hot pastrami sandwich.

Tacoma reader Jack Green sent me his must-have list for a hot pastrami sandwich. His hallmarks mirror mine: a sandwich piled high with pastrami of the juicy variety, made purely of rye bread and meat, although a pickle and mustard are an occasional nice addition. Read more »

Nov.
29th

Service problems abound, but Stanley and Seafort’s does deliver a stunning view

The view from Stanley and Seafort's is one of the finest views in Tacoma. Dean J. Koepfler/Staff photographer
The view from Stanley and Seafort’s is one of the finest views in Tacoma. Dean J. Koepfler/Staff photographer

More than 40 years ago, Walter N. “Mickey” Hogan intended to turn a slice of McKinley Hill into apartments. But the would-be apartment builder and his then-wife Lynda shared a delightful evening at Seattle’s Canlis Restaurant.

A new idea percolated: A restaurant with a stunning view of Tacoma. Read more »