TNT Diner

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

Category: First Bite

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 »

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.
17th

First glance: Salsa 7 in downtown Puyallup

A poblano (pasilla) chile relleno at Salsa 7, a Mexican restaurant that opened last week in Puyallup.
A poblano (pasilla) chile relleno at Salsa 7, a Mexican restaurant that opened last week in Puyallup.

Salsa 7 opened last week in downtown Puyallup. It replaces Sam’s Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant, carved into a former gas station, that had operated downtown for more than a decade.

While Salsa 7 bills itself as modern Mexican, a first visit at the restaurant found modern decor, but the menu looked familiar – tacos, burritos, chile rellenos, mole, chimichangas and the ubiquitous basket of chips and two kinds of salsa to start the meal. Read more »

Feb.
3rd

First bite: Bob’s Burgers and Brew Puyallup

The classic 6-ounce broiled burger at Bob's Burgers and Brew in South Hill, Puyallup.
The classic 6-ounce broiled burger at Bob’s Burgers and Brew in South Hill, Puyallup.

I stopped in at Bob’s Burgers and Brew on South Hill, now entering its third week of operation, and found a few things worth noting about the Washington-based chain that is new to the South Sound. Read more »

Jan.
28th

Now open: Fresh Rolls, a Vietnamese deli in University Place

Salmon rolls from Fresh Rolls in University Place.
Vietnamese spring rolls with salmon from Fresh Rolls in University Place.

Bargain-focused Vietnamese deli Fresh Rolls opened Saturday near Bridgeport and 40th in University Place, a city short on dining choices.

The deli’s abbreviated menu lists a half dozen different styles of fresh spring rolls, which are chilled noodles, vegetables, lettuce and meats (if you want them) wrapped up in rice paper. The rolls are $4-$5 for two-packs with peanut dipping sauce. The menu listed  salmon, beef, grilled pork, shrimp, tofu vegetable and grilled chicken.  There’s also a short list of pho and salads. Read more »

Dec.
26th

First bite: Bourbon Street Bar and Grill in downtown Puyallup

It’s been some time since this region had a Cajun restaurant – which makes the opening of Bourbon Street Bar and Grill even more sweet. The New Orleans themed restaurant is a tiny destination that’s more bar than restaurant in downtown Puyallup. It opened Dec. 16.

A first-bite visit in the inaugural week showed a restaurant that was trying hard to do the right thing. The food was decent, the service was friendly despite being painfully slow – I suspect this restaurant will be a hit with local diners, but only time and your dining dollars will tell.

What I liked most about the restaurant was the New Orleans inspired menu that read like the greatest hits of Bayou dining – jambalaya, gumbo, blackened seafood, po’ boy sandwiches. They were all there. Read more »

Nov.
15th

Fried find: Fish and chips at Oliver’s in Graham

Spaghetti, penne, pesto, chicken parm, bruschetta, pizza – and fish and chips.

One of those things does not belong? Indeed.

That last item is what restaurant owner Pat Nicholl calls an offering for “the tag along.” That’s the all-purpose menu item aimed at anyone who doesn’t care for the primary cuisine, but has come along anyway to eat with friends or family.

But since Nicholl’s Italian eatery, Amici’s, opened in Graham in 2005, fish and chips, strangely enough, has become one of the most often ordered menu items. The dish became so popular, it gave Nicholl an idea to open

Read more »

Oct.
31st

Mobile eats: A bagelry on wheels at the University of Washington Tacoma

The Budha Bagel truck on the University of Washington Tacoma campus.
The Budha Bagel truck on the University of Washington Tacoma campus.

Two things I’ve always thought the region could always use more of – bagels and food trucks. Find them together in the Budha Bear Bagel Truck, now serving Mondays-Thursdays on the campus of University of Washington Tacoma. Read more »