TNT Diner

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

Category: Strip mall dining

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.

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Dec.
13th

Off the radar: I hit a dining jackpot at a single strip mall in Tacoma

Thinh and Nghiep Nguyen, owners of Kim Anh, a restaurant in James Center on Mildred in Tacoma, hold egg noodle soup (left) and Kim Ahn's House Fried Rice. Peter Haley/Staff photographer
Thinh and Nghiep Nguyen, owners of Kim Anh, a restaurant in James Center on Mildred in Tacoma, hold egg noodle soup (left) and Kim Ahn’s House Fried Rice. Peter Haley/Staff photographer

Oh, strip malls. How we love-hate you.

Architectural eyesores, but necessary destinations for tending the mundane details of our lives.

Dry cleaning, hair cutting, nail grooming and check cashing: Not a lot of excitement, right?

Not so fast.

When a strip mall lands on my radar, it’s because it harbors an impressive eatery. Greek, Indian, Hawaiian and Cambodian – I’ve hit culinary jackpots at strip malls throughout the South Sound (scroll down to read more stories in this series).

Today, I share with you my favorite strip mall for quick dining. On the edge of James Center, a shopping complex near Tacoma Community College, sits a row of three unfussy and family-owned restaurants.

They’re Asian eateries serving honest food for a fair price. I count on them for reliable take-out dinners after a busy round of shopping. And there’s a bonus: Right next to the strip mall is a stand-alone taqueria with great carnitas. Read more »

Aug.
10th

Off the radar: Strip malls hide culinary finds

The stores in a strip mall represent not much more than a check on your to-do list. Nestled among nail salons, check-cashing places and chiropractors, I occasionally stumble upon a culinary gem – a restaurant so interesting, I can’t believe it’s in a strip mall. This is my continuing series looking at ethnic eateries hidden in strip malls of the ’burbs. Today’s tour heads to Lakewood, Puyallup and Gig Harbor.

TACOMA SZECHUAN
Where: 9701 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood; 253-581-0102; serving lunch and dinner daily.

Tacoma Szechuan operates in a Lakewood neighborhood dominated by Korean food, which makes it

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Oct.
21st

Off the radar: Tacoma and Lakewood strip malls hide culinary treasures


Jennifer Jones, left, Jesenia Fonseca, center, and Erica Rembert grill meat on the tabletop burner at Cham Garden Korean BBQ in Lakewood. Photo by Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer

Strip malls suck up moments of our mundane lives. The stores within often signify the boring check marks on our vast to-do lists: drop off the dry cleaning, get the nails done, pick up that package, grab a quick coffee, look at carpet samples. Back on the road again.

But sometimes – just sometimes – strip malls hide culinary treasures that invite you to sit, savor and enjoy hand-crafted food that seems woefully out of place in a suburban setting.

Here I’ll tell you about three remarkable finds. They’re all in strip malls. Don’t judge them by their exterior. Judge them on their food. Read more »

Jan.
21st

Korean, Japanese and Chinese? All sharing real estate on a single menu? Flying Fish Sushi Bar & Grill in Westgate delivers just that


Flying Fish sushi chef Peter Oh displays clockwise from left: monkey brains, halves of deep fried avocado stuffed with cream cheese, imitation crab and spicy tuna; two types of amigo roll, one containing imitation crab, avocado and green bell pepper and the other featuring salmon, tuna and mango sauce; in the center is orange blossom roll. Photo by DREW PERINE/Staff photographer

Everyone has a go-to teriyaki restaurant.

And that’s because they’re everywhere.

Strip malls here can’t even seem to get a building permit unless they include a requisite teriyaki place, a nail salon and a check cashing business. OK, OK. I exaggerate.

My point: Teriyaki here is ubiquitous, an everyday quick, cheap and filling fast food. We don’t give it much thought beyond that.

So when I was driving down Pearl to Ruston and saw the plastic banner announcing “teriyaki” at Flying Fish in Westgate, I didn’t really give it a second glance until I noticed the storefront sign announcing “Sushi Bar & Grill.” Read more »