Ask chef Charlie McManus a simple cooking question and you’ll get a five-minute earful about technique and history, you might exit the conversation with a much broader knowledge of something fun or complicated – like how a biga works (it’s a sourdough starter that McManus uses to give his pizzas their distinctive tang). Wife Jacqueline Plattner is a daily fixture managing the operations at Primo Grill, the Sixth Avenue Tacoma restaurant the couple opened in 1999. They also opened Crown Bar, a few blocks away, in 2007. That eatery is a pub serving high-end bar food and cocktails. Read a review published today about Primo Grill here.
Of all the chefs I’ve written about in Tacoma, McManus is the one who consistently has served diners locally sourced ingredients. He’s had a longtime partnership with Cheryl Oullette, who locals may know as Cheryl The Pig Lady, who provides McManus with a whole pig one Friday every month that McManus roasts overnight in his wood-fired oven and serves as a special all weekend. Dan Hulse, who owns Tahoma Farms in Orting, said he valued working for Primo Grill – he worked in the front of house busing tables while a college student. After Hulse started his own farm, McManus became a customer. Hulse said in a message that McManus and Plattner have made a difference for farmers who want to reach diners with their produce – a philosophy he said needs more support from Tacoma chefs. Wrote Hulse in a message, “When I started working at Terry’s Berries, a couple of years after graduating, and then when we started our own farm, Charlie and Jacqueline both have always been supportive of the local food and farming community. In a town with very few chefs and restaurants willing to work directly with farmers, their support makes a big difference. I just wish we saw more of it in Tacoma.”