TNT Diner

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Tag: I love pork


A tale of two tortas: Zocalo v. La Fondita, a showdown (with avocado) in the Lincoln neighborhood

A carnitas torta sandwich at La Fondita in Tacoma is loaded with pork, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos and a smear of mayo.

In the middle of the Lincoln district, a tiny taco truck serves some of the best Mexican eats in Tacoma. I’ve always found it curious that one of the city’s finest Mexican restaurants is not only on wheels, but it’s also squarely in the city’s Vietnamese eating district. In a neighborhood brimming with pho and banh mi, La Fondita has owned the block on tacos, tortas and burritos. That was until three or four months ago when Zocalo, a bakery and torta shop, opened at the corner of South 38th and South G Streets directly across from La Fondita.

While La Fondita specializes in street style Mexican eats, I’d consider the torta one of its specialties, or at least La Fondita makes a really spectacular version. And at Zocalo, tortas clearly are a specialty. Three menu pages are filled with torta choices.

If you’ve never had a torta, they’re portable Mexican sandwiches. A typical torta is made on a squishy six-inch round roll and stuffed with your choice of marinated, grilled or roasted meats (pork, chicken, steak, etc.), jalapenos, sprigs of cilantro, crisp veggies, avocados and a smear of mayo. For my torta tastes, La Fondita’s always has been superior to any other taco truck in town that I’ve tried, let alone sit-down restaurant.

With the two restaurants vying for dining dollars mere steps from one another, I thought it was time to wage an eating battle to see if La Fondita would remain the victor of a torta smackdown. Read more »


Cuban delight: The Ram’s Ricardo Burger makes my list of top bar burgers for the TNT Diner Bar Burger Noshdown

Hey, what’s that? Two layers of pork on top of a burger patty? Yes, yes it is. Behold the pork-filled Ricardo burger at the Ram. The Ricardo made my top 20 list for bar burgers you should enjoy before you die (although admittedly eating all the burgers may contribute to that). Watch for the TNT Diner Bar Burger Noshdown in a few weeks.

In my continuing quest to write about the region’s best bar burgers for the TNT Diner Bar Burger Noshdown (watch for the story in two weeks), I struck Cuban gold at the Ram Brewery and Restaurant.

The Ram’s Ricardo burger is the big, beefy brother of the Cuban sandwich, a much-adored sandwich in the southeastern United States. Think of a Cuban in these terms: it’s a pork-filled, puckery grilled cheese sandwich. Read more »


Baby, when it’s cold outside, soon doo boo from Tacoma’s Cho Dang Tofu warms my soul

Soon doo boo is a silky tofu soup served at Cho Dang Tofu on South Tacoma Way.

I’m continuing my theme of soup stalking this week. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fragrant and perfectly executed pho at Vien Dong in Tacoma’s Lincoln neighborhood. Today, I’m taking a slurp of soon doo boo, a silky Korean tofu soup found on South Tacoma Way. Click “more” to read about the soup. Later this week, check back for a report on Pacific Grill’s noodle bar menu, which features three kinds of ramen with punchy flavors and stylish execution. Read more »


Baby, when it’s cold outside, I get myself to Tacoma’s Vien Dong for pho

Beef noodle pho at Vien Dong in the Lincoln neighborhood.

Like clockwork, my internal food meter ticks into soup mode around Halloween. Last year at this time, I dipped my spoon into soups at Marlene’s, Metropolitan Market and Tacoma’s favorite niche soup restaurant – Infinite Soups.

This chilly Fall, I’m visiting soups from around Asia– ramen and pho and tom yum (I’m resisting writing “oh my” after that).

When the weather really started to take a dive last week, I headed to my favorite place for pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup pronounced “fuh” (but so many people say “foe,” I don’t think it matters anymore). Vien Dong is at the corner of 38th and Yakima, the center of the Lincoln District, a neighborhood full of tiny Vietnamese restaurants (read my Lincoln banh mi sandwich report here).

Vien Dong does high volume soup. A five minute wait would be long at this small soup shop. On a cold fall day, driving by, the windows of Vien Dong usually are steamed over –and that’s when I know soup season officially has arrived. Read more »


Magical ribs: Get your paws on these pork lollipops at Porter’s Place in Tacoma. And a question: Where do you get your ribs?

The smoked pork ribs at Porter's Place Southern Cuisine & BBQ are supple, smoky and three-napkin good.

Southern barbecue and the Northwest aren’t necessarily synonymous. Finding restaurants here that serve slow-and-low authentic Southern style smoked meats is akin to finding El Salvadoran or French restaurants around the South Sound. They’re a rare find, and as soon as you find a good one, you should visit often to keep it smokin’.

This week, I’ve written about two new barbecue restaurants –Barrel No. 51 mobile barbecue trailer and Dowd’s BBQ & Southern Cuisine, a tiny startup located in a back corner of a Tacoma 76 station.

Those new restaurants join just a handful of other South Sound restaurants serving slow-and-low barbecue: Porter’s Place Southern Cuisine & BBQ, as well as longtime barbecue restaurants Warthog Barbecue Pit in Fife and Brank’s BBQ in Sumner. There’s also the Po-Boy & Bar-B-Q in Puyallup, Shorty’s Grub House in Federal Way, Bob’s Bar-B-Q Pit on the hilltop. Heading southward, there is South Bay Dickerson’s BBQ and the very popular Ranch House BBQ in Olympia.

I’m sure I’m missing a few others, and that’s where you come in.

YOUR TURN: Which restaurants in the South Sound (emphasis on SOUTH) make your favorite ribs, pulled pork, brisket? Where are they, and why should we eat there? I’m compiling a list for a story. Your input is needed. Please comment below.

Click “more” to see my hallmarks of a good barbecue restaurant, and to read about the ribs at Porter’s Place, a restaurant that has operated since 2005 near the Tacoma Dome (and on 72nd Avenue before that). Read more »


Gas station barbecue? Don’t be scared. Dowd’s BBQ & Southern Cuisine in Tacoma serves sublime ribs

Pork ribs at Dowd's BBQ & Southern Cuisine offer supple, tender bite. They come glazed in a vinegary molasses sauce.

There are certain things I never would eat from a gas station. Sushi is at the top of that list along with deviled eggs. And I remember stopping at a gas station once and seeing “homemade lunch meat” haphazardly wrapped in plastic. It looked terrifying.

But, on occasion, gas stations yield unexpected surprises. Dowd’s BBQ & Southern Cuisine was my recent discovery. The tiny barbecue restaurant is in the back corner of the 76 gas station on Steele Street. A handful of tables offer seating for dining in. Read more »