Back to Reviews

50 Favorite Dishes

Weekly Volcano's editorial gastronomes reveal their go to dishes in the South Sound

The lobster sandwich at Oliver's Sandwiches in Milton.

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

Even soy-based, ink-stained wretches must eat. Some readers might argue the Weekly Volcano deserves to eat crow, dirt or other earth-toned substances. But no amount of mocking or scorn can keep us away from food. They'll have to pry pizza and takoyaki from our cold, dead fingers. Below, Weekly Volcano's editorial gastronomes reveal their 50 favorite dishes in the South Sound.


Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Pizza Casa

The recipe for Pizza Casa's gravy is literally a closely guarded secret that not even all the chefs are privy to. Thick, heavy and musty, it's evident the sauce stews for long hours (if not days) before topping the thin al dente noodles that are also signature at this Ponders Corner icon in Lakewood. Served with bread sticks on a "cocktails of the world" placemat, this old-world recipe has graced the area for 50 years. It's one old timer that hasn't lost its step. -Ken Swarner

[12924 Pacific Hwy SW, Lakewood, 253.588.8135]

Pancakes and Sausage

Carrs Resaturant

No one loses weight dining at Carrs - the portions are truly bigger than our stomachs. But, beyond size, Carrs also delivers on taste, offering pancakes with a nice edge of crispy grease, fluffy with hints of buttermilk. Add a half-dozen links, maybe a couple fried eggs and you'll see why finding a seat can be difficult after church on Sundays. The wait time after ordering is also challenging, so plan on at least a few cups of coffee before your food arrives.  As far as breakfast goes, you won't find a better plate of cakes.-KS

[11006 Bridgeport Way SW, Lakewood, 253.584.4622]

Pesto Trio

Acqua Via

The pesto trio at Acqua Via is where pestos dream of ending up - in snappy combinations so unexpected your bruschetta just can't keep out of them. These are imaginative combinations - fig and goat cheese or grape leaf and feta. And the sensation in your mouth? Phenomenal. Out of the ordinary. Shall we say, delicious? The bread alone is enough to get you coming back to Acqua Via - fresh baked with a drizzle of olive oil. When you add the pesto trio to the mix: Magnifico.-Brooke Guthrie

[500 Capitol Way S., Olympia, 360.357.6677]

Takoyaki (no longer on the menu)

Pacific Grill

I think it would be a crime not to spread the good word about Chef Gordon Naccarato's takoyaki, one of the Japanese street foods on Pacific Grill's Noodle Bar menu. These balls are chunks of heaven and they're currently my favorite dish in the South Sound area. Given the fact the takoyaki ("tako" means octopus and "yaki" means grilled) are perfectly round crispy little balls of goodness, it's easy to assume they're fried (like fritters or beignets) octopus balls. Not so fast, tentacle breath. The reality is that these popular Japanese street snacks are griddled, using a custom cast-iron pan with indentations that allows the Pacific Grill chefs to crank out sets of ping pong-ball-size savory bites. They're much airier than you might expect.

"The batter is essentially a fritter or dumpling batter, to which we add sparkling water to make the batter light - like a beer batter does to onion rings," explains Naccarato.

Also, Pacific Grill substitutes shrimp for octopus. Wet, dry, crackle, puff - four textures collapse on my tongue and a tender shrimp emerges as a fifth. Beside the shrimp, Pacific grill's takoyaki includes bonito, scallion, ginger syrup and sweet takoyaki sauce. Each flavor bursts wide open in unison. -Ron Swarner

[1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.627.3535]

Lobster Sandwich

Oliver's Sandwiches

The little town of Milton has a hidden gem. Oliver's Sandwiches has the same set-up as franchise sandwich shops with one glaring exception - customer service. The owners, a husband and wife team, are hands-on and work the counter.  The lobster sandwich alone is worth the drive.  Twice as much as at other places, real Dungeness crab and lobster is mounded on a cushy, toasted ciabatta roll. Crisp circular cucumber slices provide a crunchy contrast to soft seafood mixed with a light spiced mayonnaise. Über-tasty garlic cheese spread melts into a slick buttery layer next to romaine leaves and deep red tomatoes. -Jennifer Johnson

[900 Meridian E., Suite 23A, Milton, 253.927.2341]

Honey, Cardamom and Chevre Ice Cream

Dockside Bistro and Wine Bar

This ice cream begs you to devour the entire bowl. This is not your standard, overly-sweet concoction, but a creamy delight that challenges your taste buds with just a hint of sweetness and crème, and a slight tang balanced by a hint of cardamom. Chef Cedar Martin has this delicious dessert made for the restaurant and once you try a bite you'll be back for more. The local Shelton creamery, Olympic Mountain Ice Cream, uses their extraordinary expertise to create the delectable ice cream now used in many Olympia restaurants. Think culinary perfection served in a bowl. -BG

[501 Columbia St. NW #B, Olympia, 360.956.1928]

Chocolate Mousse with Homemade Marshmallows

Bearded Lady Food Co.

The mousse from the Bearded Ladies makes you pause to roll your eyes back in gratitude for tasting such a delicious dish. The mousse is creamy, dreamy and has a perfect mouthfeel. It is accompanied by a chocolate sauce, in-season berries and homemade marshmallows roasted and oozing with sweetness. This is definitely a delicious dish to request, even after the Bearded Ladies have changed up their menu. -BG

[412 Franklin St., Olympia, 360.943.6235]

Monte Cristo

Affairs Cafe & Bakery

The Monte Cristo is the unholy union of a ham and cheese sandwich, a fried turkey leg and a powdered jelly doughnut. It's like something you'd eat at the Puyallup Fair, right down to the ridiculous, pseudo-royalty name.  The only thing missing is the stick. Located in University Place, Affairs Café & Bakery offers said sandwich as well as other delicious sandwiches that allow the weary to immediately replace any calories they expended dodging the city's constant street beautification. In fact, Affairs serves the best Monte Cristo in the South Sound region. Cut into fours, their version stacks the ham, turkey, cheddar AND Swiss between egg bread which is then dipped in an a Grand Marnier egg batter, grilled golden brown, dusted with sugar and served with raspberry jam on the side. The four chunks surround a salad of wild greens with your choice of dressing. -Jake De Paul

[2811 Bridgeport Way W., University Place, 253.565.8604]

Clam Chowder

Duke's Chowder House

A good cup of clam chowder goes beyond mere foodstuff and can serve as a soul-soother and bone warmer. Such is the case with Duke's creamy-thick, savory chowder, full of luscious little bivalves. Inspired by owner Duke Moscrip's grandfather, John Fitzgerald Cox, this rich and tasty chowder always takes home the Seattle Chowder Cook Off trophy. -JDP

[3327 Ruston Way, Tacoma, 253.752.5444]

Ham & Egg Breakfast

Marcia's Silver Spoon

One of the South Sound's favorite old dining haunts serves all-American classics for breakfast and lunch. Owner Marcia Crelling has zeroed in on what customers want at her down-home diner, Marcia's Silver Spoon, on South Tacoma Way. And boy oh boy, does she give it to them in heaping, plate-swallowing, mountainous portions.  A ham and egg breakfast by any other name is not as sweet. A quarter-inch thick slice of grilled ham as big as a Frisbee is served with shredded hash browns or home fries that appear equal to at least two potatoes. Two eggs cooked your way and a choice of breads make this a breakfast fit for a lumberjack. Take a jacket, you may end up waiting in line outside for a table to open up, but it will be worth it. -JJ

[2601 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253.472.0157]

Summer Basil Chicken Salad


Frankly, what isn't there to like at Indochine - the hip pan-Asian mecca in downtown Tacoma?  A cutting edge leader, bringing finely crafted cuisine to the South Sound, Indochine features one menu item that stands above the rest: the Summer Basil Chicken Salad.  But, don't wait for summer to dive into this large plate of salad greens, fresh basil, warm mango and pineapple with chicken breast in a creamy peanut sauce.  Everyday can be summer when enjoying this dish. -KS

[1924 Pacific Ave., Tacoma 253.272.8200]

Shahi Gosht Korma

Gateway to India

Topped with sliced almonds, the full, rich, meaty flavor in shahi gosht korma stands out in this slowly simmered boneless dish of tender braised lamb. Savory garlic, coriander, red chili powder and ginger accent a creamy yogurt-based sauce with fenugreek leaves. Served bubbling hot in a metal dish suspended over a candle flame, it looks like a mini-dunk tank for torn pieces of pillowy naan bread. The aromatic basmati rice speckled with cardamom pods is fluffy and moist. -JJ

[2603 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.552.5022]

Southern Buttermilk Pie

The Sidewalk Cafe

The Sidewalk Café's Southern buttermilk pie is so delicious you can't help but devour the slice, lick your lips and then wish for more. I bought one and was going to save it for my husband, but after one bite I ate the entire thing. The Southern buttermilk pie tastes like coconut and custard, and even better you can get it alongside coffee, a sandwich or ice cream. -BG

[601 Capitol Way N., Olympia, 360.878.9637]

Swimming Angel

LeLe Restaurant

After almost a decade in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood, LeLe Restaurant is still serving Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Swimming angel, a traditional Thai dish also called rama rama or swimming rama, is a huge plate of saucy goodness. Handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, thinly sliced carrots and mung bean sprouts are sautéed in a garlicky sauce of rice vinegar, soy sauce, a little sugar, red pepper flakes and more. A generous amount of sweet peanut sauce is piled on top. I swap the white rice that comes with the swimming angel for a nutty brown rice. The dish comes with beef, chicken or pork. -JJ

[1012 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.572.9491]

O-Toro (no longer serve)

TWOKOI Japanese Restaurant

Otoro (oh-toh-roh), which is sometimes labeled o-toro, is the fattiest portion of the tuna, found on the very underside of the fish. This cut is fatty almost to the point of falling apart and can literally melt in your mouth; it is hands-down the best sashimi. It is the most expensive, the most sought-after, the most savored of all the many delights available at the hands of the best sushi chefs. TWOKOI Japanese Restaurant is consistently voted best Japanese restaurant in the South Sound area for its modern environment; acquisition of the freshest Japanese seafood available; and employing some of the greatest rollers and cutters in the area. So, what could be better than getting a piece of the best o-toro sashimi from the best sushi bar in the area? Nothing, that's what. -RS

[1552 Commerce St., Tacoma, 253.274.8999]

Rosemary Ham, Turkey, Sopressata Sandwich

i.Talia Pizzeria

On the road to making tasty food, I.Talia Pizzeria uses 100 percent organic, sustainably-grown ingredients whenever possible. One fine example is a serious stacker of a sandwich that features Italian dry-cured sopressata salami, turkey and rosemary ham, held tight between pieces of ciabatta smeared with creamy golden-hued aioli. Leafy green lettuce and sweet tomato slices are punched up with roasted red peppers and slabs of fresh mozzarella cheese. The sandwich takes a turn in the hearth oven to give it a nice toasted feel. -JJ

[2505 Fourth Ave. W. Unit 108, Olympia 360.754.3393]

Pineapple Fried Rice

Narai Asian Cuisine

I have what some say is an odd preference for nuts in my food; I enjoy the crunch and the buttery nuttiness. Given that, the pineapple fried rice at Narai Asian Cuisine in Olympia is a pleasant surprise. The flavor array with the textures of cashews and crisp cucumber is stellar - white onion, tomato and pineapple chunks are stir-fried along with garlic sauce, fragrant cilantro and basil into jasmine rice that's given a yellow hue by curry powder. The dish comes with lime wedges on the side for squeezing (I highly recommend the zing the fresh lime juice adds). This heaping plate is excellent as a family-style side dish to complement other entrees.  Meat or seafood can be added, though with so much good stuff already in it, I don't think it's needed. -JJ

[320 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia, 360.754.1332]

Vietnamese Vermicelli Salad

Vien Dong Restaurant

Vien Dong in Tacoma's International District offers a heaping bowl of thin, undressed vermicelli noodles made from white rice - and they're especially addictive with sprigs of leafy aromatic cilantro, cucumber, shredded carrot, ground peanut and the option of skewers of grilled meat, seafood (or a combination of these) as topper.  Set up like Vietnamese pho soup, some ingredients are not mixed in. You are expected to use your hands to tear cilantro leaves, pull grilled pork or beef from wooden skewers or add mung beans. Once your are finished customizing, drizzle (or pour) a dressing of fish sauce, carrot, rice wine vinegar and other taste bud-tripping ingredients on top and get to it. -JJ

[3801 Yakima Ave., Tacoma, 253.472.6668] 

Calamari Frito


Argentina is known for its steak, and the best part, the filet, is called lomo. It makes sense that Tacoma's little slice of Argentina, Asado, excels at steaks. Their lomo with polenta and espalda asado (flat iron steak) with purple Peruvian potatoes are both to die for. However, I'm choosing their calamari frito for this distinguished list. Squid steaks are cut into french fry-like strips, lightly coated with panko breadcrumbs and seasoned Parmesan and fried into crunchy-edged, creamy-centered snack sticks. Two sauces - a yellow bell aioli and a spicy cilantro jalapeno - are provided for dipping. -RS

[2810 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.7770]

Green Curry Tofu

Oriental Noodle & Grill

Coconut milk is a weakness of mine. I see those words on a menu and my eyes glaze over. Coconut milk is used beautifully in the green curry dish at Oriental Noodle & Grill across from Tacoma Community College. I select tofu versus chicken or beef for this dish because of its ability to act as a flavor sponge. Sliced white mushrooms, green beans and eggplant are cooked until soft but not mushy. Red and green bell peppers are done just enough to release their natural sweetness and yet retain snap. Thai basil, which I love, is used liberally, and the bamboo shoots are delicious. The overall sweetness of the enveloping green curry sauce is pleasantly surprising. It still has some heat to it and can be made hotter upon request. -JJ

[1620 S. Mildred St., Ste B, Tacoma, 253.565.1921]

Cheese Plate


Given the opportunity, I could eat Enoteca wine bar's cheese plate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And then I could do it all again. Why? Because Bill Bonnie, Enoteca's owner, offers the largest selection of artisan cheeses from around the world. Formaggio di Fossa from Italy, Le Moelleux du Revard from France, aged Gouda from the Netherlands, Valdeon from Spain, Vermont Cheddar Reserve - around 25 cheeses in all. And as if that wasn't enough, you dine on the treats sipping a Gallino Barbera or Finca Resalso in a cozy, quasi-rustic room with acid or gypsy jazz swirling about. -RS

[21 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma, 253.779.8258]

Bolognese Pasta

Primo Grill

Chef Charlie McManus and partner Jacqueline Plattner raised the bar for Tacoma restaurants when they opened the critically acclaimed Mediterranean-ish Primo Grill in October 1999. And after more than 10 years of dining at Primo, even though there are three or four nightly specials every time I visit that would undoubtedly plant a Bill Cosby Jell-O pudding-look of ecstasy on my face, nine times out of 10 I'll order their famous Bolognese pasta dish instead.

Their classic Tuscan ragu is sweetened with carrots and onions, packed with ground beef and ladled over the perfect amount of al dente spaghetti. It's not always easy to get a lot of flavor out of a sauce as complex as the ragu; Primo nails it, especially adding chunkier garlic pieces. Not drowning the pasta and sprinkling Parmesan rather than coating the dish pays off, too. The perfect ratio of ingredients is the key to this dish's success: It's a well-balanced stunner that could grace any Tuscan's table. -RS

[601 S. Pine, Tacoma, 253.383.7000]


Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe

For good, solid nachos, you don't go the "Mexican" kitchen route - and you don't go to a sports bar or pub, where "nachos" means any pile of chips covered in effluvious crap and topped with cheese that remains fluid at room temperature. No, you mosey on over to the Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe for nachos done simply and beautifully large ... and right. Served on a large baking sheet, it's as if co-owner Jamie Kay Newton makes the ultimate nacho on each chip then merges them. The nachos arrive loaded with pepper jack and cheddar cheeses, red and green onions, tons of black olives and jalapenos, and they're served with fresh homemade salsa, chipotle-cilantro sour cream, with the option of adding pulled spicy-barbecue chicken or seasoned ground beef. It's difficult for two people to polish off. -RS

[3529 McKinley Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.1502]

Beef Bulgogi

Obok Restaurant

Beef bulgogi, a Korean dish, consists of thin strips of super-soft beef marinated in a sweet, spicy concoction. Typically the meat is barbequed, though at Lakewood's Obok Restaurant it tastes more like it has been simmered with large pieces of white onion and is heavy on red chili peppers. I can't tell you if the bulgogi, served on a piping hot metal skillet, is perfectly authentic. I do know it tastes great and is a large portion - most of it being meat. Scooped on white rice, the bulgogi's slightly thick sauce acted as a gravy. -KS

[8600 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood, 253.582.6713]

Fish Balls

Mizu Japanese Steakhouse

Traditionally fish balls are pounded by hand (rather than being ground) to achieve a smooth texture. If they're not done in the traditional fashion, those served at Mizu Japanese Steakhouse in Gig Harbor certainly fool me. Rolled in crunchy panko breading and given a turn in hot oil, these hand-formed morsels are made from tuna, scallop, crab and red snapper. These aren't crab cakes - you won't find any extra filler of bread crumbs, chopped onion, celery, clumps of herbs - just good seafood. A sweet thick sauce is drizzled back and forth across the frond-shaped plate. Five to an order, ping pong ball-shaped fish balls sit artfully arranged in the center of the plate. -JJ

[3116 Judson St., Gig Harbor, 253.853.4020]

Pepperoni Pizza

Old School Pizzeria

The thin crust New York-style pies at this popular downtown Olympia locale will be my number one pick when the Weekly Volcano hosts its Tournament of Pizza next March. And I am not alone. Old School packs them in anytime of the day with pizzas loaded with toppings on a crust that's perfectly thin. Served with plenty of rock and roll on the speakers, the pepperoni pizza has a mellow sauce, lots of cheese and a bend that folds perfectly into the mouth. -KS

[108 Franklin St., Olympia, 360.786.9640.]

Fish Tacos

Blazing Onion

Blazing Onion in Gig Harbor may appear to be just another churn-‘em-out sit-down fast-food joint focused on burgers with crazy toppings. But take a walk on the lighter side and you'll find a worthy plate of fish tacos. Think generous pieces of hot, grilled cod come cradled in warm corn-and-flour-blend tortillas. These are no ordinary tortillas folks; you'll notice a subtle heat from jalapeno and lime in them. Cilantro and green onion coleslaw dressed in lime and smoky chipotle sits next to rice and diced tomato. Freshly fried tortilla chips are a great texture contrast and aren't coated in salt. Though meant for the chips, I heaped spoonfuls of house-made pico de gallo on the fish as well. -JJ

[4701 Point Fosdick Dr. NW, Gig Harbor 253.514.6703]

Asparagus and Eggs

Sorci's Italian Cafe and Enoteca

Though I do not, there are those who believe only certain items should be eaten in the morning. That list probably includes heavy meats cooked in oil, butter-laden or sugary breads, piles of potatoes and fruit as a garnish. I'm guessing asparagus is not on that list. Thankfully Sorci's Italian Café and Enoteca in downtown Sumner deviates from standard breakfast fare and serves a lovely classic Italian dish at breakfast featuring asparagus and eggs. A few lightly boiled spears are hit with olive oil and fragrant basil. Traditionally the eggs would be poached. Sorci's prepares them to order; I prefer mine over-medium. Freshly shaved Parmesan accents the entire dish, one that looks straight out of the pages of Food and Wine magazine. -JJ

[1012 Ryan Ave., Sumner 253.891.8400]

Walker Burger

Maxwell's Speakeasy + Lounge

Any restaurant that combines half a pound of beef, apple wood-smoked bacon and a Macrina Bakery brioche bun deserves to have its burgers taken very seriously. At Maxwell's Speakeasy, this dream burger exists. The Walker Burger, named after the building the restaurant anchors, is grilled then topped with white cheddar, grilled onion aioli and excellent greenery and vegetation. The result is mouthwateringly juicy and about as full-flavored as it gets. The smoky salt and earthy cheese flavors give a mildly spicy and tangy overlay to the sweet bread and firm beef patty. Wonderful! -RS

[454 St Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.683.4115]

The Coney

The Red Hot

Hot dogs are awesome. Of all the tube-shaped meat products out there, hot dogs are the king. And right now in Tacoma we are living in a golden age of hot dogs. We have gourmet dogs and street dogs and gourmet street dogs and veggie dogs and plain old dogs just about everywhere. But even with this tubular bounty, there will always be one dog that rises above the rest. And that is the true Coney at The Red Hot - from the thick, dry beanless chili, chopped white onion, yellow mustard to the natural casing dog - it's a traditional Flint-style Coney all the way. -JDP

[2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.779.0229]

Flatbread with Cambazola

Flying Tomato Italian Grill

Flying Tomato Italian Grill in Graham makes pillowy, soft flatbread and cuts it into pieces for easy sharing. Ramekins hold a variety of tasty items that can be spread, drizzled and smeared on the hot bread to create a customized flavor explosion. Oh alright, I'm completely biased; if there's roasted garlic around, I'm giving a thumbs-up. Deep brown balsamic vinegar is a tangy complement to spreadable cloves swimming in olive oil. Red pepper chunks enliven soft butter and lend it an orange hue. And as for the cheese - a hunk of blue-veined cambazola gives the entire delightful mess a delicious bit of saltiness. -JJ

[10224 198th St. E., Graham, 253.875.0770]

Spanish Sardine

Morso Wine Bar

When I think of sardines, I think of oily fish in an odd mustard or tomato sauce packed in a can with a peel-back metal lid. There is no can involved at Morso, Gig Harbor's newest wine bar. From a menu of small plate, or tapas-style, dishes crafted to complement the wine, the Mediterranean in all its olive oil-and-sea salt glory came to me on a white saucer in the form of a  single three-and-a-half-inch Spanish sardine. A very green basil pesto was spread across the fish; pesto olive oil was a nice accompaniment. I was delighted by how the fish seemed to melt in my mouth and had a creamy texture without being mushy. -JJ

[9014 Peacock Hill Ave., Ste 103B, Gig Harbor, 253.853.7467]

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich


Meconi's is an extremely popular lunchtime sandwich shop, and for good reason. The Philly cheesesteak features sliced steak, grilled green peppers, onions and mushrooms, topped with mozzarella on a hoagie that's been lightly fried on the grill. Stacked, rich in beef flavors and hot to the touch, hands down, this is the South Sound region's best sandwich. But, a word of warning - plan to stand in line because lunch crowds swell out the door. -KS

[5225A Lacey Blvd., Lacey, 360.459.0213]


Sage's Brunch House

Sage's Brunch House's marvelous migas are a medley of red and ancho peppers, garlic, beans, corn tortillas, onions, eggs and Portuguese sausage garnished with pasilla pepper cream sauce, cilantro pesto and flour tortillas on the side. The portions are generous, but you won't have trouble finishing them. The savory combination will delight and excite your appetite and your palate. -BG

[903 Rogers St., Olympia, 360.352.1103]

Farfalle di Marine

Marzano's Restaurant

I love prawns (little mud bugs of the sea that they are) skewered, grilled, roasted, baked, hot or cold. Marzano's Restaurant on Garfield Street uses a generous number of sautéed black tiger prawns and plump sea scallops in the farfalle di marine, a large-portion seafood pasta dish. A simmered sauce of slivered garlic, finely chopped red and yellow bell peppers, yellow curry, brandy and herbs and spices dresses al dente bowtie noodles. Not to be confused with creamy coconut curry dishes that leave you feeling heavy, this sauce was light with complex flavors and minimal coconut. The seafood is tender, not rubbery. No one flavor overpowers the others, each complements and builds on the whole. -JJ

[516 Garfield St. S., Tacoma, 253.537.4191]

Stewed Goat Taco

Vuelve A La Vida

Goat is as Mexican as it gets, especially inside a taco created on the tough streets of Pacific Avenue near East Tacoma. Vuelve A La Vida, Tacoma's most authentic Mexican restaurant, serves a marinated goat taco that puts the olé in your day. The birria (meat stew) tastes mellow and arrives in chunks on soft corn tortillas with cilantro and white onions sprinkled on top. Those worried about pungent goat flavor may wade into the meat here with a little concern, but only the traces of fat on the birria tastes even close to strong. These tacos could be pot roast if you didn't know the difference. -KS

[5310 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.473.7068]

Korean Barbecue Short Ribs

Palace Korean

In the short rib market, I like Korean style best, and no one does that better than Lakewood's Palace Korean. These babies come out center-of-the-sun hot and crisp, with a silky, sugary sauce that blends nicely with the beef and fat hanging off the bones. I love Palace Korean's side dishes before the big beef show, and the service is fast and efficient.  Palace Korean has plenty of seating, but on weekends it can get busy with large parties. -KS

[8718 S. Tacoma Way, Lakewood, 253.581.0880]

Fried Oysters

The Crown Bar

The Crown Bar ranks as my favorite hip spot in the South Sound because it delivers on intimacy, an excellent street foods menu and cold beer. I like many items on the menu, but when I want perfection, I dive into a plate of their fried oysters. With just the right hints of oil and sea, these hummers slide down nicely with a Guinness chasing them. Patterned after a Dublin pub, Crown Bar has been a welcome addition to the Tacoma area, and the oysters are just cream on the top. -KS

[2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.4177]


Ramirez Mexican Store & Tortilla Factory

These are no factory-made, mass-produced, tasteless, bland tamales. The masa is fresh; the tamale dough is perfectly steamed and as fresh as it can be. You know the tamale was just prepared, feet from your table, and delivered right to your delighted taste buds. The tamales have a variety of meat and vegetable fillings and are so hot, corn infused and fresh you might never think of tamales the same way again. -BG

[5105 Capitol Blvd. SW # C, Tumwater, 360.753.1829]

Tongue Taco

Anjou Taco Truck

With many taco trucks to choose from in the South Sound area, it's difficult to narrow down which one is best. But, when approached from a single dish perspective, Anjou's on 56th Street in Tacoma stands four wheels above the rest. Anjou's tongue taco literally makes mine water. Served on authentic, small corn tortillas, the tongue is stewed moist with mild flavor that works well with dashes of onion and cilantro.  I like them best with the green chili salsa. -KS

[3305 S. 56th St., Tacoma, shares lot with Chevron]

Signature Boeuf Bourguignon

Brix 25

Nothing warms the insides better on a cold, damp Northwest evening than beef in a heavy gravy, and Brix 25 has that going on across the Narrow's in Gig Harbor with their boeuf bourguignon. Though chefs have come and gone at this spot, this menu item remains because of its popularity with diners. It's comfort food - thick slabs of beef roasted with a delightful sauce that embodies the earthiness of the Puget Sound area.  A French classic, also known as beef burgundy, Brix 25 will be happy to pair it with the perfect bottle of wine. -KS

[7707 Pioneer Way, Gig Harbor, 253.858.6626]

Croutes de Fromage

Over The Moon Cafe

Remember back in February 2005 when the so-called Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich sold on eBay for $28,000 (even though the image looked more like a brunette Mae West)? Just slightly less valuable but undoubtedly more tasty is Over The Moon Café's croutes de fromage, which rings in at $9. This version of the grilled cheese sandwich comes straight from the mountains of Jura, France, and includes thick slices of freshly baked sourdough bread, Gruyere cheese and mellow and moist Swiss cheese that has been soaked in a sweet white wine sauce before grilling. It's a gooey slab of true heaven as the mountain of flavored cheese melts to perfection. Warning: If their tomato basil soup is the soup du jour, get your ass there early. Tacoma is loaded with dippers. -JDP

[709 Court C, Tacoma, 253.284.3722]


Fifth Avenue Sandwich Shop

Luscious, thick-cut, peppered bacon almost overflows on this sandwich, with fresh tomatoes slices, lettuce and delicious bread rounding out the deal. The sandwich must be several inches thick and is just oozing with BLT goodness. The herb mayo is slathered on the bread, and certainly adds a punch to the overall package. I chose jalapeño for my sandwich bread, which added an entirely different spunk - which I really liked. This is one BLT you'll dream about. -BG

[117 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia, 360.705.3393]

Penang Curry

Longbeach Cafe

I might like Penang curry because it has a sunny disposition, a creamy, yellow color that's more hopeful than the greens, reds and browns of the other curry types. But, mostly, I adore how Longbeach blends chili peppers, lemongrass, garlic, cumin and more into a savory, heated, creamy sauce that kicks my insides in a good way. Longbeach is stellar in many ways, but their Penang curry tops the list; I like it best with chicken over jasmine rice. -KS

[10114 Bridgeport Way SW, Lakewood. 253.565.3269]

Hot Pot

Tacoma Szechuan

Hot Pot is a large, divided metal bowl with spicy oil on one side and mild broth on the other that sits on a burner inset or on top of a table. Plates stacked with raw meats and veggies arrive at the table for a do-it-yourself, fondue-like meal. Tacoma Szechuan corners the hot pot market in the South Sound, allowing lovers of "true" Chinese food to enjoy the experience of dipping shavings of succulent beef and lamb, firm cabbage and thick soy noodles, all the while continually raising small glasses of Tsingtao beer and shooting them down to extinguish the hot chili oil stinging their eyes, lips and tongues. Pure hedonism. -KS

[9601 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253.581.0102]


Cebu Restaurant

The pancit at Cebu is the best I've had outside of the stuff made by Filipino mamas back home in Hawaii. The noodles are fresh, abundant and served with meat and vegetables. The lime served on top gives the dish a tangy and refreshing flavor. At Cebu the service is phenomenal, and the owner makes you feel like one of a kind. He remembers you no matter how long it's been since you last joined him for a delicious dining experience. -BG

[9408 Martin Way E. #4, Olympia, 360.455.9128]

BBQ Sampler Platter

Ranch House BBQ & Steakhouse

Just as I love the variety of buffets, I'm a sucker for a sampler platter. Load me up. Ranch House BBQ & Steakhouse off Highway 8 West does not disappoint, with an enormous platter filled both vertically and horizontally. I'm talking meat, baby. There was moist pulled pork piled against beef brisket; three-bone pork ribtip so tender the meat all but slid off the bone; and a juicy smoked chicken hindquarter with amazing, lightly-glazed skin. I like barbeque sauce, but not as a drowning pool; I'm pleased that award-winning Pitmaster Amy Anderson goes easy with the ladle, allowing the meat's natural flavors to do the talking. -JJ

[10841 Kennedy Creek Rd SW (off Hwy 8 West), Olympia, 360.866.8704]

Sweet Potato Gratin

Cicada Restaurant and Lounge

A creation of Executive Chef Billy Roberson, Cicada's sweet potato gratin packs about 20 layers of delectably thin sweet potatoes and layered ricotta cheese. One bite of the orange and white layered dish inspires your fork to go in for more. The taste is phenomenal and encompasses a range of flavors. A little sweet, a little sour and savory, but also such creaminess; it's heaven in a mouthful. -BG

[700 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia, 360.753.5700]

Babs Bodacious Biscuits

Babblin' Babs Bistro

Babblin' Babs Bistro, the tiny Proctor District restaurant, dishes out huge flavors the likes of which Tacoma has never seen. Chef William and his better half, Shannon, have just added new gourmet creations to their breakfast menu, including Babs Bodacious Biscuits. Arriving in a bowl, Babs Bodacious Biscuits takes the standard biscuits and gravy concept and gives it a diamond shine. First, their homemade buttermilk biscuits are baked until crisp on the outside yet soft as a pillow on the inside. Then they're loaded with creamy cheesy ham and roasted chili pepper sauce. To finish things off it's topped with a custard egg and garden fresh green tomato salsa. A crazy-good sweet potato hash of yams, onion, bell pepper, bacon and spices complements it brilliantly. -RS

[2724 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253.761.9099]

New York Steak with Hashbrowns

El Gaucho

When I dine on El Gaucho's New York steak with hash browns, my taste buds are transported to the Big Apple, where I'm relaxing after a Broadway show at Sardi's, waving to the Rat Pack while waiting for the train to return me to my home upstate. This classic late supper meal is perfect in every fashion, with quality meat and firm browns that meld together to form a sense of nirvana in the pleasure points of my brain. Add a stiff drink on the rocks and chase it with cheesecake and I'm not sure life could be any better. -KS

[2119 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.1510]

Read next close


Santa gets psychedelic

Comments for "50 Favorite Dishes" (3)

Weekly Volcano is not responsible for the content of these comments. Weekly Volcano reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

User Photo

Karen said on Aug. 30, 2011 at 2:39pm

El gaucho steak looks like a ribeye

User Photo

MikeR said on Aug. 30, 2011 at 4:00pm

Is the takoyaki still on the menu at Pacific Grill?

User Photo

Pacific Grill said on Sep. 12, 2011 at 7:02am

MikeR, Unfortunately the takoyaki is no longer on the menu. For some reason it wassn't a huge seller and we had to remove them. We still have many other of our Noodle Bar offerings on the Happy Hour menu.

Leave A Comment

(This will not be published)


Respond on Your Blog

If you have a Weekly Volcano Account you can not only post comments, but you can also respond to articles in your own Weekly Volcano Blog. It's just another way to make your voice heard.

Site Search