Try towering layers of cake, pizzacoa, and bone marrow shots on an action-packed Tacoma day trip
TACOMA – I admittedly don’t spend much time in Tacoma, which is a shame, especially since it’s only about 40 miles from my home. Admittedly, the time it takes to cover those 40 miles is wildly variable. Still, I spent three consecutive days driving there a few weeks ago, and each time I fell more and more in love with Washington’s second-largest city.
For me, the best part of exploring Tacoma was how little I knew beforehand, which really freed me up to not think about things too much – like grabbing a pizzacoa from Taqueria Los Tamales and drive it about 20 minutes to Ruston Way Park to eat it – which felt like the Seattle equivalent of picking up takeout in Capitol Hill and eating it in Golden Gardens. Still, dunking this pizzacoa (which is a glorious pizza/quesadilla hybrid stuffed with barbacoa) in a cup of spiced consommé with a stunning view of Commencement Bay was perfection on a sunny Sunday.
It also led to delicious surprises, like coming out of in Rama – which itself is an incredibly charming restaurant tucked away in a corner of Tacoma’s historic downtown post office – on South 11th Street and looking towards the Thea Foss Waterway and seeing the Murray Morgan Lift Bridge. Again – I’m not too familiar with Tacoma’s landscape, so seeing the impressive towering bridge perched on the edge of downtown was a nice surprise. I love the architecture of the bridges and loved this view of the bridge and the great waterway beyond.
However, all was not rosy. Cat and Rabbit, a fabulous window serving dizzying slices of cake is BYOF. That’s right, bring your own fork. I unfortunately didn’t, so my cake had to wait. Still, it freed up my focus a bit to explore the neighborhood and immerse myself in Hi-Voltage Records to browse for a while.
Three afternoons have only scratched the surface of beautiful Tacoma and I know there is so much more to explore. However, summer is the perfect time for cruising – whether in your own car or on the Sounder – and I’m excited to return. If you go, here are some of the best things I’ve experienced while eating and drinking.
The cat and rabbit pastry
11am-3pm Sunday, 12pm-4.30pm Thursday-Friday, 11am-4.30pm Saturday; 2811 Sixth Avenue, Tacoma; thecatandrabbitt.com
Order Sunday-only slices, cupcakes, cookies and cinnamon rolls directly from a window overlooking Sixth Avenue. The available slices of the day are scribbled on a sheet of butcher’s paper stuck inside the window. Every cake size is different – the chocolate and chocolate cream cheese is seven layers of cake with layers of chocolate cream cheese frosting, while the coconut only (only?!) has six layers of vanilla cake soaked in vanilla milk and alternating layers of coconut pastry cream and cream cheese buttercream frosting. Each slice costs $10, but these tiles are shareable.
3pm-10pm Tuesday to Saturday; 1102 A St. #220, Tacoma; 253-223-7184; enramatacoma.com
This charming cocktail bar serves a collection of Spanish-style small plates as well as larger pasta dishes inside downtown Tacoma’s Court House Square, also known as ‘The Old Post Office’ “. I went to the bar on my own during happy hour, having an old game with saffron/cardamom bitters ($7) and a chilli cheese order ($8). Chilli cheese is served with slices of homemade bread toasted in butter and tiny jars of pickled vegetables and caramelized onion jam. Being alone at the bar and putting my phone down to just sip and eat while listening to the bus around me was a long missed ritual. I sipped my perfect cocktail while leisurely brushing chunks of warm, toasted bread with hot, tangy chili cheese and garnishing each bite with a lightly spiced slice of celery or pickled fennel and savored every bite.
9am-9pm Sunday, 10am-9pm Monday-Thursday, 10am-10pm Friday, 9am-10pm Saturday; 1018 72nd St. E., Tacoma; 253-301-0849; facebook.com/Lostamalestacoma
Housed in a strip mall filled with Mexican restaurants, Los Tamales not only stands out for the terrific tamales ($2.25 each) – I grabbed a mixed half dozen which included chicken, beef, rajas and pork – but for the mighty pizzacoa ($15). Cut into four thick slices, the pizzacoa includes layers of crispy tortillas, melted cheese and what looks like a pound of tender, shredded barbacoa beef. Topped with chopped red onions and cilantro, the Mexican pizza is served with lime wedges, salsa, and a cup of rich, spicy consommé for dipping.
4-9:30 p.m. daily; 714 Pacific Ave, Tacoma; 253-503-0762; villeenboistacoma.com
You’re going to want to make a reservation for this lively space, which was packed even at 6.30pm on a Monday night. A friend and I took a seat at the bar for beautifully balanced tiki drinks, perfectly poached peel and eat shrimp served with a side of pulled butter ($15), wood-fired bone marrow ($16) served with onion jam, pickles, and the option of adding a sherry sledge for five dollars. It may be rude to bring a roasted bone to your mouth and pour alcohol on it, but ignore the wind! Go sledding. We finished with a bowl of steamed mussels and clams ($25), tossed with chorizo and served with a loaf of toasted baguette slathered in miso butter.
5pm-9pm Monday to Saturday; 2715 6th Avenue, Tacoma; 253-327-1862; thetabletacoma.com
Located just one block from Cat and Rabbitt, The Table is a stylish bistro with a casual yet refined vibe. I met a friend for a glass of sparkling rosé and the braised elk ($21). Served in a cast iron skillet, the tender elk shoulder swam in a richly spiced ancho chili sauce with bilberry and served with toasted Macrina bread. You will definitely want to order more bread to mop up every last bit of sauce.