TACOMA — I admittedly don’t spend a lot of time in Tacoma, which is a bummer, especially since it’s only about 40 miles from my house. Granted, the amount of time it takes to travel those 40 miles is wildly variable. Still, I spent three consecutive days driving down there a few weeks ago and each time became more and more enamored with Washington’s third-largest city.

For me, the best part about exploring Tacoma was how little I knew beforehand which really freed me up to not overthink things — like grabbing a pizzacoa from Taqueria Los Tamales and driving it about 20 minutes up to Ruston Way Park to eat it — which felt like the Seattle equivalent of picking up takeout in Capitol Hill and eating it at Golden Gardens. Still, dunking that pizzacoa (which is a glorious barbacoa-stuffed pizza/quesadilla hybrid) into a cup of spicy consommé with an unobstructed view of Commencement Bay was perfection on a sunny Sunday.

More

It also led to some delightful surprises, like walking out of en Rama — which itself is an incredibly charming restaurant tucked inside one corner of Tacoma’s historical downtown post office — onto South 11th Street and looking toward the Thea Foss Waterway and seeing the Murray Morgan lift bridge. Again — I don’t know too much about the Tacoma landscape, so seeing the impressive towering bridge perched at the edge of downtown was a beautiful surprise. I love bridge architecture and loved this view of the bridge and the greater waterway beyond it.

It wasn’t all roses, however. Cat and Rabbitt, a fabulous window serving up sky-high slices of cake is BYOF. That’s right, bring your own fork. I sadly did not, so my cake had to wait. Still, it freed up my focus a bit to explore the neighborhood and duck into Hi-Voltage Records to browse for a while.  

Three afternoons was only enough to scratch the surface of beautiful Tacoma and I know there is so much more to explore. However, summer is the perfect time for cruising — be it in your own car or on the Sounder — and I’m excited to get back. If you do go, here are a few of the best things I experienced as I ate and drank my way around.

The Cat and Rabbitt Cakeshop
11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, noon-4:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday; 2811 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; thecatandrabbitt.com

Advertising

Order slices, cupcakes, cookies and Sunday-only cinnamon rolls straight from a window that faces Sixth Avenue. The day’s available slices are scrawled on a sheet of butcher paper taped to the inside of the window. Each cake size is different — the chocolate chocolate cream cheese is a towering seven layers of cake with layers of chocolate cream cheese buttercream frosting, while the coconut only (only?!) has six layers of vanilla milk-soaked vanilla cake and alternating layers of coconut pastry cream and cream cheese buttercream frosting. Each slice is $10, but these slabs are shareable.

en Rama
3-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 1102 A St. #220, Tacoma; 253-223-7184; enramatacoma.com

This charming cocktail bar serves a collection of Spanish-style small plates plus larger pasta dishes inside downtown Tacoma’s Court House Square, also known as the “old post office.” I bellied up to the bar by myself during happy hour, grabbing an old fashioned with saffron/cardamom bitters ($7) and an order of the pimento cheese ($8). The pimento cheese is served with buttery toasted slabs of housemade bread and tiny tubs 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 buss around me was a ritual long missed. I sipped my perfect cocktail while leisurely slathering hunks of the warm, toasted bread with tangy, sharp pimento cheese and topping each bite with a slightly spicy sliver of pickled celery or fennel and relished each bite.

Los Tamales

9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 1018 72nd St. E., Tacoma; 253-301-0849; facebook.com/Lostamalestacoma

Housed in a strip mall filled with Mexican restaurants, Los Tamales stands out not only for the terrific tamales ($2.25 each) — I grabbed a mixed half-dozen that included chicken, beef, rajas and pork — but for the mighty pizzacoa ($15). Cut into four thick slices, the pizzacoa features layers of crispy tortillas, melted cheese, and what feels like a pound of tender, shredded barbacoa beef. Topped with chopped red onion and cilantro, the Mexican pizza is served with lime wedges, salsa, and a cup of rich, spicy consommé for dipping.

Wooden City

4-9:30 p.m. daily; 714 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-503-0762; woodencitytacoma.com

Advertising

You’re going to want to make a reservation for this buzzy space, which was packed to capacity even at 6:30 on a Monday evening. A friend and I grabbed a seat at the bar for beautifully balanced tiki drinks, peel-and-eat shrimp that were perfectly poached and served with a side of drawn butter ($15), wood-fired bone marrow ($16) served with onion jam, cornichons and the option to add on a sherry luge for five bucks. It might be uncouth to raise a roasted bone to your mouth and pour booze down it, but throw caution to the wind! Do the luge. We finished with a bowl of steamed mussels and clams ($25), mixed with chorizo and served with a loaf of toasted baguette shellacked with miso butter.

The Table

5-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 2715 6th Ave., Tacoma; 253-327-1862; thetabletacoma.com

Located just a block from Cat and Rabbitt, The Table is a sleek bistro with a casual, yet refined feel. 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 was swimming in a richly spiced ancho chili sauce with huckleberry and served with grilled Macrina bread. You’ll definitely want to order more bread to sop up every last bit of the sauce.

__________________

Correction: May 23, 2022 9:27am – This story was updated to correct that Tacoma is the third largest city in Washington.

If you go

The Sounder runs a dozen times daily from Seattle to the Tacoma Dome with the first departure from King Street Station at 6:05 a.m., arriving at the Tacoma Dome station roughly an hour later. There is also late-afternoon service to South Tacoma. More information is at soundtransit.org.

Traveling by car from downtown Seattle to downtown Tacoma during off-peak times takes about 40 minutes. If traveling during high traffic times, plan on an hour.

More