Essence Lounge now open in Tacoma’s 6th Avenue neighborhood
Tacoma’s Essence Lounge, which opened January 18 in the Sixth Ave neighborhood, has a familiar face behind it. Natural Allah is back with his unusual blend of cuisine that is a mashup of Latin American eats and Southern soul food. He operates the restaurant with Christina Hernandez.
Allah previously co-owned Soul, which operated in Proctor (and a short-lived version was near Tacoma Community College where Sushido operates now). Before that, he had Vinum Lounge, a wine bar and lounge in downtown Tacoma.
ON SIXTH AVE
Essence is located where Triple Play once operated. Essence is advertising local musicians, so expect live music acts to roll through the lounge. Michael Powers is scheduled to perform January 31. DJ nights also are on the schedule. Said Hernandez, “We’re booking live music DJ Friday and Saturday nights. Also booking for slam poetry, sip and paint and things like that.”
SOUL FOOD WITH A BROAD DEFINITION
The menu is a love letter to the kind of food Allah grew up eating in the Bronx: a little bit Cuban, Puerto Rican, soul food and more. Hernandez, who is Puerto Rican, brings her own spin to the restaurant, as well.
Hernandez recommends the jambalaya and smothered pork chops on a first visit. Their oxtails, she said, are making customers “scream.” She said the slow-cooked dish is long marinated. As she described, “It literally falls off the bones.”
Specials such as grilled pork chops with tostones and rice and beans were on the menu this week. There’s also chicken, pork or shrimp mofongo ($18), fried/grilled/smothered pork chops ($15 to $20, with two sides), chicken and waffles ($14), fried chicken wings with sides ($15 to $17), arroz con pollo ($15), shrimp and grits ($14), and fried catfish or tilapia ($14 to $23, with sides). Sides include okra, tostones, red beans and rice, hush puppies, collard greens, yams and more.
Here’s something for people who avoid meat. “We have jerk eggplant,” said Hernandez, “Which is 100 percent vegan!”
Speaking of new food around town, have you checked out the Old Times Bakery in Tacoma? It features pastries from Uruguay! Read more here. And speaking of Puerto Rican food, have you visited OSJ International in Lakewood yet? Get yourself there for the mofongo and paella.
ESSENCE LOUNGE TACOMA
Please note: No kids are allowed after 8 p.m.