Here are 14 places to eat in Tacoma’s Lincoln District for the Lunar New Year
Any day is a good day to eat your way around the Lincoln District, but Sunday is the neighborhood’s annual Lunar New Year celebration. Don’t miss it. There will be dancers and other live entertainment. There’s also an abundance of great eating. The neighborhood is home to Vietnamese restaurants aplenty, one of the best destinations for sushi, southern soul food, a Mexican bakery and the city’s only seafood boil restaurant. Here’s where to eat when you visit the Lincoln neighborhood.
The Lunar New Year event will be 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 9) in the Lincoln District, in the neighborhood surrounding 3801 S. Yakima Ave. No admission fee. Restaurants will have dining specials. More details here.
BAMBU DESSERTS & DRINKS
It’s a layered drink that looks like art-in-a-cup. Vietnamese chè is a serious dessert with ballast. Find it in myriad variations at Bambu, a Vietnamese dessert cafe that is a California-based chain with a handful of Puget Sound locations. Think of chè as the sibling of the Filipino dessert, halo-halo. At the base is shaved ice, some kind of milk if you want it (plant free or dairy) and sunk deep into the plastic cup are add-ins you can customize: Jellies, boba pearls, beans, fruit and pandan. The dessert cafe also has macaron cookies, waffles, bubble tea, and all kinds of delicious concoctions. If you try one thing, make it the Fruit Addict chè.
GET IT: 773 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-212-3882; facebook.com/bambutacoma.
Since 1989, this mainstay of Tacoma Vietnamese dining has operated in the Lincoln District. Thuy-Linh Nguyen’s family founded the cafe and she runs it with her husband Kevin Le. For so many diners, a first taste of pho was at this soup shop, so it holds a special place in the Tacoma dining community. Ordering here is a no brainer. Get the pho. There’s also a menu of noodles and stir fry, but you really want the pho.
GET IT: 3801 Yakima Ave., Tacoma; 253-472-6668
As I wrote earlier this week in my Mardi Gras story, Louisiana style seafood boil restaurant Dragon’s Crawfish is in the middle of the Lincoln neighborhood. This low-tech restaurant is small, so busy nights can come with a wait. Like most seafood boil places, diners order seafood by the pound and it’s boiled and served up in a giant bowl meant to be communally shared at your table. You use your hands and provided utensils to crack open and slurp up the goodness. Don’t forget to order extra French bread (it’s of the crusty variety, much like banh mi sandwich bread) to sop up chef-owner Minh Phan’s dynamite, but lethally spiced, “Dragon’s Breath” sauce (you can order it lighter on the spice). Paper-lined tables allow for mess making. This is a hands-on eating activity. Wear your grubby clothes. Corn on the cob, sausage and boiled potatoes can be ordered with your boil (ordering all three is called a “triple play”). It’s safe for kids. Beer and wine served. The hours can vary.
GET IT: Dragon’s Crawfish, 750 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-301-0020
This restaurant, founded by Xuan Phan, mother of Minh Phan of Dragon’s Crawfish across the street, has a delicious list of pho, but the restaurant’s barbecued pork is my go-to. I like mine in the bun thit nuong, the cold rice noodle salad topped with shredded vegetables, peanuts, cha gio, fried shallots, with a lightly sweetened fish sauce vinaigrette.
GET IT: 757 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-472-6153
GARI OF SUSHI
Osaka-trained chef-owner Kazuya “Kazu” Kamada is an artist as much as he is a sushi chef. His Instagram feed is a must follow. The restaurant has operated on the edge of the Lincoln District since 2002. The dining room was made over in 2008 following a fire and it’s a modern space with muted lighting and shimmery glass artwork. Kamada calls his style of sushi Osaka-style, which has a focus on contrasting flavors and textures. His nigiri are little pieces of art on a plate. Do not miss the mango paradise roll.
GET IT: 1209 S. 38th St., Tacoma, 253-475-3456
THO TUONG BBQ
Where to Dine Pierce County member Jefferson Mok told me some super exciting news. The longtime cash-only Vietnamese-style barbecue restaurant finally is taking credit cards. That’s great because you’ll want to spend hundreds of your dining dollars on the by-the-pound roasted pork, duck and chicken. The restaurant has the best advertisement for its delicious meats – a warmer that’s on display from the street. The dining room is small and the menu is simple. The focus here is by-the-pound roasted meats, but there’s also a delicious noodle soup and combo plates. The pickled jalapenos on the side should be bottled and sold.
GET IT: 715 S. 38th St., 253-474-2279
UNCLE THURM’S SOUL FOOD
If there’s one thing you need to eat that is a specialty of Thurmond Brokenbrough, it’s the soul food medley. It’s a perfect introduction to the delicious soul food that has been made by Thurmond and Linda Brokenbrough in the Lincoln District for decades. Before they had Uncle Thurm’s, they ran the Rail Splitter at Lincoln Bowl (RIP). The menu is the greatest hits of southern soul food. The atmosphere is homey like your grandma’s dining room. The soul food medley offers a taste of most everything on the menu (just kidding, but it’s a lot). The plate’s side dishes taste like they came straight from a southern church potluck. Ribs are good, fried chicken is ethereal.
GET IT: 3709 S. G St., 253-475-1881
EL ZOCALO TORTAS AND BAKERY
Fernando Lopez has operated the Lincoln neighborhood torta sandwich destination with his father, Ambrioso Fernando Lopez, since 2010. There is a wide array of pan dulce. The pastries and cookie selection is deep. They make custom-designed cakes and this bakery also makes the best puerquitos in town. The serve yourself bakery case is best visited on weekends when the selection is robust. Next to the bakery, there’s a small cafe serving a long list of torta sandwiches. If you get any torta there, make sure it’s one served with a pork cutlet. Delicious. Did I mention they give you a sack of fresh-fried potato chips with your sandwich?
GET IT: 701 S. 38th St., 253-474-9000
HONG KONG SUPERMARKET
Walk right up to the deli counter for roasted pork and chicken. Or, get a banh mi sandwich. You never know what’s going to be fresh in the deli. This Vietnamese grocery store has a wide selection of steamtable offerings. You can spend hours perusing the shelves.
GET IT: 3828 Yakima Ave.
EAST ASIA SUPERMARKET
Pick up deli sandwiches and other fresh-made foods in the deli. Peruse the aisle with cookware. It’s a must visit in the city.
GET IT: 602 S. 38th St., 253-473-3799
HUONG QUE DELI
This tiny sandwich shop has a niche in banh mi, but what I love is their salted lemonade. Chang moui, if they have it available, is a little sweet, a lot salty and incredibly refreshing.
GET IT: 3813 S. Yakima Ave., 253-476-7805 (bring cash)
CAFE LA VIE
Strong Vietnamese coffee, delicious banh mi, a light-strewn dining room. There’s a lot to love about this little sandwich shop specializing in bahn mi.
GET IT: 3724 S Yakima Ave., Tacoma, 253-472-3724
The restaurant has cycled through multiple owners, but the menu has always been the same: burgers and fries. Make mine a double, please. Great shakes, too.
GET IT: 858 S, 38th St., 253-474-6244
In a burger smackdown, I’d pick Jubilee over Burger Ranch, but their greasy burgers are still pretty tasty (especially for the cost). They have a long list of fried food to ruin your digestive system before you attack a sloppy burger. Bring Zantac.
GET IT: 820 S. 38th St., 253-472-3069
TAKE A TOUR
Bambu posted a photo pictorial of the Lincoln District this week and it’s worth a tour.
MEXICAN STEAKHOUSE COMING
Did you hear that Cuerno Bravo, the Mexican upscale restaurant is opening in Tacoma in March? Read about it here.