Just what Tacoma needed – a wiener and a cake window on 6th Ave
Shortly before 11 a.m. on a Sunday in November, the line started to assemble on Sixth Avenue.
A woman who clearly had become a regular at The Cat & Rabbitt Cakeshop, which opened Nov. 15 on Sixth, explained to newbie pastry seekers that they were lining up in the wrong direction.
The line bent south, toward North Pine, and then more people kept coming.
By the time Julia Brown and Terryn Abbitt slid open their cake window on Sixth Avenue, a dozen cake seekers had quickly assembled.
Brown and Abbitt started the routine to which they’ve grown accustomed: slice off big hunks of cake from their daily selection, then hand over the boxed slices through the cake window they built into the Pine Room Events Center where they also operate their custom cake business.
A block to the south, another window opened for the day, promptly at 11 a.m.: The Red Hot’s Wiener Window.
Brothers and co-owners Chris and Stu Miller modified their business plan to serve their famous hot dogs and to-go brew out of a window they built into their front door.
With pandemic restrictions shuttering dining rooms, businesses in Tacoma have shown how scrappy they can be. Window dining is just one more example of businesses that are not going to give up during the worst era for restaurants in modern history.
Please, my friends. Eat local. Visit your favorite restaurant today and get take-out. There’s a city full of restaurant workers who need our help right now.
THE CAT & RABBITT CAKESHOP
Naturally a business plan that’s hatched during a pandemic will be molded by that pandemic. Enter the cake window.
“We want people to be able to walk up to a window and get a big, giant slab of the best cake they’ve ever had,” said Brown back in October when I first spoke with them about their venture. They had both been working as the pastry super duo at X Group Catering, the companion business to the Pine Room, Asado, Engine House No. 9 and E9 Brewing.
When the pandemic hit and restaurants shuttered the first time, they both were laid off.
They didn’t panic. They hatched a business plan. They teamed up with X Group co-owner John Xitco and leased space in the company’s Pine Room to operate their pastry business.
They were nervous to open a new food business during a period that’s absolutely been crushing restaurants, but they knew this: No matter what happens during a pandemic, people will always need dessert and a window is easy to operate in a socially distant way.
And what beautiful cakes they produce. Surprise flavor enhancers boost the taste and texture of the cakes the duo cut into fat wedges and package in environmentally-friendly boxing. The menu focuses on cake-by-the-slice, but they have other occasional pastry offerings.
“Soaking” is a pastry trick chefs use to add moisture and texture to a cake. Brown and Abbitt use flavor soaks with ingredients ranging from vanilla to lime.
The resulting texture is unforgettable, pleasantly sticky.
The Cat & Rabbitt’s four-layer berry lime cake tasted substantially luscious with a lime soak. A permeating aroma of citrus wafted from the four-layer white cake, which was frosted with a subtly tart cream cheese buttercream. Each layer hid a swipe of tart-and-lush lime curd and a channel of berry jam slid down the center layer. It was the best slice of cake I ate in 2020. Probably 2019. Maybe my whole life.
The frustrating and wonderful thing about Cat & Rabbitt is that the cake-by-the-slice menu alternates daily, which means you might or might not find that beautiful berry-lime cake, or the light-and-airy pumpkin cake with a pumpkin mascarpone whip fortifying each layer of the rich cake frosted with cream cheese buttercream. I definitely would stand in line (and I never want to stand in line) for the chocolate dulce de leche with that house-made caramel. So my advice is to check the menu they post every operating day on their website to see what the day’s flavors will bring.
Cakes are priced $8 a slice, but they’re available for special order as whole cakes and if you’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday at home anytime soon, I highly recommend that sublime berry lime cake with the lime milk soak.
Cake choices are typically offered in 6 to 8 flavors every day with one or two cupcake choices with something vegan much of the time.
They also bake cookies and do once-a-week offerings of their famous cinnamon rolls.
Oh, those cinnamon rolls.
They made weekend brunch at Engine House No. 9 regionally famous. While Engine House No. 9 on Pine next door to the cake window is temporarily closed during the pandemic (sibling businesses Asado and sister restaurant E9 Brewing on Fawcett are open), you can still get those big-as-your-head cinnamon rolls at Cat & Rabbitt Cakeshop.
LOCATION: 2811 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
HOURS: Open Wednesdays through Sundays. Check social for hours.
THE RED HOT WIENER WINDOW
Don’t even think about making a wiener joke to Chris Miller, co-owner of The Red Hot. “We’ve been doing this for 13 years, so we’ve heard every wiener joke there is,” said Miller, the irreverent co-owner of Tacoma’s best destination for gourmet hot dogs. He runs The Red Hot with brother Stu Miller in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood.
And now it’s home to The Wiener Window.
“We shut down March 16 for 77 days. We opened back up for takeout at the beginning of June. We had the window then, but it was a blank red window we built from wood left over from our build out. It was designed to be wedged into the door frame, and is braced on the inside to hold it in place. We called it the Wiener Window then, but since we never got around to adding lettering or anything, it just remained purely utilitarian,” he said.
And then came the new dining restrictions that shuttered dining rooms again. The brothers got scrappy. “We saved the window because we had a hunch we’d be back in this situation. Before we opened it back up, I wanted to add some lettering, and give it it’s proper name. It’s such a terrible, shitty time right now, we thought any reason to smile is worth it, so we lettered it up with its rightful name,” he said.
There are some rules to follow that they’ve written that are the usual guidelines: Please keep your distance in line, wear a mask, don’t be a jerk, etc. etc.
“We just wanted it to seem like it’s supposed to be there, to hopefully give off some sort of normalcy, for our customers, and just passers-by,” he said. “It’s so weird going from being such a social-based entity, to being cut off from people. We’re just trying to create some sort of interaction with our customers.
And there’s this: “People are starting to take selfies in front of it, so it seems to be doing its job.”
This week, the restaurant went viral for a hilarious infomercial, which you can watch a Q13 report about right here.
If you’ve never visited The Red Hot for their famous hot dogs and sausages, now is the perfect time to do so.
For 13 years, the brothers have specialized in gourmet hot dogs and a craft beer selection that is as deep as it gets in Tacoma.
Everybody has a favorite hot dog at The Red Hot and mine is their take on a Chicago Dog, The Tacoma Dog comes on a steamed poppyseed bun with a fat all-beef dog that squirts meat juice at first bite. It’s loaded with the usual Chicago Dog offerings – mustard, chopped onions, thick tomato slices, sport peppers, sweet relish (not the neon kind, but just as tasty) and a solid shake of celery salt ($5.75).
The Coney dog ($5.25) showcases the bar’s all-beef chili, which can also be found on the Frito pie ($4.50) and filthy nachos ($7.75).
The menu includes a dozen all-beef dogs with myriad toppings that range from that all-beef chili to homemade mac and cheese. There are also a menu of a half dozen sausage sandwiches. That sausage selection includes beef-and-pork brats, Polish sausages, rosemary-chicken sausages, garlic-chicken sausages and more.
For vegans, check out a menu of six vegan hot dogs built with Field Roast products.
Beer lovers: You can load up on all kinds of hard-to-find beer served in growlers, cans and more. Check out the handwritten list on the window for the current offerings, or the restaurant’s website.
LOCATION: 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-779-0229
HOURS: Open daily for take-out beginning at 11 a.m. Check social media for current hours.
TACOMA’S FIRST LAOTIAN RESTAURANT NOW OPEN
Have you visited Sweet Rice in Tacoma for take-out or seen them pop up on food delivery apps? Do not miss this newly opened restaurant with a menu of Laotian specialties that are a first for Tacoma. Read more in this story here.