New downtown Tacoma cafe has breakfast all day (and it will be familiar)
3uilt Tacoma has expanded to a second restaurant in downtown Tacoma. And this one specializes in breakfast.
The original location of the Tacoma-based restaurant carries a dizzying selection of raw oysters on the half shell, serves charcuterie plates that double as art and is located inside one of the coolest spaces in downtown Tacoma – 7 Seas Brewing at 2101 Jefferson Ave. in the old Brewery District.
And now 3uilt has a new space dedicated to breakfast, also in downtown Tacoma. 3uilt Tac Ave is near the County-City Building and the Tacoma Public Library branch on Tacoma Avenue South. It opened Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in the former home of Tower Coffee Bar and Grill.
“We got in here on Oct. 3,” said owner Anna Gonzales, who likely is the best chef for keto eaters in all of Pierce County. She’s also a master of oysters and have you seen her salads? They’re camera-ready and loaded with interesting nibbles. Dig deep into her concoctions to find exquisitely pickled Brussels sprouts and broadly-sliced watermelon radish – and she tops them with artistic flare, such as avocados carved into spiral roses.
Gonzales runs 3uilt – which is pronounced Built – with her dad Edward Gonzales and her niece Alyssa Hernandez, who runs the coffee side of the business, 3uilt Grind, their sister coffee counter inside 7 Seas Tacoma. 3uilt head chef is Jorgen Larson and Nick Lehman is general manager. Gonzales purchased 3uilt in 2019 from founder Jaime Kay Jones, who opened 3uilt in 2016 and also owned Top of Tacoma before Jones moved away from the area. Before owning 3uilt, Gonzales was Jones’s employee, having managed 3uilt for two years. Gonzales also cooked at Marrow, which Jones previously operated in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood.
EXPANDING HER BUSINESS
Gonzales landed the 3uilt Tac Ave space after mentioning to a friend she was looking for locations. That friend instantly connected her with the property owner and within days she had the keys.
“We’ve always had plans to expand,” Gonzales explained. “We’re limited in the space because of how the kitchen is at 3uilt. There’s no hood system there. We only have panini presses” she said.
The new space? Oven, flat top, stove and the infrastructure of a heavy-duty kitchen, including a hood system, which allows Gonzales to blow up her menu to include categories of dishes she could not cook with a partial kitchen.
They had their soft opening Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. Gonzales said she plans to keep the menu simple until they adjust to the new space, but the menu and concept will expand with time.
Here’s something to know: The real specialty at 3uilt Tac Ave will be something Gonzales always has wanted to cook: Breakfast.
BREAKFAST AT 3UILT TAC AVE
For now, she’s open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and breakfast – and only breakfast – is on the menu from open to close. “Breakfast is my favorite meal and I feel like Tacoma has some good spots, but it’s only certain days of the week and I usually miss eating on those days. I know a lot of people personally who like breakfast as well,” she said. So weekday breakfast it is.
Her menu features steak and eggs ($18), made with braised brisket, savory herbs and an egg any way you order it. “The brisket is buttery and melts in your mouth,” said Gonzales.
Her favorite is the carnitas hash made with house-roasted carnitas that are par-cooked and then crisped up on the flat top to order ($16). They’re served with sweet potato, bell pepper, cotija cheese, cilantro and an egg any way you order it.
The grits breakfast sounds like a standout ($15). The dish starts with Anson Mills grits and is topped with roasted oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, chile oil, fried sage and an egg any way you order it.
The basic breakfast is served with roasted fingerlings and two eggs, with a choice of sausage links, vegan bacon or thick-cut Hempler’s bacon ($14). Don’t sleep on that Hempler’s bacon. They buy the slab version and cut the bacon to custom thickness. “I can do thick chunks and I only like to serve good bacon,” said Gonzales with a laugh.
Biscuits and gravy come with housemade gravy and biscuits ($16). For vegans and vegetarians, she’s got a tofu scramble with roasted seasonal vegetables ($14). There’s also a rotating quiche with seasonal ingredients ($15).
Most breakfasts come with thick wedges of sourdough toast from Macrina Bakery.
One theme I noticed with her debut breakfast menu is: Carbs. Delicious carbs. Where’s the keto cooking for which she’s become known?
“We’ll add keto later,” said Gonzales.
“I was on keto for a long time and my whole family was, too. Today, my dad was saying, ‘When are you going to have a keto breakfast?’ I said, ‘It’s coming, it’s coming, dad!’” She added that she can make some minor modifications on some of the current breakfast items, but look for menu items specifically designed for keto and low-carb eaters soon. At 3uilt inside 7 Seas, low-carb eaters get their very own keto-friendly menu with thoughtful presentations and menu items designed specifically to be low in net carbs. If you are a keto or low-carb diner and you’ve never had her low-carb charcuterie plate, you should change that immediately.
Another theme diners can expect is her fervent support of local food businesses. Coffee at 3uilt Tac Ave is from Tacoma’s Manifesto. She sells pastries from Tacoma’s Unique Bakery, including their lineup of croissants (chocolate/regular/ham and cheese/cream cheese, etc.). Low-carb baked goods come from Miss Moffett’s Mystical Cupcakes in Lacey.
STYLE OF SERVICE AT 3UILT AND FUTURE PLANS
At 3uilt Tac Ave, diners order their food at the counter and find their own seat, but servers bring diners their meals to the tables (at 3uilt inside 7 Seas, diners order at a counter and fetch their own plates from an order window).
For now, Gonzales said that style of service is working while they work on adding staff members.
Later on at 3uilt Tac Ave, Gonzales plans to expand the menu to possibly include some of the fan favorites at 3uilt inside 7 Seas, including the charcuterie plates and raw oysters.
Eventually? She hopes to add dinner service. “We are going to keep working on our staffing,” she said. When they do have enough staff, “We do plan to stay open a little later. Eventually we’ll grow into dinner service. We’re thinking about doing fine dining and we’re applying for a liquor license. Once we get that squared away, there is a bar here. It’s a small bar, but it’ll be a fun bar.”
She added, “One other thing I want to mention is that our menu here will be more seasonal and we’ll be changing the menu a lot. There will always be something new to try.”
Please note: The opening of 3uilt Tac Ave is an additional restaurant. 3uilt inside 7 Seas will continue to operate as it always has.
3uilt inside 7 Seas: 2101 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma; 253-301-0262 (accessibility note – the restaurant is on the second floor and the elevator currently is out of order)
3uilt Tac Ave: 1101 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma