We asked readers to share their hidden gems of the South Sound — and wow, did they respond! Take a look at some amazing options to explore via foot, bike…
Food is the universal language. It brings people together and gives us a taste of cultures across the world. There’s a South Sound dining group that knows a thing or two about where to dine and discover some tasty morsels that will satisfy your food cravings.
Sue Kidd, publisher of dinepiercecounty.com and founder of the 13,000-member Dine Pierce County Facebook Group, recommends local diners take a taco tour of East 72nd Street in Tacoma where you’ll find four taquerias within 1.4 miles, from South Park Avenue to Portland Avenue East. A great place to start your taqueria tour is Taqueria El Grande. Sue said, “They grew from a taco truck to a taqueria tucked into a former gas station, and their carnitas burrito is a must-try. ”
Next to Fred Meyer, you’ll discover Taqueria El Rinconsito, which is known for its street tacos and daily specials under five bucks. It’s part of a locally founded, regional chain with another location in Puyallup’s South Hill. Head down the street to Los Tamales, the sister taqueria to the El Jalapeno grocery store located in the same shopping center. Los Tamales makes from-scratch corn tortillas daily and is a regional destination for its exceptional selection of handmade tamales. At the end of your taqueria tour along East 72nd Street is Tacos Guaymas, long known for its massive burritos, street tacos and one of the best bargain, scratch margaritas in the area.
South Sound locals and members of the Dine Pierce County Facebook Group recommend the following flavorful fare.
Mom-and-pop Vietnamese restaurant, Pho V&V, in South Tacoma is known for its vegetarian pho made with veggie broth. And, be sure to try the sandwich, known as a bánh mì (it can be made vegetarian). Nearby, you’ll also find The Church Cantina where the Holy Burrito and Fried Avocado Basket are said to be “absolutely amazing” and the portion sizes don’t disappoint. You definitely get your money’s worth.
Venture just a mile west for another treat at 56th Street Teriyaki. Autumn Bryant Eppler said, “While the food is good, the owner who works there is the sweetest lady. She always remembers us, where we are from and what we order. She even asks about our pets. She is the true hidden gem!”
If handmade pork and shrimp dumplings served with sweetened fish sauce sound scrumptious, head over to Pho Dragon in the Lincoln District and order the Bánh Bột Lọc (No. 40 on the menu). Lauren Pressman says this dish is “super amazing!” If you’re craving tortas, you’ll find El Zocalo Tortas Y Bakery just down the street. According to Amanda Morris, “It literally has the BEST tortas ever. So fresh, so huge, so delicious!” Another Lincoln District favorite is Tho Tuong BBQ where you can enjoy a unique style of barbecue that can only be found in a few select places in the state. “One of the best value-for-taste experiences in town” is how Chris Dotson describes the food.
Pizza lovers must experience Salamone’s Pizza in Tacoma’s Stadium District. Its authentic, New York-style pizza can be ordered by the pie or the slice. “I like the slice because (the staff) pops it in the oven for a reheat, and it gets an amazing texture. I’m not sure how hidden it is, but it’s surely a local gem,” said Brian Smith.
And let’s not forget about the small and cozy Tibbits of Fern Hill. “Every table is the chef’s table. Great food, even better staff,” said Lori Williams-Jordan.
To tickle your tastebuds beyond Tacoma, head to Gig Harbor and grab the fish and chips at Marketplace Grille. They’ve been deemed the best in the area, a distinction that’s not easy to get. One 15-year fan of the restaurant loves their crab cakes.
If you’re in Lakewood, you can’t beat the Cheesy British Hoagie and the Pickle Buckets at Hoagies Sub & Deli – it’s just like the old Hoagie’s Corner used to have.
Another Lakewood favorite is Hamhock Jones Soul Shack. Melissa Brown raves about, “The deliciousness, the cheery staff, and… if you play your cards right, you go during the live music and get some catfish with home-cut shoestring (but not too thin) fries.” Pho PQ is a hole-in-the-wall gem on Bridgeport Way. Sarah Wailani Aea said, “Love their crab wontons! The owner uses real crab in his wontons and he’s very personable.” And Sarah Valadez recommends Pizza Casa, as it features a “super traditional, old-school vibe with the most amazing bolognese sauce!”
Oliver’s Sandwiches is a small mom-and-pop sandwich shop tucked away in a Milton shopping center. Emily Lynn Roska is a frequent customer who raves, “Legit, the best sandwiches I’ve had with fresh ingredients and yummy bread.”
The restaurant at Paradise Lanes Entertainment Center in Parkland is known for its amazing chicken-fried steak, eggs, taters and toast. The Reuben Sandwich is a lunchtime favorite, and is said to be the “best in the area.” Also in Parkland, Lucky’s Drive-In is a true burger gem, another recommendation from Melissa Brown. “Because (the staff) spreads aioli mayo on the Mushroom Swiss and serves it on a hoagie roll. And *swoon* the milkshakes are made with fresh fruit.”
Meridian Cafe in Puyallup comes highly recommended by Martha Chevara Fisher, who claims it has “the best tasting sausage gravy on biscuits there is. Not to mention, the corned beef hash. All the food is great, but those are my faves!” In Sumner, The Buttered Biscuit gets a nod for best chicken-fried steak. “The portions are huge. One of the best things is the cornbread,” said Patricia Walker.
A great way to start your day in Yelm is a trip to Shiplap Shop and Coffee House where you can enjoy fresh-brewed coffee and browse farmhouse home decor and other treasures. According to Bill DeVore, “Its inviting atmosphere will make you want to sit outside and enjoy your beverage.” The town’s secret gem is El Rey Burro, which specializes in authentic, made-to-order Mexican food. It’s inside the Shell gas station, and you’ll want to call ahead to place your order. Top off your trip to Yelm with a pit stop at 507 Taproom and Fill Station and enjoy one of the 18 beers and ciders on tap. It specializes in PNW products and proudly supports Washington craft breweries and cideries.