WANTED: Bagel shop in Tacoma

I had to make a run to Sea-tac airport this morning. Early. Aside from my morning pot of coffee, the chief motivator for me today was the notion of actually enjoying a fresh, authentic bagel for breakfast. Of course, there aren’t any fresh bagels to be had in Tacoma. How did I do it? What’s my secret?

Big Apple Bagel in Des Moines is a godsend. Every time I drop someone off at the airport in the morning, I find myself at Big Apple selecting 6 warm, soft bagels and a tub o’ cream cheese to bring back to the City of Density with me. Today it was 2 onion, 1 blueberry, 1 tomato basil, 1 cheddar herb and 1 swiss melt, all still warm. By this evening I will feel like a turkey, stuffed to the gills with bread. I look forward to this feeling.

For those of you who don’t know, the bagel is more than meets the eye. To the uneducated, it is simply a donut-shaped piece of bread. To those of us who know better, it is a precise concoction, boiled then baked, chewy, moist, soft. This is not found in just any bagel. Most bagels you find around here ARE simply bread in the shape of a donut.

Tacoma needs a real bagel shop, ASAP. Cascade Bagel didn’t make it downtown… but that was because they picked the worst location ever: inside a museum. Their Lakewood location is good. Located in a slumping strip mall, they’ve managed to keep that one open for years. Somewhere on Pacific downtown or 6th Ave would be a perfect place for the next great bagel shop in Tacoma. Offer fresh bagels, good coffee and a great sandwich lineup and you can’t fail.

Someone. Anyone. Please.

Murray Morgan should be proud

I’ve now been to The Red Hot on 6th Ave a few times and it has been a treat each time. In order of appearance, I devoured a Murray Morgan Bridge Brat, a Destiny City Slaw Dog, and then another Murray Morgan Bridge Brat. Aside from having the best name of any brat I’ve encountered, it is the perfect snack when you’re on the go. I add cream cheese to my brat to complement the existing sauerkraut and mustard. The slaw dog was perfect as is. For 3 or 4 dollars you can’t beat it. They have a dozen or so different choices to suit a variety of tastes.

After many years, someone has finally done it. I’d always wondered why nobody had launched a Starbuck’s/McDonald’s calibre dog chain in the US, and I used to dream about opening a double drive-thru dog stand in Tacoma. I wanted to call mine Schwank’s and it was going to be awesome. The Red Hot has taken everything I had envisioned, moved it to a swank sit-down bar atmosphere, and added a bunch of beer. Brilliant.

2914 6th Ave
Tacoma, WA
(253) 779-0229

Hot Dog, anyone?

Last weekend, I treated myself to a new spot I’ve been eyeing in the Tacoma blog scene. Friday night I had a Murray Morgan Bridge Brat with cream cheese from the Red Hot. It was really good, but I would order at least 2 at a time in the future. I would also know how to conduct myself a little better in the environment they’ve created. We walked in and weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. There was no menu on the wall, no “order here” or “order at the bar” signs anywhere (perhaps they are still being made?) so we sat down at a table. Of course, we came to find out that there is no table service, and that we were supposed to get our own menus and order at the counter. This should be streamlined ASAP, if it hasn’t been already.

Tacoma has needed another non-downtown hot dog joint forever, and I even thought about opening a drive-thru wiener stand (I planned on calling it Shwank’s) a couple years back. If you are going to open a restaurant, it doesn’t get much easier than hot dogs as far as storage, life span, cost, keeping them warm, etc. I sincerely hope this place can make its mark and stick around. My first impression was that of a bar and not of a restaurant… hopefully they will make it go on the drinks because it didn’t seem like the kind of place that would enjoy rapid hot dog take-away.

Ben Matlock and I are more than willing to park, walk in, and wait for a hot dog or two to take home. Unfortunately, neither Ben nor myself go out drinking very often..Hopefully for The Red Hot’s sake, there are a lot of people in Tacoma who will do both quite often.

I’m no food critic

Many restaurants around Tacoma have it made. Most consumers are not food critics. We like what we like and that’s that. Put out a decent product that is moderately consistent, and you should be able to do just fine. That is true, unless the service is so bad, you can’t even remember what the food tasted like.

For years I have refused to critique any specific businesses in town. I know that everyone has a bad day on occasion (let alone a bad 15 minutes) and that things won’t be perfect all the time. I also recognize that different people have drastically different opinions about the same things. Why should my opinion of a Frisko Freeze cheeseburger matter to anyone else? For the record, I find them delicious (no onions).

At any rate, I received an email last week from a very disappointed Tacoma consumer:

I don’t usually complain about restaurants, but, It’s Greek To Me, located on 6th Ave in Tacoma gives lousy customer service. I went through their drive thru, which seems to be manned by an incompetent who does nothing to help speed things along. Then after I wait for 10 minutes for a Greek salad and some fries, the salad has about 2 tablespoons of lettuce in the salad, what is up with that???? I paid $7.80 for a salad, that took 2 bites to eat, some fries, and a small drink and I am still hungry. I will not be going back to It’s Greek to Me, and I will not recommend this place to anyone I know.
Thank you.

For all I know, she hit this place at a bad time. Maybe they were robbed 10 minutes prior? Perhaps the manager was out with 4 sick kids at home? Whatever the cause, this experience emphasized to me the importance of customer service, even as it pertains to small, everyday commerce.

If she had felt better about the customer service, she probably could have driven back around and said, “Hey, this salad is weak-ass!” and they would have likely laughed, apologized and added some damn lettuce. But the customer service was already deemed poor, so she hangs her head and goes home, never to return.

In summary, attitude is everything. Restaurant owners know that every dish can’t turn out perfect. Sometimes things go wrong, food gets messed up, delays occur, etc. Just make sure that if you sell someone a bad experience, you back it up with noticable effort and concern. We, the general public of Tacoma, can accept your shortcomings, as long as you don’t force it on us with smug, assuming attitude. If you make us wait in an unreasonably long line, don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Give us an apology and a free pop. You’ll be amazed how short our memories become.

For the record, I love It’s Greek To Me. Best gyros in Tacoma..