Over the last couple of years I've eaten at the Adriatic Grill for a social, a client lunch, and a couple of meetings. The food was good, but I had never had dinner. A few weeks ago we did have dinner and really enjoyed the service and the meals. We had the opportunity (again) at the end of a twisted path.
Peg and I were taking off for a four-day trip to Seattle. The grand plan was to return to Tacoma on Saturday the 16th of August and stay for two nights at the Marriott in downtown Tacoma. We had reservations for dinner for four at Pacific Grill, but we couldn't even get the reservations we needed for the hotel. When we called to confirm on the dinner reservations we found out that a military parade was scheduled during the same time we wanted to dine. Parking looked like a hassle, so we bailed. We were disappointed that we would have to go back home when we returned from Seattle and that we wouldn't be taking my two sisters to dinner at Pacific Grill. Luckily, we were able to arrange for dinner reservations at the Adriatic Grill, where parking is never a problem.
When Peg and I had dined there weeks earlier we had been impressed with the BBQ Ribs and the creamy polenta. We told my sisters about the ribs and Peg and I each ordered a side of the faux grits. Peg had also enjoyed her spaghetti squash and prawns for our first dinner.
Our dinner reservations were for 6:15. All four of us were going to the Sinbad concert at the Emerald Queen Casino at 8:30. There should have been plenty of time. There were plenty of empty tables. I became a little worried when it was 6:33 and our order hadn't even been taken, and yet a couple who were seated well after us had already ordered. I was a little tight-jawed when I remarked to the waitress that we had been ready to order a good ten minutes earlier. I know, I know, I should have remarked about the need for speed, but I thought my pensive look and cryptic manner might suggest a little hurried service. I was wrong.
We ordered three appetizers. Deedee had never had escargot, but tried one and enjoyed it. Marsha had eaten escargot before, but they had been over-cooked. The Adriatic Grill escargot were perfect. There were ugly, but there's not much you can do with the look of snails.
We also ordered lamb chops (Crispy Lamb Riblets). This appetizer was everyone's favorite. Although I prefer my lamb a lot rarer, these crispy little chops were certainly good. If we had been going directly home after dinner we would have asked for the bones in a "to go" box. Peg would have worked broth magic with them. I would order these chops, again.
Our third appetizer was the crab cakes. The presentation was stunning, but the taste, even with lemon juice, was just okay. Three little cakes were good to share, but I prefer my crab cakes a little larger. I think a taste-off might be in order, but I've had outstanding crab cakes from the Dahlia Lounge, Salty's, and The Lobster Shop. I'm not sure what makes an outstanding crab cake, but I would think paprika, thyme, and red peppers plus great crab of course. Tom Douglas (Dahlia Lounge and Etta's) adds apple cider vinegar; Paula Deen adds crumbled Ritz crackers; Alton Brown pretty much just uses crab and mayonnaise. So, there are many different ways to convey a fresh taste AND pizazz. The crab cakes seemed to missing something.
Our food was served after 7:15. I had finally commented that we were getting worried about the time. Peg ordered the pork chop. It was served with a fried onion patty and a bed of risotto with kernels of sweet corn. The pork chop was thick and over-cooked. The flavor was good, but it was a chore chewing it. Luckily my sisters and I grew up eating over-cooked, mid-western meals, so it was like old home week.
The onion was fantastic. Peg shared. Everyone loved it. The bed of polenta with the corn kernels really struck a note with Peggy and me. We had both ordered sides of creamy polenta, which we did take home virtually untried. The next day for dinner Peg took kernels of fresh corn cut off the cob and fried them a little bit in a cast iron frying pan and added the polenta and a little milk. I had the left-overs for breakfast the next morning. I love the creamy polenta.
I ordered the pappardelle. The first time I ate this wide pasta was in San Gimignano in Tuscany. I'll order pappardelle with wild boar sauce anytime and anywhere I see it. I picked at my pappardelle from the Adriatic Grill. I ate the prawns and a slice of sausage, and a few bites of pasta. For me it was too spicy and heavily sauced. I didn't expect this, even though the description says "spicy." I left it mostly uneaten. Replace this with a traditional wild boar sauce and I'm thrilled.
Dinner at the Adriatic Grill was good, but . . . My sisters both had the barbecued ribs and loved them as much as Peg and I had loved them a few weeks earlier. They were the best ribs we had eaten in years. The polenta was excellent. A friend recommends their hamburgers, but at a restaurant called the Adriatic Grill, I don't want foods I could get in a Tacoma backyard. I expect the flavor of the Adriatic . . . Italy.
For example Peg returned the following Saturday with a friend for lunch. Once again she had the spaghetti squash and prawns (garlic seasoned prawns are grilled and served atop sautéed spaghetti squash with red bell peppers, grilled herb-zucchini and pesto butter sauce), while her friend had the Parmigiano-Reggiano Tilapia (seared tilapia fillets are crusted with Parmigiano-Reggiano and served with butter sauce, crispy rosemary polenta cake and grilled herb zucchini). Both were happy, satisfied at wanting more.
We left the restaurant at 8:00 for an 8:30 concert at the Emerald Queen. I had taken my sister Marsha to the last performance of Sinbad in Tacoma for her birthday. For Deedee I had purchased tickets for Tim Allen. Marsha and I had laughed, and laughed, and laughed so much at Sinbad, that both Peggy and Deedee decided to join us.
The problem with any concert at the Emerald Queen is getting into the hall and getting out of the hall. You have to traipse past the gamblers and then choose one of the narrow escaladers to ascend to the concert hall level. When the concert is over this is all done in reverse. There are many side doors, which could have attendants collecting tickets, stamping your hand, and letting you through. At the end, the doors are opened. I know they want to perhaps attract more gamblers from the ticket holders, but if people want to gamble or eat dinner there, they can come early. I just want to get in, get out, and enjoy the concert.
Sinbad did not disappoint. He had gained a little weight since we had seen him last, but I might have, too. As the time before I laughed until my face muscles hurt. "Tacoma doesn't have a downtown. You can't find it. It finds you." I loved his story about riding the "Link." He was sitting with his ticket in hand and everyone said, "You bought a ticket?" Sinbad also had lots of comments about Seattle, where many members of the audience came from.
Sinbad talked to audience. When a man called out "Menopause!" Sinbad responded, "Are you having a problem?" He then launched into his appropriate comments.
When I took Marsha the last time, we had tickets for the third row. I must have waited a little too long this year, so the best I could get were row five. I like to be down front. I also get a kick out of watching the audience as well as Sinbad. Although, the crowd was well mixed, there were a lot of Black fans including three ladies right in front of us. They spent most of the evening bent over laughing and whooping. One of them must have been a regular church goer. She constantly had her right hand up in the air like she was testifying. It was a very happy crowd.
At the end Sinbad brought two of his daughters on stage along with one of their friends AND the opening act comedian. They all did a rap with Sinbad, whose wife was in the audience taking photographs.
Once again, I enjoyed Sinbad in concert. He's always funny and is a great, clean comedian in the tradition of Bill Cosby and Bob Hope. The next time he comes to Tacoma, I'll be there. We'll also return to the Adriatic Grill. I think if they speed up their service and were a little more attentive about the needs and tastes (How would you like that prepared?) of their customers, they will be one of our foremost Tacoma restaurants for years to come.