Peg and I found ourselves at Alfred's Cafe after writing the restaurant off with bad service. Our Tacoma Breakfast Review article brought out several comments from friends who had dined at Alfred's and experienced decent service. When our friend Zeke Melquist, visiting from London, asked to dine there on the day before he returned to the U.K., we agreed.
When I first ate at Aflred's more than twenty years ago, it was dingy, funky, amd greasy. It was one of my favorite places for breakfast and lunch. The chicken fried steak was wonderful, plus they were one of the few places in Tacoma that served grits (or somtimes Cream of Wheat if they were out of grits). You could sit at the counter and watch the cook fry the eggs and flip the pancakes. Even after the joint was remodeled, the grandchildren loved to sit at the counter and eat breakfast. With the last remodel, however the counter by the kitchen area feels more like a men's bathroom without the urinals. At the back of the counters are now little walls of white tile, which cut off the view of the kitchen from customers. The walls also cut off the view of the customers from the wait staff. That created the service problem on our last visits. This visit we passed through the faux bathroom into the dining room.
Zeke was back in his hometown as an intern with Multicare from his university in London. This was our third breakfast with Zeke who reads our adventures to keep up on local happenings. We first took him to Old Milwaukee and then Knapp's. He enjoyed both. His friends had recommended Alfred's, our readers recommended Alfred's and so we drove together to Alfred's.
We don't buy breakfast for all of our readers, but we've known Zeke for most of his life and our oldest son is married to Zeke's older sister, so don't go thinking we will take just anyone to breakfast . . . plus he is going to be a doctor and it never hurts to have one of those people in the family.
Almost as quickly as we sat down in a room that was just about full of happy diners, we had menus and coffee. April, our very cute waitress, who declined a photo opportunity, took our orders and by the time we all finished two or three stories we were being served. That was a vast improvement over our previous experiences. Peg noted that Zeke's toast wasn't very toasted (plus it was only toasted on one side), but I shrugged that off . . . that's exactly how I like my toast. No complaints from me.
One of the first things I saw on the menu was the Pecan Waffle, but I already knew what I was going to order. Peg, however, surprized me when she chose the Pecan Waffle. She doesn't usually like plain syrup (which is what every restaurant outside of Vermont uses). We always have "real" maple syrup at home. Taking a page out of my book, Peg buttered the plate under the waffle and then asked for additional butter for the top. She said it was wonderful. I wouldn't know. None of it made its way onto my plate.
Zeke mentioned that he was taking a bottle of "real" maple syrup home to the U.K. with him, "A little bottle there costs about five pounds." Here a bottle of the good stuff can be purchased on sale for about five dollars.
Alfred's Pecan Waffle was mentioned in a comment from Kathleen Olson in response to our first breakfast article: "We had a great breakfast Sunday at 11 with good service even with every table full. Omelettes and Doman Style crispy hashbrowns for the guys and a pecan waffle with one egg over easy for me. Warm syrup too."
I ordered the Chicken Fried Steak with hashbrown's "burnt, burnt, burnt . . . with an onion cut up in them." I always gesture the cutting up part with my two hands. The hashbrowns weren't burnt, but they were excellent. The onions weren't mixed in, but spread across the top. My "over easy" fried eggs were perfect. There was enough gravey to cover the steak AND it was thick enough to rake onto the hasbrowns as well.
I was delighted with the chicken fried steak. I cut a good sized piece and placed it on Peg's plater without her having to ask for it, but then she asked for a second piece as well. I did not begrudge the second piece. It was an honor to share. It was excellent.
Zeke enjoyed his bacon and eggs along with his perfect hashbrowns. Each of us enjoyed a great breakfast and the price was very reasonable. With a 20% tip we still got out of there for about $40.00. That's not bad for three full breakfasts and three coffees.
In the olden days, so the story goes, the upper floors of Alfred's were used as a bordello. The restaurant and bar is only a couple hundred yards from the yardmaster's office of the railroad. The breakfast menu even features an item named after Burlington Northern. I don't know if the stories are true, but there is a painting of a fancy lady sipping Champagne on the exterior wall facing the parking lot.
Alfred's is located on Puyallup Avenue just a few blocks north of the Tacoma Dome. Zeke was unaware of the shooting range across the parking lot from the restaurant. I pointed it out since we could hear shooting. Peg explained, "That's were the D.C. Sniper bought or stole his rifle." Tacoma is world famous after all.
After breakfast Peg was just about ready for bed, but still had a long day ahead of her. She and her sister, Pat were heading to Seattle to see Prisoner of Second Avenue, a Neil Simon comedy at the Act Theatre.