On the quiet, Monday-night streets of Puyallup, no one inside Ricky J’s Restaurant and Lounge seems to care that it’s a school night. The lights in the warm pub burn brightly, as local musicians jaunt onto the stage to enthusiastic applause. Servers raise their voices to be heard over the twang of guitar and the terrified screams of the drums, taking orders for pizzas and pitchers of beer. Between decimating plates of nachos or cheering at the end of the band’s set, guests engage in a little friendly competition at the pool tables. This is the scene of the pub’s open mic night—the first of many weekly events on a schedule flush with karaoke, bingo, and trivia.
As guests squabble over trivia answers or dance to DJ-spun tunes in the dining room, chefs are bustling through the kitchen. They top freshly made burgers with grill-blacked bacon and juicy pineapple slices, and dress pizzas with homemade sauce and creative toppings such as barbeque pulled pork and tortilla strips. The chefs are creative even with their side dishes, frying onion rings in homemade beer batter and painting portraits of tater tots dressed as Napoleon. In the mornings, the chefs turn their attention to breakfast items, including cheesy omelets, overstuffed burritos, and pancakes with banana, strawberry, and whipped cream.
A taste of Northwest Brewing Company's beers is akin to a trip around the world. The brewery, formerly Trade Route Brewing Company, finds inspiration in the trade routes of old, which is why its brewmasters incorporate exotic ingredients such as ginger and palm sugar when crafting each batch with time-honored brewing methods. These eclectic flavors beget distinctive beers, such as the Mango Weizen, which stirs taste buds with Saaz hops and mango puree, and the Midnight ale, which splashes chocolate, crystal, and pale malts with two types of hops to create a dark brew that pairs well with spicy food and glow-in-the-dark steaks. Not content to keep their flavors in liquid form, Northwest Brewing Company also slings a menu of gastropub cuisine—including gourmet pizzas and cheese-slathered pasta dishes— backed by live music every Saturday night.
Every day, the staff at Boba Smoothie blend fresh fruits and other ingredients to create smoothies, teas, and non-dairy milk teas. But the sweet flavors of fruit and tea aren't the drinks' only feature?the cups fill with chewy boba pearls, which add a burst of texture to every taste like a lego made of candy. Staff members also serve up fresh scoops of gelato in such flavors as mango, coconut, and cupcake.
With dartboards, skee-ball, five pool tables, arcade games, dancing, nearly 15 beers on tap, and NFL Ticket on the TVs throughout the bar, it would be easy to assume that Culpepper's is all about entertainment. But one look at the menu shows that they know food, too. A roster of hearty burgers?including the Cardiac Arrest, two half-pound patties sandwiched between bacon and two grilled-cheese sandwiches?may be the main attraction, but pub favorites such as popcorn shrimp, chili fries, and pulled pork sandwiches can cause the eye to wander. Breakfast, including biscuits and gravy and omelets, is also on the menu for early risers or those who chose to sleep off a night of revelry under the tables.
Situated right in Tacoma’s downtown university-and-museum district, Harmon Brewery and Eatery buzzes with out-of-towners and locals alike, all in search of hearty food and frothy microbrews. With a 15-barrel brewery on site, Harmon maintains a steady flow of signature ales, including seasonal varieties, such as a black IPA brewed from five malted barleys and the One Hop Wonder IPA laced with melted Right Said Fred tapes. To complement the pints and the warm, cozy atmosphere—modeled after a ski lodge—the kitchen churns out belly-warming food, such as burgers topped with blue cheese and bacon, homemade stone-baked pizzas, and panko-crusted fish and chips.