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Comfort with a view

Kicking back at The Bayview

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The Bayview

Where: 229 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.2792
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Cuisine: Comfort food rules with soups, salads, sandwiches, four entrees and daily specials. Now serving breakfast on the weekends.
Scene: Bright neighborhood café with impressive art, fast service, counter dining, lively dining room and an impressive deck with awesome view.
Drinkies: Endless pop and ice tea for $2.25, endless coffee $2.50, plus beer and wine

ANNOUNCER: Comfort food should be pronounced dead because it's gone as far as it can go in the restaurant heavens. And yet it persists. Like reality TV and Britney's career, no matter how often some restaurant critic pronounces it DOA, comfort food keeps coming back. Restaurant owners dig the stuff, because it's great for their bottom line — imagine how much it really costs to produce that mac and cheese you just paid $16 for. There are restaurants that have corndogs on their menus: high-end joints where the guys in the back are shoving sticks into hot dogs with a totally straight face, then giggling every time some poor sap plunks down 10 bucks for whatever ambiguous therapeutic value there is in feeding his inner child. It's only a matter of time before restaurants bring out Lincoln Logs and Slinkies with the dessert menus.

JAKE: I'm thinking about opening a joint where the minute a customer walks through the
door he'll be thrown in a crib, given a blanket and hand-fed spoonfuls of Gerber foods while Sesame Street blasts from the tube. I'll call the place Baby, and I'll bet the concept will crawl across the nation.

ANNOUNCER: Anyway — there are places where comfort food is still acceptable: cafes. Neighborhood cafes will always function as our cultural storehouses of home-cooking know-how, places where the devotees of slow food and traditional technique can gather for spaghetti and meatball sandwiches, such as the The Bayview in the Stadium District.

JAKE: The small restaurant is cute, but not sickeningly so, with its vibrant color scheme, two dining spaces (counter space with a view out to St. Helens Avenue and 40-seat dining space in back with windows peering onto the Port of Tacoma), and art collection. The floor staff is laid-back, competent and fast, and a server is never more than a few feet away because the kitchen sits between the two spaces. Wine isn’t served in fabulously expensive crystal stemware. Micro brews include Christmas ales. And while not open right now, the 40-seat deck overlooking the Weekly Volcano Downtown Office and Port of Tacoma will be a Volcano staff gathering spot.

JASON: That is, if they still have the cappa Cuban sandwich with spicy cappacola ham on the menu this spring. The ham was a favorite of mine when Bayview owner Joel Cummings served it at The Spar. When he opened this café a few months ago with his brother Glenn Cummings and sister-in-law Lori Cummings, I cheered seeing the ham on their sandwiches. Their cappa Cuban sandwich is not traditional, but it’s tasty. Served on a French roll, it contains thinly-sliced pork loin, said ham, Swiss cheese, mayo and a dill pickle that is nice but, to a purist, maybe one step too far from Calle Ocho in Miami. The Reuben is wet and excellent, drooling “special sauce” and kraut juice all over everything. And even the simplest of sandwiches — a comforting turkey club — shows a little bump of genius with the kitchen chopping the bacon before putting it between the bread so that you don’t take a bite and pull all the bacon out in one fell swoop.

JAKE: The Bayview burger is a whopping piece of pure beef, served simply on a slightly chewy Kaiser roll with iceberg lettuce, tomato, ketchup/mayo sauce and options to add cheese and bacon for a price. Despite its simplicity and sloppiness, it’s a really good burger. I can’t quite decide why, but it might be because it was the first thing I had eaten all day, and it was well after 9 p.m.

JASON: I ran smack into comfort food disappointment with the Bayview mac & cheese. I was served a massive pile of elbow macaroni with an anemic cheese sauce covering the noodles with all the success of a high-school kid trying to cover ass with one of those towels they give you in gym. Not impressive. However, after I ate the scrappy noodles, I noticed a little pool of tasty cheese sauce; maybe The Bayview would do best to thicken their sauce a bit so it all stays together. The added cheddar slices and Parmesan sprinkles on top might have something to do with me cramming the whole meal down.

JAKE: The Bayview will have daily specials so check the board by the kitchen window. I was nonplussed by the chili special — neither a spicy Texas style nor a thick Cincinnati, but rather a near pitch-perfect replica of the greasy-spoon diner chili I knew and loved as a kid. But a spoonful of that chili on my burger sent it, and me, right over the edge.

JASON: The remaining menu consists of five starters, a couple of soup and salad options (as side and main meals), meatball sandwich, spaghetti and meatballs, vegetable penne and chicken seafood gumbo.

JAKE: I hear they just added a weekend breakfast. Now we can seek comfort in the morning, too.

JASON: Maybe they’ll cut pancakes up into little bitty bits to cater to your inner child.

JAKE: Whatever. The Bayview is a valuable reminder that there were once restaurants that existed solely to serve good food at reasonable prices to people who wanted to eat well before eating well became such a rigorously intellectual endeavor.

Buffalo wings >> $8.75
Cappa Cuban sandwich >> $8.85
Bayview shrimp salad >> $9.50
Chicken seafood gumbo >> $12.75

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