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Best New Restaurant, Best New Business, Best Performance Space, Best Live Music Venue, Best Bookings: Alma Mater

Readers' pick: Best of Tacoma 2018

Shishito, ssamjang, tiradito: Chew on those vocabulary words at Alma Mater’s Matriarch Lounge. Photo credit: Christian Carvajal

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Readers, you don't just like Alma Mater, the new performance-and-dining space between South 13th and 15th on Fawcett, you like like it, perhaps even love it. Well you should, because whether you're an art junkie, foodie or music aficionado, this space offers something for everyone. Maybe that's why you voted it "Best new business" -- but also chose it for "Best bookings," "Best live music venue" and "Best performance space." Additionally, you chose Matriarch Lounge, one of Alma Mater's two constituent eateries, as "Best new restaurant."

Weekly Volcano readers and staff are in perfect agreement that Marrow, once in the Sixth Avenue space now occupied by El Borracho taqueria, is sorely missed. Thus, it came as a welcome surprise to hear Kyle Wnuk, the co-owner and head chef at Marrow, leads the kitchen at Matriarch Lounge. That explains the inventiveness of Matriarch's menu, which includes everything from Moroccan-style camel kefta (aka kebabs) to cedar-wrapped halibut cheeks and, you guessed it, bone marrow. As at Marrow, there's plenty for vegans and other vegetarians to enjoy here as well, not to mention some mouth-watering desserts.

That's after 4 p.m. daily. Till that hour, visit Honey Coffee + Kitchen, offering pastries from Macrina Bakery in Seattle and a variety of eggy, house-made delectables. Even here, you may find you need a Google search to identify certain menu items, but who doesn't love a delicious adventure? Think of it as inexpensive world travel. On a recent visit to Matriarch Lounge, we devoured skewers of pork belly slathered in sweet ssamjang paste, Peruvian octopus in a tender tiradito (think sashimi) and a gorgeous bowl of salty edamame and blistered shishito peppers. It made us wish we could garden. "In many ways," said Rachel Ervin, co-director of Alma Mater, "Kyle is our first artist-in-residence."

Speaking of which, Alma Mater's lobby is rich with the work of local artists. From here, step outside and then around the corner to Fawcett Hall. "We have a ton of events coming," Ervin gushed. She highlighted a monthly "variety/late-night talk show that Darryl Crews and Will Jordan have been working on together called The Night Show With Will and Keilani." August 10 brings a show from "indie darlings OK Sweetheart and Ruler," followed two weeks later by Mexi-metal band Metalachi and "'60s superstars The Sonics" a week after that. The Fawcett venue holds 300 seated guests and is expected to sell out, so, as Ervin advised, "Snag tickets quick."

ALMA MATER, Honey Coffee + Kitchen 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, 8 4 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; Matriarch Lounge, 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday, 1322 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, 253.302.3405,

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