CHORIPAN BY ASADO
WHERE: At the Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma, 253.248.4263
HOURS: Open daily when the museum is open: Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5p.m. and every third Thursday until 7 p.m.
CUISINE: Argentinean-inspired street food. Select a protein, and then choose how it is served. Sandwiches, quinoa bowls, salads and other standard lunch fare for lunch or an early dinner.
SCENE: A fast, casual format lends itself to the museum-goer crowd. Great people watching with a view of the Foss Waterway Promenade and outdoor art installations.
DRINKIES: Coffee, tea, fresh fruit juices, sodas, beer and wine
PRICES: Sides and appetizers, $1.50-$5.50. Salads, bowls and sandwiches $6-$11.75
It might be easy to stroll on by the newish café at the Museum of Glass unless you've got your nose to the wind. But catch a whiff of the grilled meaty goodness emanating from inside and just try to keep on walking.
In mid-January, Choripan by Asado took residency in the museum's café spot, formerly operated by Gallucci's Catering. What's coming out of the kitchen at Choripan is anything but your standard museum fare. If museum dining isn't the first to come to mind when your stomach begins to grumble, after a couple of visits to Choripan that may all change.
At Choripan (from "chorizo," meaning sausage and "pan," meaning bread), don't expect the white tablecloth treatment. It's a fast, casual restaurant, and it's suggested you bus your own tables. In my mind, that's the perfect scenario for a quick workday lunch.
Glance at the menu over head, and you'll notice some unusual options. You choose your protein and whether you'd like it in a Choripan sandwich, salad or quinoa bowl. Typical lunch offerings like Cobb salad or macaroni and cheese are available on the "Standards" menu, but who's ordering those when there're promises of herbalicious chimichurri and spicy harissa coming from the Choripan side?
For my first visit, the call of the bistro steak sandwich was too much to resist. I was not disappointed. Tender steak sat on a crusty, grilled baguette topped with caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes and gorgeous green chimichurri. The tomatoes added a juicy burst to each bite, punctuated by the brightness of the chimichurri. While the steak was quite tender, my only complaint was that it was promised to be medium-rare, and was much more on the medium to medium-well side. Otherwise, I daresay this may be the best steak sandwich I've ever eaten.
My husband's choice, the farm-raised-chicken sandwich, was equally flavorful, but in a completely different way. The chicken had a very strong smoky grilled flavor, which at first seemed overpowering, but eventually grew on me. The real star on this sandwich is the caramelized leeks, which are craveable on their own.
Also notable on this visit were the empanadas. Homemade, and served with a spicy harissa and chipotle chimichurri, their plump chicken filling hit the spot, but the dough left me wanting more. I expect an empanada to have a crispy, flaky crust, but these were a bit chewy and lifeless. The side order of potato salad was lackluster and is decidedly a skip compared to the other choices.
My next visit was all about the healthy options. After being told it was vegan, I hesitantly ordered the braised tofu quinoa bowl, and was pleasantly surprised. The tomato-braised quinoa was full of flavor, and the tofu was a decent substitute for meat. Unfortunately, the hummus atop the tofu didn't add much to the party.
The chorizo-topped salad was sizeable, with rajas (roasted red, green and yellow bell peppers) strewn about. I chose the balsamic caramelized onion vinaigrette, which paired perfectly with the roasted peppers. I also gave their homemade cookies a try. At $2.75 a pop, I expected a lot, and was not disappointed with the toffee, pecan and chocolate chip cookie. It was chewy and moist and everything a cookie should be.
Dining at the Museum of Glass offers one distinct perk: the tourist watching is quite entertaining. The view of the waterway and outdoor art installations is not too shabby either. Is it worth braving the hordes of out-of-towners and spotty parking to enjoy a lunch at Choripan by Asado? I'd say so. The poignant Argentinean flavors might be just what you need to get you through your workday.