What the heck is a hidden gem, anyway? The phrase rises from the mist of culinary cliché, a cheery, primordial beast eager to swallow any eye-opening South Sound dining experience that wanders unchained out of our delicious routine. It's hard to lift a fork around here without poking it into something tasty and unique, be it handmade sushi in a nightclub, coffee shop inside a Mexican restaurant, sandwiches in an antique store or a soup restaurant the size of a closet embedded into a bar and comedy club.
That said, two pub "gems" recently opened in Tacoma. Ha! The first is a combination bottle shop and taproom with a niche focus on Northwest craft beer located in the former Mario's Mercato Italiano space. The second is a working bike shop that serves canned beer on Hilltop Tacoma.
Pint Defiance Specialty Beers and Tap Room
Where: 2049 Mildred St. W., Tacoma, 253.302.4240
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Firday-Saturday
Scene: Laid back taproom with the opportunity to kick back a few brews while shopping for craft beers.
Drinks: Rotating selection of draft beers on site with the option to buy bottles, cans and fill growlers to take back to the home front.
Prices: $4 and up.
Headed by Barry and Renee Watson, founders and previous owners of Tacoma staple the Rosewood Cafe, Pint Defiance is a must visit for any lover of the hops. Pint Defiance seamlessly marries the concept of craft beer retail space with a pub. The walls are lined with coolers neatly displaying a unique collection of canned and bottled brews by region.
It's like I'd died and went to brewski heaven. My eyes lit up as I read through labels teasing with creative names and flavor profiles I'd never imagined in a brew - images of animated brown bottles danced in my head.
The staff is top notch and brimming with beer knowledge while maintaining a nice guy status. You can literally mention your likes and dislikes and they can guide you to a handful of selections suited to your preferences.
To really sweeten the deal there is a rotating selection of beers on tap.
Though the food selection is limited to an assortment of bagged chips, you may bring grub to pair with your brews. Nearby Royal Thai Bistro delivers too. Wait for the Pad Thai with a beer and hip tunes.
Retail options include an impressive selection of beer mugs and glassware, growlers and Pint Defiance swag such as tees.
Where: 1014 South Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma
Hours: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
Scene: Pseudo garage-pub with an impressive collection of canned brews that also serves as a bike shop.
Drinks: Tall boys, canned brewskis, espresso and wine.
It's a bicycle shop that serves up brews and joe. Or, is it a pub that builds custom bikes that just happens to have coffee. It's an intriguing combination all the same and a good addition to Hilltop Tacoma's growing social scene.
Owner Ben Davis manages a beautiful, if not quirky, matrimony of a laid back joint where you can sip on a cup of espresso, or wine (cause they're classy like that), chug down a beer and watch him build custom bikes. Essentially the Broken Spoke is Davis' studio opened up to the public as a social hub.
Davis' intention was to make the place look as much like a garage as possible without actually being a garage. Classic bikes line the walls and perch above the door. Garage-ish, industrial lighting sets the ambiance in the wide open space. Vintage signs spot its walls. A clamp here. A Whitworth socket there. Hundreds of beer cans in boxes in the back. A fancy jukebox against the wall. Mission accomplished.
With an impressive selection of 20 or so canned brews in the coolers, Broken Spoke is a superb chill night option.
While I wouldn't recommend it as a dinner destination, Davis does keep a selection of chips, nuts and pre-made sandwiches from Joeseppi's. It is certainly a good go to for conversation. Davis is a laid back, personable guy and can talk bikes, brews and Tacoma with ease. Besides, where else are you going to find that many tall boys in one place and a beer cozy to represent?