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Porter's Place

Food and music overshadow boring interior

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My last visit to New Orleans was at once exhilarating and disappointing. Exhilarating because I was lucky enough to experience exquisite meals at Bayona, Mike’s on the Avenue and the G&E Courtyard Grill. But disappointing because, while dining out at these innovative upscale restaurants, I was missing out on the funky etouffees, gumbos and jambalayas that define Cajun country cooking — places such as Liuza’s by the Tracks, Mother’s and Uglesich’s.

These restaurants aren’t part of a designed-for-tourists Mardi Gras theme park; they’re the real deal. And that’s how I feel about Tacoma’s Porter’s Place; it’s the real deal. Porter’s Place is slim on décor and bursting with flavor and hospitality.

Let’s move past the décor issue fast.  It’s boring.  It’s a big dining room with a meeting room off to the side.  It feels like an unfinished Denny’s.  And the lighting at night is too bright, especially during David Keys’ righteous smooth jazz trio’s sets every Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. This band bursts with talent and a little low lighting would bring in the lovers.

Most seductive at Porter’s Place are the prices. A complete dinner will run you less than appetizers alone at many restaurants, and some of Porter’s Place’s starters are virtually meals in themselves. Porter’s offers Feast for Two ($22.99) and Feast for Four ($39.99).

I’d recommend the Big Daddy Gumbo and Mumbo Jambalaya. I usually choose the gumbo, which houses scallops, shrimp, prawns, crab, chicken and andouille sausage. The spices seem just right to me, but may be too tame for some. If your dish isn’t hot enough, the restaurant supplies a selection of hot sauces. I made the mistake of pouring a substantial amount of the habanero sauce over my hush puppies and was treated to an out-of-body experience.

Mumbo jambalaya is also quite good, a tangy rice dish that combines chunks of chicken, rice, peppers, onion, and andouille sausage with Porter’s own blended Creole seasoning. Think of jambalaya as the fried rice of the bayou.

Porter’s Place serves up tasty Southern cuisine, with good service at economical prices, in a very bright, boring setting. Check out the Saturday night jazz.

[Porter’s Place Southern Cuisine & BBQ, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, 2615 E. N Street behind the La Quinta Inn, Tacoma, 253.383.7603]

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