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Primo Grill's Big Move

Fresh flavors move down the street to new urban digs

Primo Grill Chef Charlie McManus smokes his meats and fish, and his skills shine in the smoked trout appetizer. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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Any native Tacoman can recall at least one evening, if not several, playing pedestrian along "the Ave" while traveling from one late night destination to another and spying into House of Tattoo as folks received fresh ink. Some may even hold fond memories of the buzzing needles and blissful ache that accompanied being adorned and have murals of koi fish or clever sayings forever emblazoned on their bits to prove it.

More recently, there's been some buzz in that locale, not from the ogling of freshly adorned body art, but rather about Primo Grill relocating - and now residing in - not only what was once House of Tattoo, but also its neighboring dog grooming establishment. It's an almost surreal transformation to witness nearly impossible had you just let your imagination do the work - because the end result is a brilliant and flawless execution by husband and wife team Charlie McManus and Jacqueline Plattner. Why remodel when you can just relocate and create a brand new and exquisite space?!

The "Primo" sign sits brightly above a lovely front entrance that features a swirly, artsy glass door. Garage-door styled windows open up to Sixth Avenue for an al fresco dining experience. The interior is sleek and urban all at once, comprised of recycled polished wood flooring, colorful vases brimming with flora and a large bright mural, courtesy of Tacoma Community College artists, that depicts the Pacific Northwest's rich agricultural roots and Mount Rainier. All of these set the scene for an elegant but relaxed fine dining experience. Toward the rear of the narrow space that is split into dining room and lounge areas lies the open kitchen. Just as its previous location, the open kitchen gives curious culinary types the opportunity to view the chefs in action as they craft their dishes. You can literally get front-row action with a row of rail-type seats facing the kitchen.

The menu is just as delectable as it has always been. Longtime regulars of the previous digs can anticipate the same Mediterranean flair featuring delectable thin-crust pizzas with flavorful ingredients such as roasted wild mushrooms, goat cheese and figs, and lots of grill options. Every dish utilizes farm-fresh ingredients that will undoubtedly translate to a diverse, rotating menu.

Service staff remains much the same, which is fine and dandy as they are well-versed in the Primo brand and deliver well-educated recommendations and friendly, relaxed and professional service.  

Nibbling on several appetizers - including the smoked trout with pickled onions and crème fraiche ($11) and grilled flatbread accompanied by an earthy house-made fresh cheese (!), olive tapenade and roasted red peppers ($7) paired with a tap list highlighting some local brew masters, impressive boozy fermented grape selection (yes, I mean wine) and classy craft cocktails - I can attest to the abundance of delicate, perfectly matched flavors and quality fresh ingredients. Knowing the McManus reputation, I expected nothing less.

Primo Grill has found a winning balance, clearly adhering to the old sayin' "don't fix it if it isn't broken" while breathing new life into and rejuvenating an establishment that has been a gem since the late 1990s.

PRIMO GRILL, 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2701 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.7000

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