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March 29, 2015 at 8:29am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Sunday, Cheesy Sunday

Chambers Bay Grill's crab mac and cheese (pictured) battles Steel Creek American Whiskey Co.'s lobster mac and cheese today. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner


Laid-back is the essence of Sunday. That means a lazy mid-afternoon mac and cheese, no work, phone off the hook, flip-flops ... you know the routine. The mere thought of lifting a finger to wash the mountain of dishes in the sink should make you shudder. Yesterday, a good chunk of the South Sound changed its Saturday routine. Voting in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese was added to the mix. Yesterday's vote total nearly doubled the previous record high for most votes in a day. Don't you people have lives?!

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: Harmon Brewery & Eatery (1938 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) vs. Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma)

Sixty-five votes. That's the margin of victory Over The Moon Café had over the Harmon Brewery & Eatery. Was it Over the Moon Café owner Deanna Harris Bender's love of "elevated old school" cooking that advanced the Opera Alley restaurant into the next round? Maybe it was the funky knick-knacks in the building's bathrooms. Most likely it was the seasonal mac and cheese with penne pasta, rich cream sauce and Gruyere cheese. Whatever it was Over The Moon Café will need it March 31 when it faces neighboring STINK Cheese & Meat in the Cheesy 16 round. Families will be torn apart that day.

Game 2: The Forum Tacoma (815 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) vs. BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma)

BITE restaurant took a big bite out of The Forum's Tournament of Mac and Cheese dreams. The modern restaurant inside the Hotel Murano grabbed 66 percent of the vote over The Forum. Could the orecchiette pasta and truffles in BITE's mac and cheese have anything to do with the win? Or did the Murano's Bellhops whisper suggestions as they opened the front door? BITE moves into the Cheesy 16 and a March 31 date with Bar Bistro.

Game 3: Marrow Kitchen + Bar (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Southern Kitchen (1716 Sixth Ave., Tacoma)

Tacoma's Sixth Avenue is a long-ass street. And it's loaded with mac and cheese dishes in this competition. Two of them - Marrow Kitchen + Bar and Southern Kitchen - faced off yesterday in a brutal battle that went down to the wire. After the cheese stopped bubbling, Marrow emerged victorious with 51.39 percent of the vote. Yup, I'm talking a two-vote difference. Marrow moves into the Cheesy 16 and a March 31 date with The Valley.

Game 4: Westside Tavern (1815 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia) vs. El Gaucho (2119 Pacific Ave., Tacoma)

Despite a late push from fancy El Gaucho, Westside Tavern and their large, devoted strongly motorcycle-riding following proved too powerful in yesterday's action, catapulting into the Cheesy 16 with 63 percent of the votes. You can't question the Westside Tavern's following, and sometimes a following is just what it takes in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese.  

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Cheesy 16:

Over The Moon Cafe


Marrow Kitchen + Bar

Westside Tavern

The daily mac and cheese battles here on Served in the South Sound are sponsored by BITE Restaurant & Bar inside the Hotel Murano.

OK, let's check out today's Second Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.

Tomorrow's Second Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Eleven Eleven (1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma) vs. Smoke + Cedar (2013 S. Cedar St., Tacoma)

Game 2: Metropolitan Market (2420 N. Proctor St., Tacoma) vs. Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma)

Game 3: King Solomon's Reef (212 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia) vs. Mac N More (9323 Martin Way E., Lacey)

Game 4: Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma) vs. H.G. Bistro (1618 E. Main Ave., Puyallup)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 24, 2015 at 8:02am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Day 6 First Round games and yesterday's winners

Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe serves a mac and cheese with prosciutto, pork belly, tomato or pesto options. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner


The seed was planted last April during our Tournament of Burgers Championship party at Meconi's in downtown Tacoma. After taking second place to the Westside Tavern, Maxwell's chef Hudson Slater suggested mac and cheese for the Weekly Volcano's 2015 food tournament.

The South Sound Tournament of Mac and Cheese launched Thursday with 64 mac and cheese joints battling toward the championship game April 6. Follow along with the Tournament of Mac and Cheese bracket attached (below and to the right).

Without further ado, let's take a gander at yesterday's results, and then preview today's matches. ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: C.I. Shenanigans (3017 Ruston Way, Tacoma) vs. Applebee's (10407 Gravelly Lake Dr. SW, Lakewood)

The nice thing about being a number one seed is it usually means you've got a paddy-cake game the first round. So was the case for Tacoma waterfront restaurant C.I. Shenanigans, which easily handled the 16-seeded Applebee's by securing more than 96 percent of the vote. Even better, Shenanigans survived the contest without wacky promotional schemes such as asking diners to rewrite popular songs with Applebee's menu items as the lyrics ... so bonus!

Game 2: Crown Bar (2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Tides Tavern (2925 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor)

Serving delicious mac and cheese to intoxicated masses on Sixth Avenue is business genius, probably why Tacoma's Crown Bar does it. However, name recognition also goes long way - and Tides Tavern has been slinging food and drinks wearing boat shoes for ages. In this contest, late night food carried the day, with the Crown Bar securing roughly 70 percent of the votes and winning easily.

Game 3: Topside Bar and Grill (215 Wilkes St., Steilacoom) vs. Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma)

If there's a trend developing it's that Tournament of Mac and Cheese voters are wowed by unique toppings. Sure, and fancy mac and cheese can get you somewhere in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese, but it doesn't guarantee anything - and your cheese sauce foundation has to be sound before voters will get behind some of the stranger stuff. While Topside Bar and Grill gushes beautiful view and community feel, voters flocked toward the down home, Tailgate-style, Lit'l Smokies laden mac and cheese goodness of Engine House No. 9 in this contest, awarding the old firehouse roughly 83 percent of the vote.

Game 4: Paesan Kitchen and Bar (1705 Dock St., Tacoma) vs. Southbay Dickerson's BBQ (619 Legion Way NE, Olympia)

Fontina cheese is the star ingredient in Paesan Kitchen & Bar's gooey baked penne pasta, although the leeks, egg, mustard, chili flakes, grated Parmesan and breadcrumbs would tell you different, if they could. It's baked ... and so is Southbay Dickerson's BBQ after this battle. The downtown Olympia barbecue joint threw everything and the kitchen sink at Paesan, but the tiny Dock Street Tacoma's kitchen was too much for Dickerson's. With 88 percent of the votes, Paesan Kitchen and Bar advances to the Second Round and a March 29 date with Engine House No. 9.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Second Round:

C.I. Shenanigans

Crown Bar

Engine House No. 9

Paesan Kitchen and Bar

The daily mac and cheese battles here on Served in the South Sound are sponsored by BITE Restaurant & Bar inside the Hotel Murano.

OK, let's check out today's First Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.

Tomorrow's First Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Metropolitan Market (2420 N. Proctor St., Tacoma) vs. Uncle Thurm's Finger Lickin' Ribs & Chicken (3709 S. G St., Tacoma)

Game 2: Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma) vs. Serious Soul Café (35501 21st Ave. SW, Federal Way)

Game 3: Oakhouse Restaurant & Bar (8102 Zircon Dr. SW, Lakewood) vs. King Solomon's Reef (212 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia)

Game 4: Mac N More (9323 Martin Way E., Lacey) vs. Silvers Saloon (2752 Pacific Ave. SE, Olympia)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

December 19, 2014 at 11:08am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Chambers Bay Grill

Chambers Bay Grill's crab mac and cheese is the perfect amount of food. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Following on the successful heels of the Weekly Volcano's Tournament of Burgers, our editorial staff will present a new NCAA Basketball tournament-like contest this spring. Once again we'll host a number of daily games that pit one restaurant against another, leaving it to the readers to decide the final outcomes all the way down to a final four and then a grand championship. (For newbie readers, Olympia's Westside Tavern edged out Tacoma's Maxwell's Restaurant in the final seconds of this year's Tournament of Burgers.) 

The competition for March 2015 will pit 64 South Sound restaurants that offer the ultimate comfort food - macaroni and cheese.

My goal is to report on a South Sound mac and cheese dish every week up to the tournament - to spread the cheesy word, ease into tournament research and, obviously, build hype. Chambers Bay Grill marks my 33rd mac and cheese dish.

There are many variations on the basic mac and cheese architecture - elbow macaroni baked in a cheddar cheese sauce - and as many different notions of what the best, truest version is, if such a thing can even be determined. All cooking is chemistry, but great macaroni and cheese feels more like the work of alchemy.

Crab mac and cheese is hardly the novelty it once was - especially in Western Washington - but in the expert hands of Chambers Bay Grill, their talent elevates the dish to new heights. Overlooking the Puget Sound, the majestic Olympic Mountains and expansive Chambers Bay golf course, Chambers Bay's Chef Josh Corcoran and his team rely on Beecher's Handmade Cheese for their sauce and ample long King crab legs to give their creamy mac 'and' cheese ($16) an assertive edge.

The dish is creamy without sacrificing the cheese. I definitely tasted crab - practically every bite. The briny notes in combination with the nutty Beecher's was terrific. Toasted panko topped the splendid dish because toasted panko is to mac and cheese as caramelized sugar is to crème brûlée; without it the texture is just too smooth.

This is not a humble, modest, sit-by-the-sidelines macaroni and cheese. Chambers Bay Grill's crab mac and cheese is in the top group on the leaderboard.

CHAMBERS BAY GRILL, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to sunset Friday-Sunday,6320 Grandview Drive W., University Place, 253.460.4653 or

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

July 23, 2014 at 11:50am

Celebrate the rain with El Toro's new margaritas

El Toro now serves a Horny Margarita.

It appears we are getting this summer's entire allotment of rain all in one go. And as glad as we are for our parched earth to get the much-needed precipitation, let's face it: After all these straight days of sun all this rain is a little ... shocking?

Let's celebrate. El Toro has introduced new margaritas.

"Yes, we have new margaritas," says Ruben Arias Jr., executive manager of El Toro Restaurants, with locations in Tacoma, Puyallup, Lakewood and University Place. "Our house, Gold and Cadillac are standard and we have always served them. But the rest are new. We put this menu three weeks ago."

Blended or on the rocks, salt or no salt, classic or all fruited up - El Toro has your back today.

June 24, 2014 at 9:47am

Eat This Now: Little Basil

Harbor Greens' Little Basil isn't so little. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

Harbor Greens grocer boasts farmers' market fresh produce and hyperlocal food finds. Though University Place is not completely void of quality and healthy food finds for diners, the options are sparse, making Harbor Greens' deli selection a little oasis for local foodniks.

Serving up a variety of pizzas, sandwiches and sides the Harbor Greens deli is an awesome option for lunch or dinner on the go - though you can also opt to dine in with a few cozy tables on site. My recommendation this week is the Little Basil ($7.49). Tucked inside a tasty rustic roll you'll find thinly sliced chicken breast, gargantuan ripe tomato slices, mozzarella cheese, greenie goods such as fresh basil and spring mix - all complemented with a pesto mayo. Every ingredient is delightfully fresh and creates a lovely matrimony of pure deliciousness.

If you ask the Little Basil to be toasted you'll discover a crisp and warm rustic roll that has melted the mozzarella cheese while the remainder of the sandwich is still fresh, meaning no soggy mess or limp leafy greens.

HARBOR GREENS, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, 2620 Bridgeport Way W., University Place, 253.460.2703

June 17, 2014 at 9:28am

Heather McClung: From Curtis Jr. High to Schooner Exact Brewing Co.

Heather McClung photographed in her Schooner Exact Brewing Co. taproom. Photo credit: Richard Baker

Former University Place photographer Heather McClung is rapidly becoming Seattle's Baroness of beer. As co-owner of Schooner Exact Brewing Co., she had never tasted a beer until she entered college. She is presently president of the Washington Brewers' Guild. Running a business can lead a person to drink, especially if the business is a brewery. Difficulties with personnel, equipment, inventory, payroll, taxes, customers, are just some of the problems a small businessperson encounters. Heather accepts the challenges with a smile and seems to relish the turmoil of business ownership along with the great joys.

Before her dip into beer, Heather developed an interest in photography while attending Curtis Jr. High, in University Place. Because of a great eye, her skills grew quickly and while still in the ninth-grade she entered a photograph she had taken with a borrowed Hasselblad camera into the 1998 Washington State Photographic Competition to outshine 2,998 participants and win "Best of Show." Since she leaned toward art, owning a business never entered her head, not even in college.

>>> Heather McClung's 1998 Washington State Photographic Competition "Best of Show" photograph

At U.P.S. she studied art with an emphases in photography and after graduating she landed a job as a photographer with a dotcom company. Unfortunately the glamorous and creative life of a photographer did not follow and she spent most of her time photographing car parts. She moved into teaching but found that job equally unrewarding. It also led her to brewing beer. She never enjoyed sweet, fizzy drinks and beer was a natural alternative. Beer helped fulfill some of her creative tendencies since she could experiment with different mixes and techniques.

Following her very short teaching career, where she met Matt, who was also brewing his own beer, she moved into supermarket management. Everything she learned along the way eventually helped her become a successful businessperson - her artistic knowledge, working with people, especially children, and her management skills.  When she and Matt decided to get married, they brewed all the beer for the wedding. Because the beer was a big hit they started brewing larger batches and eventually bought a half-barrel system they set up in the living room.

>>> Schooner Exact Brewing Co. brewery room. Photo credit: Richard Baker

>>> Schooner Exact Brewing Co. taproom. Photo credit: Richard Baker

Their reputation for great beer spread quickly and pubs, restaurants and taprooms started featuring everything from Profanity Hill Porter and Gallant Maiden Hefeweizen to 3 Grid India Pale Ale. Brewing was becoming a full-time job so they both quit their jobs and expanded the brewery from living room and garage to a business in South Park. Business grew quickly, however, as word of their beer spread, so they moved again to their present location at 3901 First Ave. S., Seattle.

Last year they sold 5,000 barrels of beer and, after landing a recent contract with several chain grocery stores, should increase production for a record year.

>>> Heather McClung's artwork hangs at Schooner Exact Brewing Co. Photo credit: Richard Baker

Heather maintains a relaxed atmosphere at the brewery and insists that the freshest ingredients be used in all the restaurant food. The storefront patio, adjacent to a Vespa shop, has an almost European feel. Her artwork and photographs decorate the walls and she has just bought a new Cannon camera.

Schooner Exact maintains an intimate relationship with its customers and offers various brewing activities. They now arrange field trips to a hop farm in Toppenish where participants enjoy a special lunch prepared by top chef Warren Peterson, and harvest hops for their own personally brewed beer.

As president of the Washington State Brewer's Guild, Heather spends time working with legislators in Olympia. The Guild is dedicated to educating Washington state policy makers about the advantages of small breweries, building a strong community of brewers, and fostering a balanced view about the benefits of moderate beer consumption.

Heather sees small breweries growing in Washington to meet the thirsty needs of residents and beer aficionados.



Wednesday, June 18

Fort George Brewery in Astoria has, once again, brewed its 3-Way IPA, a collaboration with Block 15 and Boneyard breweries. In celebration, its showing the IPA and its other beers the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Its 2014 IPA Odyssey tap takeovers tour will set up fort at the ParkWay Tavern (313 N. I St., Tacoma) beginning at 5 p.m.

Located in an historic 1992 warehouse in downtown Bellingham, Boundary Bay Brewing Company have been brewing beers since 1995. In fact, last week it began brewing its 5,000th batch of beer. The BBBC makes its way south for a 6-9 p.m. brewer's night at the Puyallup River Alehouse (120 S. Meridian, Puyallup). Expect Boundary beers, giveaways, raffle prizes and dollar tacos.

The Swiss Restaurant & Pub (1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma) hosts Double Mountain Brewery out of Hood Rover, Ore., for a brewer's night and raffle 6-9 p.m.

Pint Defiance (2049 Mildred St. W., Tacoma) welcomes Deschutes Brewing Co. from Bend, Ore., for a brewer's night and raffle. Expect Not the Stoic Quad, 2103 Abyss Imperial Stout, Fresh Squeezed IPA. Twilight Summer Ale and other beers on tap 5-7 p.m.

Thursday, June 19

208 Garfield (208 Garfield St. S., Parkland) will be pouring summer shandy samples 6-9 p.m. for $6. Beer Geek Erick Swenson will be pouring half-beer and topping them off with lemonade, ginger ale and orange soda.

Pint Defiance pulls a double-header with Deschutes June 18 and Boulder's Avery Brewing the next night 5-7 p.m.  Rub elbows with the Colorado team and drink White Rascal Wit, Karma Belgian Pale, Avery IPA and a rare keg of Out Of Bounds Stout. Raffle prizes o'plenty.

Wednesday, June 25

Puyallup River Brewing hugs it out with visiting Narrows Brewing Co. over beers, giveaways and raffle prizes from 6-9 p.m.

A Pucker Party will go down at Pint Defiance featuring special sour beer draft releases 5-7 p.m.

May 22, 2014 at 3:41pm

Beer Dinners Alert: Chambers Bay and Pacific Grill hosts both ends of the Narrows Bridge

Wine dinners have become commonplace events around the South Sound, and with new local breweries opening up; I imagine beer dinners will become more common, too.

Right now, two beer dinners are worthy of your attention - one in University Place and the other in downtown Tacoma.

First, Chambers Bay hosts neighboring Narrows Brewing Co. for a five-course beer dinner tomorrow night. Looks as if Chef Joshua Corcoran and his crew will have fun with the Narrows brews. Smokey pork belly tacos, Beecher's double cheeseburger and cinnamon doughnuts are on the docket. Narrows head brewer Joe Walts will bring Siren's Call Hibiscus Saison, Galloping Gertie Golden Ale, 4.0 in Damage Session Pale Ale, Giant Pacific Octopus IPA and his Post-Tension Porter. Tickets are $50 per person. Sign up at 253.552.4867.


About this blog

Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

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Recent Comments

Budi Sdk said:

A very interesting article, to add insight can be read at


Ted Smith said:

Thank you for the list of restaurants to try out. I will have to try their Mac and Cheese....

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tastymakan said:

I like your post on Bakery restaurants I like ...

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Angela Whitten said:

Any Spring beers?

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Web Developers Delhi said:

Amazing blog and very interesting stuff you got here! I definitely learned a lot from reading...

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