Down-home’s definition is “connected with an unpretentious way of life.” Down-home cooking is food like mom or grandma used to make, but not my mother; that’s another story.
Recently, I posted a query on several different Facebook groups: Lakewood, Tacoma, and Puyallup areas. I asked about favorite restaurants that still offered “home cooked,” family-style type of meals. Those posts resulted in hundreds of responses from members . . . and discussions back and forth. I was reminded of places I’ve eaten (Ben Dews, Burs, The Homestead, Carrs, The Pine Cone, Shari’s, and a few others). I also started a list of places that I need to visit, review, and re-review (Tim’s Kitchen & Carrs).
So, what is down-home, family-style food? I remember the first time I sat down to eat with then girl friend Peggy Harrington (now Peggy Doman). She has a large family. I had never seen a serving plate stacked with so many pieces of fried round steak, bowls of different home grown vegetables, and half-gallon containers of milk. I was over-whelmed. For a Harrington birthday, the recipient has the honor of choosing what they wanted served in celebration. Peggy always chose meatloaf and baked potatoes. She still bakes a mean meatloaf with a tasty topping of ketchup, mustard, and cheddar cheese.
Down-home cooking to me also means casseroles, which are still popular for church socials and organization’s pot-luck dinners. Favorite one bowl or one dish main dishes would be spaghetti, lasagna, and moussaka. Many restaurants are connecting with DoorDash, Uber Eats, and other delivery runners to expand their dining audiences. This allows busy people to come home after work and have their favorite foods arriving soon after on their doorstep. So eating out is now eating in, which gives new meaning to down-home cooking.
When Peggy’s parents died, the seven siblings had an opportunity to choose what they wanted from household goods. Peggy chose the Guardian Ware roasting pan. Guardian Ware or Guardian Service cookware produces the food I love. Their factory burned down in 1956, but the heavy-duty hammered aluminum pots last forever and can be found on eBay every day, I’ve checked. I think the most prolific pot was triangular. Our son Patrick has one of those. Peg’s treasured roasting pan has slightly rounded ends and holds many pounds of beef, or pork roasts with room to spare for onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and whatever else comes from your garden or Safeway. The domed glass cover allows veggies to be mounded up for cooking down.
We found pot roast missing from many of the menus we checked out. It looks like Prime Rib has replaced it. We only chose non-fine dining establishments. These restaurants are open for dinner and most are also open for breakfast and lunch.
Ben Dews Club House Grill, Tacoma – No website and couldn’t find comfort food menu.
Black Bear Diner, Lakewood – Housemade Meatloaf, Slow-Cooked Pot Roast, Tri-Tip, Chicken Fried Steak, Chicken Pot Pie, Roasted Half Chicken, Wild Alaska Pesto Salmon.
Bruno’s, Lakewood – Chicken Kiev, various Schnitzels, Beef Rouladen, Smoked Pork Skinless Ham Shank.
Burs, Lakewood – Hot Beef or Turkey Sandwich, Chicken Fried Steak, Ground Sirloin, Luncheon Steak.
Carrs, Lakewood – Shelby Sirloin, New York Steak, Build Your Own Fettuccine Alfredo, Overflow Oysters.
Casa Mia, Lakewood – Half page website with a menu link that doesn’t connect with a menu.
Charlie’s, Puyallup – Pan Fried Oysters, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Gayle’s Famous Baked Meatloaf, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Oven Roasted Turkey Breast, Spaghetti & Meatballs.
Cooks Tavern, Tacoma – Lamb Chops, Cast Iron Skillet Tavern Steak, Big Willy’s Spice Rubbed Pork Chop.
Elmer’s, Tacoma – Wild Alaskan Cod, Wild Pacific Salmon, Slow-Roasted Prime Rib, Oregon Trail Flat Iron Steak, Roasted Turkey Breast Dinner, Pioneer Chicken-Fried Steak.
The Homestead, Tacoma – Homemade Beef Stew, Hot Meatloaf Sandwich, Hot Turkey Sandwich, Chicken Fried Steak, New York Steak Sandwich.
It’s Greek to Me, Tacoma – Moussaka (eggplant casserole), Portabella Mushroom Ravioli, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Fettuccine Alfredo – They also serve some of the best pizza in the county – Mondays – All you can eat Spaghetti and Meatballs.
Joeseppi’s Italian Ristorante, Tacoma – Chicken Marsala, Five Layer Lasagna, Rib-eye Steak (also a Wednesday Evening Special), Prime Rib (Thursday Evening Special only).
Pacific Southern, Tacoma – Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Jambalaya, Shrimp & Grits, BBQ Pulled Pork.
Pine Cone Cafe, University Place – Chicken Fried Steak, Breaded Veal Cutlet, Grilled Liver & Onions, Fried Chicken, Grilled Oysters.
Southern Kitchen, Tacoma – Catfish, Chicken Fried Steak, Southern Roasted Chicken, Liver and Onions.
Shari’s, Tacoma and Puyallup area – Southern Fried Chicken, Savory Lemon Dill Salmon, 16 0z. T-Bone Steak, Roasted Prime Rib, Chicken Fried Steak.
Tim’s Kitchen, Puyallup and Orting, – Half Pound Chicken Fried Steak, Sirloin or New York Steak, Prime Rib (Friday and Saturday evening), Tim’s Meatloaf, Liver & Onions.
Surprises? Liver & Onions is being offered at three of these restaurants, but no one is offering chicken liver and onions. My own call for action? Check out Tim’s Kitchen on South Hill and revisit Carrs Restaurant for overflow oysters. A non-surprise is that we have reviewed or dined at sixteen of the seventeen listed restaurants. It’s time to try them again, however.
Reviews for most of these restaurants can be found at eating-out-tacoma.com.
Peggy and I are members of FandFers (Friends and Fridays), a group of friends who meet most Friday evenings. The group originated from 5 couples who went to Italy together. The group, of course, has grown – we all have other friends and drop-ins. The host cooks the entree, and others bring salad, vegetables, side dishes, appetizers, dessert, etc. Dinner is such a good time with good friends. If no one wants to host, we look for a restaurant.
On Sunday mornings, a few couples go out for breakfast, another occasion with good friends. Also, periodically, our friend Dennis Flannagan will call and meet us for lunch. Denny loves to eat and has helped numerous local restaurants by introducing them to his friends. In addition, my buddy Jim Harris and I will go out for lunch at least once a month. Jim picks me up at 11:30 and asks, “Where are we going?” There is nothing like dining with friends and family. Talking, laughing, and sharing simply add to the flavors, and memories of each meal. Down-home just makes it a little bit more special.