Up All Night: Eating Late in the South Sound

Doyle's Public House

Doyle’s Public House: This Irish-inspired pub caught the attention of Esquire magazine, which named this alehouse one of the best bars in America. Bartender Natalie recommends the $3 Grilled Cheese and Tomato, or any of the other great Happy Hour bar specials.

We’ve all been there: it’s Friday night. You may or may not have indulged in one or more vices for the evening. One of those harmless sins, however, has not been dinner. Not yet, anyway. So where exactly is there to go to grab a bite before, during or even after the witching hour in the South Sound?

Of course, there are more than a handful of all-night fast food offerings that any adult over 21 has likely given an obligatory shot at sating their after-hours hankerings. McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box (which offers up breakfast fare all day long), and even select Subway sandwich shops are open all night. If that can’t assuage the palette, night owls might consider one of the several Shari’s or Denny’s locations around the South Sound. The great thing about choosing any of the aforementioned drive-thru or diner fare is how affordable and speedy the service, as well as how diverse the options can be.

For those who have had it up to here with the same old Munchie Meals and Grand Slams and are looking to go a little off-script, consider some of the region’s less-traveled roads to a late-night meal. For example, open 24 hours and on opposite ends of the palate are Memo’s all-night taqueria and Dockside Donuts bakery in Tacoma. For diners who find themselves in the Puyallup area, Cattin’s Family Diner is also open all night.

Matador: Open until 2 a.m. every day of the week, diners would be hard pressed to find a prettier place to take in a meal then the Tacoma location of the Matador. This lounge rustles up not one but two happy hours, offers beautiful indoor and patio seating options, and has all the ambiance of Old World Mexico combined with the charm and sophistication of Texas.

Matador: Open until 2 a.m. every day of the week, diners would be hard pressed to find a prettier place to take in a meal then the Tacoma location of the Matador. This lounge rustles up not one but two happy hours, offers beautiful indoor and patio seating options, and has all the ambiance of Old World Mexico combined with the charm and sophistication of Texas.

While not open around the clock, there are more locations that keep their kitchens fired up until one or two in the a.m. The Matador off of Pacific Avenue in Tacoma sears and sautés until 12:45 a.m., although patrons can enjoy libations until the bar closes at 2 a.m. Happy hour is jumping here—both the first happy hour that begins at 6 p.m. and the late-night reverse happy hour that kicks off at 10 p.m. The atmosphere at this lounge and eatery is cool but casual.

There is a cluster of restaurants and pubs that keep a light on until relatively late around Pacific Avenue. Just across the street from the Matador is Tacoma Cabana, which has been selected as the purveyor of Western Washington’s Best Cocktails for three consecutive years. Cabana owner Jason Alexander says that the kitchen can close anywhere between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m., but that patrons can always call ahead to find out exactly what amazing tropical dishes and pupu platters can be had at any given hour. “Come visit me at the bar,” added Alexander, “to get extra spoiled with some crazy, off-menu drink specials.”

Veteran-owned Odd Otter Brewing is just next door, and stays open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately, those are the only two days that this brewery is open at present. Like the Copper Door on Tacoma Avenue, this pub encourages its patrons to bring in outside food from other local establishments. (The Copper Door closes pretty early at 10 p.m., but craft beer lovers can bring man’s best friend to this pooch-loving pub, and that’s pretty awesome for those who like to mix their dogs with a little drinking and dining.)

Odd Otter Brewing: Established in 2014, this brewery is open Fridays and Saturdays. There is no kitchen at Odd Otter, but patrons can bring in food from any of the neighboring businesses, such as the Matador, Abella's, the Forum, and Cafe Vincero. Wash it all down until 2 a.m. with a Coconut Chai Porter or an Ottermelon Hefeweizen.

Odd Otter Brewing: Established in 2014, this brewery is open Fridays and Saturdays. There is no kitchen at Odd Otter, but patrons can bring in food from any of the neighboring businesses, such as the Matador, Abella’s, the Forum, and Cafe Vincero. Wash it all down until 2 a.m. with a Coconut Chai Porter or an Ottermelon Hefeweizen.

Bring food from any of the nearby restaurants into Odd Otter, or dine in and experience great dishes at the Forum until 1 a.m. on the weekends. Katie, who tends bar in this historic Tacoma hotel lounge, says, “The Cuban is amazing! Our Macaroni and Cheese balls are really popular, too, and we’re well known for the Juicy Lucy Burger.” Katie’s tip for late-night diners: don’t miss out on the Forum’s incredible cocktails drinks, crafted from liquor the pub infuses on premises.

Up until 11 p.m., insomniacs can to sink their teeth into a creatively crafted hot dog at Red Hot on 6th Avenue or sample the scratch-made vegetarian, vegan and omnivorous offerings at the Top of Tacoma bar on McKinley until a half-hour before close. Doyle’s Public House, a beautiful pub off of Saint Helen’s Avenue, can offer classic Irish dishes like Scotch Eggs, Bangers and Mash and Irish Nachos on special until 1 in the morning. This alehouse offers a great reverse happy hour, beginning at 9 p.m. So does Bar Bistro between Portland Avenue and 99th Street, where restaurant-goers can count on a versatile menu that includes classic American fare like baby back ribs and burgers, paella, mac-and-cheese, and a dynamite ribeye fresh from the local Double R Ranch.

Late night offerings from Tacoma staples like the Frisko Freeze or Puget Sound Pizza, which are open until 1 and 2 a.m., respectively, are locally famous. The New American cuisine at Dirty Oscar’s Annex, however, has earned some national attention. Tacoma’s only Moonshine Bar keeps its kitchen open as late as 1:30 a.m., and hungry visitors may have seen the Annex on Diner, Drive-ins and Dives in 2013, or watched menu-creator and former Chef Aaron Grissom compete on the Food Network’s Top Chef in 2014. Bartender Persephone Nelson says that the Tasso Tacos, Parmesan Tater Tots and Chicken and Waffles are among some of the pub’s most popular dishes. Crockett’s Public House in Puyallup, too, has been recognized for its one-of-a-kind offerings on DD&D. Both pubs encourage visitors to call ahead for info about specials, which change seasonally.

The list goes on and on. From holes-in-the-wall and dive-bars to hip bistros and sophisticated lounges, there is no shortage of late-night eats flanking the Sound. Stumped about where to indulge your after-hours cravings?  Bookmark the map below for a list of restaurants, pubs and bars that serve food from 10 p.m. and later. Let this color-coded map serve as a handy guide to keep you well-fed, no matter the hour.

Frisko Freeze: Sometimes called the Dick's Drive-in of Tacoma, this landmark serves burgers, shakes, fries and onion rings (among a few other things) until 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and as late as 1 p.m. on the Friday and Saturday.

Frisko Freeze: Sometimes called the Dick’s Drive-in of Tacoma, this landmark serves burgers, shakes, fries and onion rings (among a few other things) until 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and as late as 1 p.m. on the Friday and Saturday.

This article appeared originally in South Sound Talk on January xx 2015, and can be read here.

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