Category Archives: Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date

Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date: Pho King

Welcome to the latest installment of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date. Here are the rules: Each week, my girlfriend Mimi and I go somewhere in the Tacoma area for a cheap date where we spend $20 or less. (This does not include tips because service is unique and can’t be universally quantified.) Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.

There are places in Tacoma that I feel are so well known and so legendary that there’s no real reason to tell people about them. Then I remember that not everyone who reads this is from Tacoma and that there are likely still some people who do not know the awesomeness of Pho King. And more importantly, I really felt like Pho King after spending most of the day in Jury Duty.

Pho King is located near the corner of South 9th and MLK Way on Tacoma’s Hilltop between the Hilltop Pawn Shop and a photo developing place that is mysteriously still in business. Mimi and I arrived at the end of the lunch rush and found one of the only remaining tables.

We were quickly given menus and two glasses of water. Looking over the menu it was easy to find items within our Cheap Date price range. We could have each had large orders of Pho, but we already know how good the Pho is at Pho King. Instead I opted for the Pho King Special Plate for $7.75 described as ‘Grilled pork chop, julienne pork, Vietnamese meatloaf, crispy fried shrimp, fried eggs, pork sausage, and shrimp wrapped in bean curd skin’. Mimi chose the Vegetarian Rice Dish for $7.50 described as ‘Lemongrass tofu and veggie egg roll.’ She also chose to get a Thai Iced Tea.

The food showed up a few minutes after we ordered. It was somewhat surprising how quickly they got our food done given how busy it was. Mimi’s dish arrived first. It looked so good that she almost immediately started eating but remembered we needed to take a photo. Luckily my food came out only a minute or two later. I took a photo and we dug in.

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The Pho King Special has so much going on that it’s kind of hard to judge it. The pork chop was flat and had little bones in it that surprised me, but the sauce, the shrimp, the fried egg, and everything else was awesome. It’s easily the most amount of good food I’ve ever bought for $7.75 in Tacoma. I asked Mimi for her reaction to her Vegetarian Plate and her one word response was “Delicious!”

Then it came time for our bill. My math said that we’d be close once tax was added in. Here’s the receipt.

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To the surprise of no one who has ever been there, Pho King gets an enthusiastic endorsement for a Cheap Date.

Pho King is located at 1020 MLK Jr Way, Tacoma, WA 98405

Do you know of a place where Mimi and I should try to spend $20? Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com and let me know.

– Jack Cameron

Jack and Mimi’s Cheap Date: The Harvester

Welcome to the latest installment of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date. Here are the rules: Each week, my girlfriend Mimi and I go somewhere in the Tacoma area for a cheap date where we spend $20 or less. (This does not include tips because service is unique and can’t be universally quantified.) Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.

There are some places that are so much a part of my life that I forget that there are others who don’t even know they exist. My very first apartment was about four blocks away from The Harvester in Tacoma’s Stadium District. The Harvester is a diner like Shari’s or Denny’s but local and good. I’ve gone there countless times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner over the years. But this time, Mimi and I would be going there and trying to spend less than $20.

We went for breakfast one weekday morning. It was fairly empty. We took a window booth and looked over the menu. We quickly found a problem: Almost every full breakfast was nine dollars or more. This wasn’t going to be easy, but we’d already sat down and we were hungry.

The waitress poured a couple of small glasses of water. Mimi ordered a coffee. I chose a Farmer’s Omelet for $9.79. Mimi decided for Bacon & Eggs for $9.49. The coffee turned out to be $2.39. This put us over our limit.

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Our food arrived. I was so hungry that I instantly took a bite of an English Muffin before Mimi reminded me to take a photo for the article. Mimi enjoyed her Bacon & Eggs though the bacon was a bit greasy for her tastes. My omelet was good and the portions were substantial.

The Harvester is a favorite of mine. Hardly a month goes by that I don’t end up there. For the purposes of having good diner food in a great neighborhood, I recommend it. For Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date, I must give the breakfast a mixed review. The food was good, but the price was a bit too high.

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The Harvester is located on the corner of Division and Tacoma Ave. at 29 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma, WA 98403.

– Jack Cameron

Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date: Vien Dong

Welcome to the latest installment of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date. Here are the rules: Each week, my girlfriend Mimi and I go somewhere in the Tacoma area for a cheap date where we spend $20 or less. This does not include tips because service is unique and can’t be universally quantified. This week we take a look at Vien Dong.

I’ve spent most of my adult life living in Tacoma’s Stadium District and the North End, but I grew up on Tacoma’s South Side on South 40th & Fawcett. A few blocks away on South 38th Street is an area my parents called ‘little Vietnam’ due to the amount of Vietnamese businesses there. In 1989 Vien Dong opened its doors on the corner of South 38th & Yakima Ave. and quickly became a fixture of the neighborhood.

I had been to Vien Dong once before many years ago and enjoyed the food. Mimi and I were trying to find a place we wanted to go. I mentioned Vietnamese food. She said, “I’m always hungry for Vietnamese food.”

We parked on the street and walked into a fairly empty restaurant on a Monday afternoon. There was one couple at a table and an old woman at a table by herself. We chose a seat and were given menus and hot tea with two small cups.

Mimi had never been there before and it’d been long enough that I didn’t remember what their prices were like. So I was surprised when I found that there were plenty of options to keep us within our $20 budget.

Given the variety of choices, it took a while for us to decide. Ultimately I chose number 32 Com Chien Duong Chau – Fried Rice with your choice of Shrimp, BBQ Pork, Chicken, or Beef. (I chose beef.) Mimi chose number 22 Bun Cha Gio Tren Khay – Egg Rolls & Vegetables Served in a bowl. Mimi also ordered a Café Sua Da – Iced French Coffee With Condensed Milk. I stuck with tea and water for a beverage.

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The food arrived very quickly. The first thing I noticed was that our portions were huge. I took a photo of the table and realized I had to stand up to fit it all in the picture. Mimi enjoyed her food and found it incredibly filling. In fact, she wasn’t able to finish it all. My fried rice was a tiny bit too fried, but still enjoyable.

When it came time to leave, we wandered over to the cash register. Despite seeing the prices on the menu, I was still surprised when it only came to $17.25. This was easily the most food we’ve had so far on our Cheap Date excursions and one that we’ll definitely return to another time.

The South Side has many worthwhile places to discover. After our meal we went across the street to a wonderful shop full of random things and purchased a couple of noodle bowls.

Vien Dong is located at 3801 S. Yakima Ave., Tacoma, WA 98418

Where should Mimi and I go next? If you’ve got an idea, let us know. Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

Jack and Mimi’s Cheap Date: The Rosewood Cafe

Welcome to the latest installment of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date. Here are the rules: Each week, my girlfriend Mimi and I go somewhere in the Tacoma area for a cheap date where we spend $20 or less. This does not include tips because service is unique and can’t be universally quantified. This week we take a look at The Rosewood Café.

The Rosewood Café is a quiet little place on the corner of North 26th and Warner near the Proctor District. They’re primarily a sandwich shop with a relaxed style that’s both comfortable and familiar. It feels nothing like a franchise.

One day last week, Mimi and I stopped by for a cheap lunch date. The Proctor area is notorious for being expensive. The Safeway a few blocks away recently tried to start charging for parking in their lot, but public outcry stopped them. Simply put, the Rosewood isn’t the first place I’d think to go if I only wanted to spend twenty dollars or less.

Mimi and I looked over the menu. She decided on the Rosewood Deluxe. The menu describes the Rosewood Deluxe as “Oven roasted all natural turkey, smoked bacon, Havarti cheese, fresh lettuce, tomato, and red onion. Served on grilled peasant bread with mayo.” It was $8.00.

I chose the Big Tuna Melt for $7.50. We each got beverages. I got a Coke. Mimi got a decaf coffee.

The food arrived fairly quickly. My tuna melt was warm and delicious. It was good sized, but I’m not sure it earned the title ‘Big’. The Coke was from a can, but though I had two, they only charged me for one.

Mimi said that her Rosewood Deluxe was alright. She enjoyed the coleslaw side and felt that the fact that the sandwich was toasted really improved the sandwich.

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Between the atmosphere and the sandwiches, our cheap date at the Rosewood was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, there was a problem when it came to the bill. Our sandwiches came to $15.50. Our beverages were each $2.25. Our total before tax was exactly $20.00.

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Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date failed to come in under our twenty dollar limit. So while I recommend people check out The Rosewood Café for good food and a quiet local atmosphere, I can’t recommend it for a Cheap Date.

The Rosewood Cafe is located at 3323 North 26th Street, Tacoma, WA 98407

Where should Mimi and I go next? If you’ve got an idea, let us know. Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

Jack and Mimi’s Cheap Date: The Red Hot

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The first response I received to last week’s article The Red Hot’s Twitter favoriting it. I took this as an invitation for this week’s edition of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date. For those unfamiliar with the concept of this column, it’s fairly simple. One day each week, my girlfriend, Mimi and I go out on a date somewhere in Tacoma using only $20.

This is not the first time I’ve been to The Red Hot. It’s a hot dog bar located on Tacoma’s 6th Avenue. Their beer selection tends to be a wide variety of craft brews, many of them local. Their hot dogs and sausages are so popular that Cheney Stadium just made a deal to sell them at the Tacoma Rainiers games this season.

The Red Hot was originally located next door in a small space that is now a tattoo shop. When the bridal store moved out, The Red Hot moved into their present space. By comparison, this new location seems gigantic.

Mimi and I sat down to eat and looked at the menu. Since they serve mostly hot dogs and sausages, the difficulty wasn’t finding something within the $20 budget. It was choosing from the many options. After some debate, Mimi selected the Rainier Rueben hot dog described on the menu as “1000 Island dressing, spicy brown mustard, Swiss cheese, and topped with sauerkraut.” And I chose the Big Kahuna: “Smoked sweet & spicy Hawaiian sausage, Saigon sauce, onions, cole slaw, & topped with grilled pineapple rings.” For beverages Mimi ordered a Snoqualmie Root Beer. I ordered a pint of the No-Li Spin Cycle Red.

One of the great things about The Red Hot is that the service is often blindingly fast. It seemed like our dogs were ready in just a few minutes.

They weren’t lying about the sausage. It was sweet and spicy. It might have been a bit spicier than I prefer, but that’s just me. The pineapple rings were nice, but kind of unwieldy on the sausage. Once I really got into it, the combination of flavors along with the Spin Cycle Red made for a very enjoyable small meal. The Spin Cycle is a solid Red. I’m not very familiar with the No-Li brewery in Spokane, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for their brews in the future.

Mimi’s first reaction to her Rainier Rueben was that the sauerkraut was amazing. Lately she’s been on a bit of a Rueben kick, ordering a Rueben whenever it’s on the menu. So her praise of their sauerkraut is well earned. She said the Snoqualmie Root Beer was smooth and not overly fizzy.

A few years ago if you would have told me that you were opening up a hot dog bar in Tacoma, I’d say you were crazy. These days, The Red Hot is one of my go-to locations when I’m looking for good beer and a small meal for a good price. It doesn’t hurt that just a couple doors down, you can get incredible ice cream at The Ice Cream Social.

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The Red Hot is located at 2914 6th Ave., Tacoma, WA 98406.

If you would like to suggest a place for a future installment of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date, go ahead an contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com or send me a message on Twitter.

– Jack Cameron

Jack and Mimi’s Cheap Date: Taqueria Las Torres

Welcome back to Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date. Originally the concept was to have my girlfriend Mimi and I order the two cheapest entrées on the menu and then write about that experience. Unfortunately, this led to us ordering things we didn’t always like and in some cases, there were things that we literally couldn’t eat due to allergies or dietary restrictions. This led us to abandon this column for a while. However, I’ve come up with some new rules and they’re fairly simple:

We go on a date to a local place in Tacoma and try to spend no more than $20 total. This excludes tipping because a tip is dependent both on how much you spend and the quality of service.

First up for this new season of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date is Taqueria Las Torres. Taqueria Las Torres is a Taco Truck connected to a small building on Tacoma’s 6th Ave. and Fife Street. Here’s a photo of the place.

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Mimi ordered the three taco meal with marinated pork and a Mandarin Orange Soda. I ordered the Enchilada plate and a Mexican Coke. Our total was $19.97.

The dining area isn’t much more than you might expect in a cafeteria. It’s utilitarian rather than stylish. Televisions play whatever they’ve selected from Netflix. After a few minutes, our order was called out and we took our food back to our table.

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For food from what’s essentially a Taco Truck, it’s really not bad and fairly filling. Nothing was particularly spicy, though there’s a condiments area where you can add spice if that’s your thing. Mimi’s dish was more than a little hot by the time she was done preparing it. I ate mine with the provided plastic fork and knife.

My enchilada was tasty and filling. Mimi said that the marinated pork taco plate as authentic and that the vegetables were very fresh.

If you’re looking for a high class Mexican dining experience, this isn’t it. But you know that going in. If you’re looking for authentic, inexpensive Mexican food and friendly service, this is the place.

Taqueria Las Torres is located at 2516 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98406.

– Jack Cameron

Jack and Mimi’s Cheap Date: Pacific Grill and Old Milwaukee Cafe

Chad and Pat, owners of the Old Milwaukee Cafe

Chad and Pat, owners of the Old Milwaukee Cafe

For the third installment of Jack and Mimi’s Cheap Date, Mimi and I had decided to go to the Pacific Grill. I had heard they had a new menu and I wanted to go someplace nice. Not to mention, I’d been meaning to go to dinner at Pacific Grill ever since owner and chef, Gordon Naccarato was kind enough to join me for 5 Question Friday last year.

We arrived Friday night without a reservation and sat at the bar until there was a table ready for us. We looked over the menu which included many small plates that were intended to be shared family style. Mimi and I talked about how to work this into the rules of ‘Jack and Mimi’s Cheap Date’ which are that we order the two cheapest entrees on the menu. And then something happened.

“I don’t care what we do next,” Mimi said, “but no matter what I’m ordering the Soy Whiskey Whiskey Chicken.”

This was not the cheapest thing on the menu but at $8.95 it was also not the most expensive.  The description said “chicken thighs marinated in soy, garlic, bourbon + ginger w/ smoky sweet potato salad.“  I entirely understood why Mimi wanted it.  However, since rules are rules, it was clear that we were no longer on a ‘Cheap Date’. And so I ordered a full plate of ‘Stan the Man’s Killer Clam Linguine’ for $24.

Mimi’s chicken was tender and juicy, but the real treat was the smoked potato salad. The clams in my clam linguine were crazy good and the full plate was indeed full. Luckily I had a big appetite. Later, Gordon stopped by our table and we finally met face to face. He told us how the dish I was eating was named for his father, Stan Naccarato who used to make that dish all the time when Gordon was younger.

Mimi and I had a great dinner at a great place, but we still had a column to write. We were too full of good food to go somewhere else. So Saturday morning we decided we’d fix this problem by having ‘Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Breakfast’.

And so we went to Tacoma’s Old Milwaukee Café on 6th Ave. Mimi had been telling me about this place for weeks and I’d never been there. Located at 3102 S. 6th Ave., the Old Milwaukee has been a local favorite for fourteen years. It’s run by a couple named Pat and Chad. She waits tables. He cooks. There are eight tables and the whole place probably couldn’t fit more than twenty people in it comfortably.

When we arrived around 9am on Saturday morning, all of the tables were taken and there were a couple of people already waiting. We needed a table for three as Mimi’s mother had chosen to join us for breakfast. While there was no list, Pat made it clear that we were to sit when and where she wanted us to sit. As she put it, “I’ve got you handled.”  We were seated after 15 minutes.

Mimi ordered two eggs sunny side up along with home fries and English muffins for $6.99. I ordered thick sliced bacon and scrambled eggs with hash browns and English muffins for $8.99. We also had coffee.

The atmosphere in the place was friendly though I noticed a few parties arrive and leave as they saw that the entire place was packed. Unfortunately Mimi had to work at ten and ended up leaving before our food had arrived. We let the waitress know that while Mimi was leaving, we’d still be bringing the food to her.

My bacon and eggs arrived. The first thing I noticed was that they weren’t kidding about the thick sliced bacon. It was good, thick, and tasty. The hash browns were just that right balance of crunchy but not burned.

When it came time to go, our waitress had the cook freshly make Mimi’s eggs. I asked Mimi later what she thought of the food to go. She said, “I liked it. It’s also the simplest thing I’ve eaten there.”

So there you have it. Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date didn’t go exactly as planned, but I think in this case that was mostly a good thing.

–          Jack Cameron

Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date by the numbers:

Pacific Grill
Address: 1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, WA 98402
Soy Whiskey Chicken: $8.95
Stan The Man’s Killer Clam Linguine: $24

Old Milwaukee Cafe
3102 6th Ave., Tacoma, WA 98406
Two Eggs: $6.99
Thick Sliced Bacon and Eggs: $8.99

*Note: Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date does not include drinks, tax, or tip. I’m a bit of a drink snob, tips are very subjective, and sales tax is 9.5% for those who need exact numbers.