The Social Bar and Grill

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1715 Dock St
Tacoma, WA 98402
(253) 301-3835

Credit Cards Accepted, Full Bar, Live Music, Outdoor Dining
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Weekly Volcano Review Reviewed by: Jennifer Johnson

Little touches go a long way. So do first impressions.

Heavy silverware wrapped in cloth napkins conveys quality. A fire pit on the patio creates instant outdoor ambiance. A complimentary dish of two savory cassava doughnuts greets each guest. Plenty of staff exceeds service needs.

Hoping for a third-time's-a-charm scenario, The Social Bar and Grill opened on Thea Foss Waterway Tuesday, July 26. Former occupants Woody's on the Water and Blue Olive Bistro are a faint memory due to extensive interior remodeling.

Melanie Manista-Rushforth of Rushforth Wheels said of the ahi poke ($9) she sampled, "It was tangy, tender and delightful to look at. The ‘shareable' plate ended up with me eating it all." 

Sushi-grade ahi tuna with seaweed, sake and soy sauce sounds like something I'd scarf down, too. Manista-Rushforth refers to appetizers dubbed shareable due to portion sizes - they can double as meals for one. The dining menu appears to feature dishes crafted by Chef Rodel Borromeo, inspired by Latin American, Pacific Island and Mediterranean cuisine; the creative cocktail list will certainly complement.

Crisscrossed on the plate, two stainless steel skewers spear chunks of mild swordfish, mushroom and onion. Sprinkled garnish of fried parsley and green onion is meant to be eaten, not just looked at. Spicy caper chimichurri fills the flavor gap swordfish cannot cover alone ($14).

Chicken wing adobo is Social's version of chicken wings. Carrot, daikon radish and celery are very lightly pickled (in-house) and arranged atop a mound of slaw tossed with black and tan sesame seeds and an almost non-existent dressing with a subtle vinegar hint. The real flavor - soy, garlic, chile - comes from the non-breaded chicken ($7).

Spices and miniscule bits of red pepper and onion keep settling to the bottom in the sautéed mushroom dish ($7). I have to stir the garlic brandy sauce repeatedly to get it to stick to the mushrooms. More than one piece of grilled bread would be appropriate for this "shareable" dish.

Intensely chocolate ice cream is made in-house with bits of bacon adding a subtle and delightful flavor alongside topping of coffee grounds and tiny rock salt ($6).

The heat index on the habañero-orange salsa served with pork and pineapple tacos (two to an order, $8) should be brought down to a normal human consumption range. The bacon-in-a-glass appetizer execution will be tweaked, and I receive double-scoop dish of very creamy toasted coconut ice cream ($5) to replace a dry almond tart ($6). Kinks are still being worked out, as is to be expected.

Plate presentation is not overdone at Social; there are no pointless garnishes. An open kitchen is viewed through the back bar. Windows as walls take advantage of the marina view and natural light, though after dusk the stark lighting from kitchen kills the vibe. Gigantic showpiece walls currently remain bare. "We have ideas for them, we want it to be right," The Social Bar and Grill partner Philip Panagos said last Tuesday afternoon. He's interested in featuring local art that works with the sparse, industrial feel.

Service at Social has been professional, helpful, attentive and unobtrusive on the two visits I've made so far. Much like a neutral canvas in need of colorful paint, it's the people, food and cocktails that bring Social to life. And I'm guessing that's the whole point.

Social is now open for dinner daily. Lunch and regular hours are anticipated by Saturday, Aug 6. Bar and dining are separate; under 21 allowed.

LINK: Entertainment schedule

LINK: Happy hour

LINK: Social's oysters

LINK: Eat this immediately


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