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Dining at the course

Restaurants worthy of your pre- or post-game play

Executive Chef Alex Anton at the Smoke + Cedar. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

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The U.S. Open has us thinking a lot about golf, but also a little about food. And while it is near impossible at this point to get tickets to the big show, you can hang out on some other courses in the area to at least get close to the game.

And what better way for non-golfers, or hungry golfers, than to enjoy a few of the local restaurants that also happen to be at the links.

The best, bar none, is Smoke + Cedar at the Allenmore Golf Course in central Tacoma.

Smoke + Cedar is a playful Northwest themed restaurant created by longtime restaurateur Gordon Naccarato, who also owns Pacific Grill in downtown Tacoma. The "lodge" interior design comes from McVey Oakley Design Studio, the same firm that designed the interior of Pacific Grill, and includes whimsical antlers, smoking elk stag artwork by Tacoma artist Chuck Knigge, modern lighting and colorful carpets.

The menu is loaded with creative takes on Northwest cuisine. The grilled beef blend, half-pound burger with marvelous smoked tomato ketchup, Tillamook vintage white cheddar and house-made bacon stole my heart. The beer-battered Alaskan cod with panko arrived crisp, not greasy and bursting with favor. The steelhead, perfectly medium-rare, is fresh as a mountain stream.

The 165-seat restaurant also sports an 80-seat patio to the south side with views up the fairway, which is shady and lovely on a hot summer day.

The next recommendation comes with a caveat - you need a friend who is a member of the Tacoma Country & Golf Club.  The oldest golf club west of the Mississippi, this prestigious country club sits off I-5 at Lakewood's Gravelly Lake Drive exit.  

Frankly, most country clubs are marginal in their food preparation and selection, but Tacoma Country & Golf Club turns out some of the best food in the South Sound.  And, with sweeping views of American Lake, maybe you should just buy a membership!

Top recommendations at TCGC is the prime rib, devilishly fatty and thick, and the seafood cob with perfectly grilled prawns and scallops.

The next pick also takes a secret password, but McChord Field's Whispering Firs Golf Course has a great Tex-Mex restaurant that is also casual, Habanero.  Located in the club house, Habanero has made-to-order burritos and tacos, salads, and a traditional breakfast, and is open seven days a week.  Whispering Firs is open to all DoD cardholders.

Finally, we like River's Edge at the Tumwater Golf Course.  The pancakes here are massive, and this casual eatery makes a mean French Dip.  There is nothing fancy about River's Edge, they just turn out good pub food that will stick with you the entire 18 holes.  Then, return for the 19th hole and delight in one of the area's better Bloody Mary's.

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