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McMenamins Elks Temple

Dining becomes an experience at the old Tacoma Elks

The Pub’s Vanilla Bean Brioche French Toast with a side of bacon served on a warm plate. Yum! Photo credit: Dutch Randall

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ANNOUNCER: This past spring, the long awaited Tacoma Elks Temple came back to life with a small hotel and a handful of restaurants that include a family friendly pub that seats 250, a hidden bar with upscale cocktails, a Spanish bar attached to the building's music venue, and a tiki-inspired bar that seats another 125 to name a few. Dutch and Jackie take their best shot at grabbing as many tastes as they can this week.

JACKIE: McMenamins is more of an experience than simply dining out. The space is packed with shiny baubles and jazzy sights including loads of art as a means of telling the story of the space, and funky finds like clamshell chandeliers, real wood bar tops and hidden passages. Plus, with five bars within the space, all with its own character, you have a plethora of options to suit your mood. The Pub located on the fourth floor, often recognized as the main entrance, serves up your classic McMenamins foodie fare. The largest selection of bites includes burgers, pizza and entrées, and of course, their famous Cajun Tots are a must.

DUTCH: I hit up the pub at breakfast time in the hopes of avoiding a long wait for a seat. Though the diner by no means filled the space to capacity, there was plenty of seats occupied to provide a good buzz to the rooms. I was fortunate and got a booth with a view of the Port, and next to the warmth of the fireplace. I opted for the Vanilla Bean Brioche French Toast with a side of bacon. It was served with a hot plate that ensured my toast would remain warm throughout my meal (this is touch I can appreciate). The toast was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with just a subtle hint of vanilla. And the bacon was nice and crispy, just the way I like it.

JACKIE: The Grit City Shrimp is dreamy. Cheddar, jalapeño grits lay the foundation -- creamy, with a kick of flavor just as it ought to. It's then topped with meaty prawns and a generous helping of tomato sauce boasting bell pepper, bacon and onion. It's hearty, satisfying and pure extravagance especially when you can shovel a bite with each component into your face.

DUTCH: I don't normally order drinks for breakfast, but hey . . . I was at a pub for breakfast. I ordered the Irish Coffee, and I'm not ashamed -- this was a tasty option. Jameson Irish Whiskey is combined with a double Americano for a dark rich coffee flavor, and then topped with fresh cream. Two words -- get it.

JACKIE: The Spanish Bar is a more intimate space that feels old school swanky. The menu is geared more tapas-styled with Spanish-styled, shareable plates and a few entrée-sized options for those not looking to nosh smorgasbord style. The Wild Boar Meatballs were a treat with a creamy almond, saffron sauce that is almost hummus-like in texture and meatballs your grandmama would envy -- with the perfect texture and craveable flavor. Fresh oregano adds a nice flare.

DUTCH: I also hit up The Old Hangout and was mesmerized by the drink selection. So much to choose from favorites like Mai Tais and Hurricanes, as well as a few cocktail twists like the Pirates and Parrots that combines dark rum with pureed banana, peanut butter and caramel. But what I was most impressed by was the Saigon Kick Crispy Chicken Hoagie which is almost like a long-lost cousin of the Vietnamese Bahn Mi. In this case, Thai-spiced chicken is served in a hoagie with Sriracha mayo, fresh jalapeno, onion, cilantro, and a pickled carrot slaw. It has a bit of a kick, but with the addition of the sweet potato fries, the dish is nicely balanced, and more importantly, is sure to work with any of the fruity cocktails offered at the bar.

JACKIE: For dessert it's best to consider your options in the building. I dug into the Churros at the Spanish Bar and while fresh and tasty -- I was only slightly disappointed that the chocolate sauce was a bit on the thin side rather than a rich thickness. The Black and Tan Brownie might have better satiated my chocolate loving sweet tooth. Don't get me wrong, I gobbled up those churros enthusiastically.

McMENAMINS ELKS TEMPLE, hours vary based on bar you wish to visit, 565 Broadway, Tacoma,

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