First peek: new Primo Grill at Sixth and Oakes in Tacoma

By Ron Swarner on August 7, 2014

It was the yawn of all yawns. Long. Followed by a lean against his new, long beautiful bar. After 20 seconds of rest, Chef Charlie McManus went back to work. No time to rest. The tiring remodel is complete. It was a big night - the opening night of the new Primo Grill. He and business partner/wife Jacqueline Plattner hosted Tacoma Community College boosters, staff and students. The restaurateurs have supported the TCC art program since 1999, helping to raise money for scholarships. Behind the new bar hangs a six-panel mural created by TCC art instructor Marit Berg and her students. It's a gorgeous depiction of the Puyallup River from Mount Rainier to the city of Tacoma and the surrounding farmlands, celebrating Primo's farm-to-table approach to dining. Tonight, TCC is back in the house, another private event before the restaurant opens to the public Friday, Aug. 8.

The new Primo Grill would make a beautiful picture too. Tall ceiling with exposed beams, cantina windows that open, communal dining environment with brown accents and reclaimed Douglas fir flooring, and a display kitchen. The seating remains close to the previous location, around 80 seats. The mural pops behind the bar - a bar five times longer than the bar at Primo's previous location five blocks west on Sixth Avenue. Primo has just added a new element to its operation - a bar scene, with a new craft cocktail menu, smaller but higher quality wine list and a delicious Chardonnay grappa I sipped last night. I forgot to write down the name.

The Mediterranean fare menu has changed, too. It grew a bit longer, although it still demands South Sound ingredients and Northwest flavors. Several dishes made the move, including the pizzas, the apple wood smoked pork chop, its famous Bolognese spaghetti and the creamy Parmesan polenta. A grilled rack of lamb chops, grilled chicken under a brick, mint and pea tortellini, housemade fettucine with smoke salmon and nine starters are on the menu, just to name a few.

It wasn't my night to indulge in McManus' new dishes. It was all about TCC and the relationship it has formed with Primo Grill. McManus and Plattner were too tired and too busy to kick me out. I will say bartender Alexandria's Black Manhattan with 12 year Elijah Craig Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Carpano Antica and a bourbon cherry was a delicious take on the classic drink.

PRIMO GRILL, opens Friday, Aug. 8, dinner only, 2701 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.7000