Lunch at Duke’s Chowder House

Tacoma’s Ruston Way is known not only for its picturesque views of Commencement Bay and Dalco Passage but for an abundance of first-class dining establishments. Over the weekend we dropped by the waterfront for lunch at Duke’s Chowder House and were suitably impressed.

From the moment we entered the restaurant on pilings, we encountered nothing but smiling faces. The hostess, the wait staff, bussers — everyone was cordial and welcoming. Next, we were led to a cozy window seat with a view of the fishing dock just a few hundred feet away. Lacquered oars and a small lifeboat hung from the ceiling. All part of a nautical theme that included, among other items, life preserver rings, netting and even a surfboard.

The main course

None of those decorations distracted from the food on our table. While snacking on warm sourdough bread and wine, we made sure to save room for the main course. For my wife, that was the Oh My Cod! Fish & Chips Combo, a platter of fish and chips plus a bowl of clam chowder. Crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside — the fish was just right and featured Mac & Jack’s beer in the breading batter. The chips were hefty-yet-crispy steak fries that amounted to a meal in themselves. And the chowder wafted fresh herbs, from garlic and thyme to basal and dill.

I ordered the full-size BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, a take-no-prisoners burger that left me full for the rest of the day. Tillamook extra sharp white cheddar cheese, bacon, onion straws, finely chopped lettuce and a generous smattering of BBQ sauce had me reaching for my napkin. The steak fries were so tasty I felt compelled to eat every last one. My son, no fan of condiments, ordered a plain bacon-cheeseburger and was likewise inspired to make room for every last bite.

Wild caught and sustainable

We chose Duke’s after perusing their menu online and learning that the fish and shellfish are 100% wild-caught and/or sustainable. The salmon comes from Alaska, for example, and the Dungeness Crab from the Washington and Oregon coast. The mussels are harvested from Penn Cove on Whidbey Island. The beef, meanwhile, is all grass-fed and the bacon nitrate-free.

We don’t splurge too often, but lunch at Duke’s Chowder House in Tacoma was worth it, even if it meant stretching our budget — and our belts.

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