Local Eats: Tacoma Restaurants Where You Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

The Tacoma area is home to a variety of unique eateries. In 2018 alone, more than 60 new restaurants opened their doors in the Tacoma area - introducing locals to more and more diverse food and experiences. One of the many reasons to visit Tacoma are the acclaimed museums such as the Museum of Glass or Lemay Car Museum. However, no adventure in Tacoma is complete without visiting the many local restaurants.

Best Value Restaurants in Tacoma 

Frisko Freeze 

This is the epitome of old school greasy drive-in burger joint. It’s the Dick’s of Tacoma. Open late, retro atmosphere, no seating area, but a walk-up window and a drive-thru that can take only one car at a time. Best known for their juicy and made-to-order burgers and the crispest fries in town.  

MSM Deli 

MSM is truly a Tacoma staple. Locals swear by it. It may look like a normal convenience store on the outside, but the treasure is hidden in the sandwiches. Just like those East Coast corner deli shops. Much better than Subway and other chains - not in just in taste, but also the portion as well as the value. It’s the perfect place for a quick bite to eat, but the lines can be quite long depending on the time you come in. Just don’t go in expecting a gourmet artisan sandwich, they sell basic sandwiches at a reasonable price and it’s delicious. Local tip: try ordering by phone for pick up.  

Shakabrah Java 

This hole-in-the-wall joint is the ultimate breakfast spot for those looking for the traditional bacon, eggs, and potatoes meal. The café offers simple yet tasty food in a non-pretentious and cozy atmosphere. There are board games, books, and other trinkets to play with while you wait for your food, which is a plus for those who have kids. It’s affordable and the service is quick unless you come in during a holiday or the weekend. Shakabrah is best known for their giant pancakes – about the size of a tire – and their Shaka potatoes. American comfort food at its finest, you won’t be disappointed. However, beware of their set-up, many have been confused about the service. If you’re looking for the full dine-in experience, go to the left side of the café, the right side is self-service where you order at the counter and seat yourself.  

Southern Kitchen 

It’s true, Guy Ferrier himself has paid a visit to this local Tacoma joint because of its delicious Southern comfort food. Who would have known that you could find the real deal of Southern food in the Pacific Northwest? Even Kevin Hart has tried their food. The portions are huge, a single plate could fill two people or have lots leftover for the next day. The service is true Southern hospitality – polite and courteous. Everything off the menu taste like someone’s mom made it – a hearty home-cooked meal for a very reasonable price.  

Burger Seoul 

Not a restaurant or a café, so don’t expect a dine-in experience, instead, this is a food truck with seating nearby. They offer gourmet-quality burgers that are well worth the price. For those who are itching for some savory food, this is your spot. Burger Seoul is where Korea meets America. The perfect fusion of a big juicy all-American burger you would find at a cookout, but with a twist of savory Korean flair. Don’t let the unassuming truck located in a mini-mart parking lot turn you away, it should be considered an experience to try these unique burgers. Local tip: try their garlic fries.  

Northern Fish Products 

Located on Ruston Way, you wouldn’t expect this little seafood shack to serve some of the best seafood in town. From the traditional fish and chips, tacos, and even chowder, this place is value-heaven for seafood lovers. Everything that’s fried is cooked to perfection – crispy and golden brown. Northern Fish is truly the epitome of the PNW. A small locally owned fish shop on the waterfront with a variety of fresh caught fish, dips and seasoning. It’s a walk-up and order style place, no indoor seating, however, the view is great from the dock or just from your car – after all it is Ruston Way!  

Pho Bac Café 

If you want authentic, simple, and straight to the point pho – then stop looking. This is one of the oldest pho spots in Pierce County and still around for a very good reason – they are simply the best. Their menu is simple and offers little other than some of the best pho in town. The environment is casual and clean, the service is quick, and the portions are plentiful. Local tip: this is a cash only restaurant.  

Café La Vie 

The best place for a Vietnamese sandwich. It’s a family run restaurant and a place where locals like to hang out all day. There are always children running around, but if that bothers you, you can always call ahead to pick up your order. Space small, but cozy. Everything off the menu is at or under the $10 range. Just simple Vietnamese food just bursting with flavor. The food is always fresh, especially the sandwiches, which you will notice regulars buying by the dozens every time they visit. A friendly hole-in-the-wall location you could easily miss if you aren’t looking for it. Don’t let the aesthetic of the shop fool you! 

Shake, Shake, Shake 

A super cute retro diner decorated to feel like the early ‘60s. They have the best milkshakes in town, hence their name! If you’re searching for decent burgers, corndogs with sides like fries, onion rings, and tots - this is the place for you. It’s inexpensive, the quality is consistent and the staff are friendly. A great local restaurant to visit if you’re an out-of-town guest.  

Original House of Donuts 

The best donuts in town. Located at the north end of downtown, this donut shop has some seriously amazing donuts that look just as good as they taste. Somewhat crispy on the outside and soft on the inside – they really have taken the time to perfect their donuts. Tip: stop by during happy hour to grab a dozen for just $10, no restrictions! 

Burger Broiler 

When it comes to Burger Broiler, this burger joint comes pretty close to the famous In-N-Out, with similarities in the taste and appearance of their burgers and fries. However, their menu is quite larger than In-N-Out, and includes a variety of options such as chicken wings, onion rings and fish products. The fries and burgers are spot on, always consistent with their quality. A great place to go to if you love a good old fashioned hamburger.