Long lines. Worthy benny. Hot coffee. Spicy bloodies.
At two of Tacoma’s newest brunches, one of these tell-tale Sunday morning signs won’t happen.
Asado and Matriarch Lounge, both respected for their dinner dishes, will add limited Sunday brunch service this month. Limited because the menus are highly curated and because reservations are required or highly recommended.
BRUNCH WITH THE CHEFS
First up: Matriarch launches its brunch service Feb. 16, the first of what will begin as a monthly series.
Chef Roger Weatherhead will cook the three-course prix fixe ($35 before tax and gratuity), while bar director Megan Henson will whip up several new cocktails, priced à la carte.
That’s it for staffing. No, really.
“We’re taking a little risk with this,” Weatherhead told The News Tribune. Matriarch and Honey at Alma Mater share a kitchen, but their service times usually don’t overlap. Henson said Weatherhead has “created a menu where it shouldn’t be a burden.”
Regardless, the chef is duly familiar with this intimate dining style.
He previously cooked at Seattle’s Art of the Table, which serves a tasting menu nightly and boasts a 10-seat chef’s table, before moving to Wooden City in downtown Tacoma. A friend of chef Mike Parker at neighbor Honey Kitchen, which just introduced lunch, he took the reins at Matriarch in March 2019.
The first course includes a roasted root vegetable salad tossed with hazelnuts and an intriguing espresso vinaigrette. For mains, look to crab toast on sourdough with avocado mousse or eggs Benedict with San Daniele prosciutto.
The third round satisfies that sweet tooth — or not — with a choice between a buttermilk waffle with huckleberry sauce or a mini cheese plate.
On the beverage side, Henson — who worked with En Rama’s Chris Keil during his Hilltop Kitchen days — will riff on Matriarch’s signature style of “well-balanced, precision-pour cocktails,” inspired by the classics.
How about an amer bière? A typical après-ski boilermaker, it combines a shot of amaro or other bitter liqueur with a crisp beer; Hensen opts for a Czech pilsner and fernet ($11). There’s also one of her favorite brunch cocktails, a Kalimotxo — that’s red wine with Cola, a cherished South American refreshment — to which Hensen adds Pasubio, a wine-based amaro ($10).
“We really wanted to keep it simple, but pretty approachable,” she said. If the brunch proves to be a hit, she hopes to “get a little weirder” with the cocktail menu.
For straight shooters, she has conjured a hibiscus-infused vodka tonic ($8) and a French 75 with lavender honey ($10). And, sure, get a fresh-squeezed mimosa ($8) or a house bloody ($10), but for the latter you’ll have to pry aquavit from Henson’s creative hands.
The herbaceous Scandinavian spirit resembles gin but with more caraway and star anise.
“I feel like it’s just a perfect marriage when it comes to pickled things and a fun, playful house mary mix,” she said. “It’s slightly different, subtle but there.”
Sunday’s 11 a.m. slot had just about filled up as of press time. Seating is available for 10 people each on the hour through 2 p.m. Book and pre-pay through Tock.
MADE FOR BRUNCH
Asado has offered its brunch menu in the past only on special occasions like New Year’s Day and Mother’s Day, when reservations fill up quickly. General manager Chris Casella “definitely recommends” reservations for this new regular brunch series.
Well, sort of regular. Like Matriarch, Asado will offer brunch monthly for now, on the last Sunday of the month, starting Feb. 23.
Asked why now, Casella said, “We’re a small restaurant, and we’re busy. We have a good time over here. Providing another opportunity to get our food in front of people with variety is exhilarating for the staff, especially the chef and the cooking team.”
The service staff, many of whom have been with the restaurant for years, also appreciate the quicker turn of breakfast and lunch-goers.
“I think there’s a big draw for brunch in Tacoma,” said Casella, though he hopes the flavors will set Asado apart. “That’s where we like to be. We like to carve out our own little niche.”
Take, for instance, the Asado Mary ($14): “almost a meal in itself,” served with a spear of asparagus, a slice of bacon and chorizo, a shishito pepper and a prawn.
Brunch dishes all get the Argentine treatment, like a chorizo breakfast platter, eggs Benedict with poblano hollandaise, or an omelet with roasted tomatoes, smoked mushrooms and salsa criolla (red onions, bell peppers, lime, vinegar and cilantro).
Everything comes with polenta or home fries and a side of fruit, including the Milanesa a Caballo, a breaded and fried sirloin served alongside eggs, salsa and chimichurri.
Prices range from about $16 for the BLTE with two eggs, guacamole and chipotle aioli, to $42 for the Bistek y Huevos with serrano ham and poached eggs. Most dishes hover near $20, such as the Camarones y Semola with cotija, tomatillo and pickled jalapenos ($19) and the Pollo Frito with chorizo gravy ($18).
Casella said Asado has committed to monthly brunch for now, but depending on feedback and demand, weekly is a possibility down the line.
▪ 1322 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, 253-507-7289, almamatertacoma.com
▪ Sunday brunch, monthly starting Feb. 16, reservations through Tock (21+)
Asado Cucina Argentina
▪ 2810 6th Ave., Tacoma, 253-272-7770, asadotacoma.com
▪ Sunday brunch, last Sunday of the month starting Feb. 23, reservations through Resy