TNT Diner

New easygoing bar in UP features beer cheese and Thai chicken

The sign has been up for a few months, but Thirsty Hound Drinkery officially opened Feb. 5 at 1905 Bridgeport Way.

Owners Malaty Lim and Rick Filion, who also live in the neighborhood, wanted to create a space to relax, enjoy a beer and a bite while watching a game or catching up with friends.

“It’s a casual place, but I consider it more of a bar,” albeit a family-friendly one, Lim said. “Our mentality is: There’s nothing like this in the area. We have a big screen TV in the back. You can bring your teenage son or daughter and be able to watch the game and also have the option to have cocktails, beer and wine.”

That area has a loveseat and lounge chairs, with a few board games for the playing. Most of the seating otherwise is high-top or bar, but the décor and familial service edges the space toward a well-lit living room. A Sleater Kinney poster and Stevie Nicks photo in the bathroom explain the solid selection of rock tunes at a volume ideal for conversation.

Filion described the concept as an affordable old-school tavern that bridges the gap between nearby establishments like the Beach Tavern in Titlow and Boathouse 19 at the Narrows Marina.

“We wanted to create something that’s kind of in between those two,” he said. “Why create something that has already been done so well?”

The food menu leans into that bar mentality with three types of 100% Polish beef hot dogs, either plain, with chili or a homemade beer cheese ($7.50 with chips). You can also get that two-cheese dip — made with white cheddar and smoked provolone, plus bacon — with soft pretzels, an instant hit with several customers. Homemade hummus ($7.50) comes with pita bread and vegetables to dip. Three salads — chicken Caesar, chopped and wedge — and a few sides round out the main menu.

Lim also leans into her Thai roots with a trio of dishes not often found in a bar: Thai chicken, sweet and sour meatballs (both $10.50) and lemon butter shrimp ($13.50), served atop a generous portion of jasmine rice with a fresh cucumber salad on the side.

Daily specials so far have ranged from chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce to spaghetti and meatballs and a roast beef dip.

There’s also a “signature homemade Key lime pie” ($6) and a giant cookie à la mode. Overall, “it’s a little bit of everything made from scratch.”

Taps feature local brews like Narrows’ Giant Pacfiic Octopus IPA and Wallace’s Briefcase, as well as regional ones from pFriem and Chainline. A short cocktail list brings martinis, mai tais and Moscow mules to the mix ($11), and at happy hour, beers are $5.50 and glasses of wine $6.

THE FAMILY STEPPED UP

Lim has worked in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years, since she was a teenager in Aberdeen.

“My family is big on cooking,” she told The News Tribune, and her mother had dreamed of opening a restaurant. She died when Lim was young, and now she feels she’s carrying that torch.

“It was her dream. It became my sister’s dream and my dream. It’s kind of always been in the blood,” she said, adding that her aunt has owned a couple of restaurants, too. Now 45 years old, she is fulfilling a lifelong dream, but her time to relish it could be cut short.

Last fall, mere weeks before Thirsty Hound was scheduled to open, Lim was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, after nearly two years in remission. Approximately 155,000 women (and some men) are thought to live with this metastasized cancer, according to a 2017 study, as many as a third of whom were, like Lim, previously diagnosed and treated.

Pain in Lim’s lower back revealed a fracture and then metastasized cancer along her spine and through her sternum. Following surgery in November, said Filion, her fiance, “I thought she’d never walk again.”

With the help of a walker and weeks of physical therapy and time off her feet, she has slowly regained some energy, though she won’t ever quite reach 100%.

“We almost didn’t open,” said Lim. “All of our family members have stepped up. They’re all pitching in.”

Her sister runs the kitchen, while her brother and two cousins help in the back- and front-of-house. Filion, a financial analyst by trade, has morphed from a silent partner to a manager of sorts — meeting with beer reps and handling licensing and inspections — though he insists he “just kinda washes the dishes.”

“I’ve never worked a day of my life in a restaurant,” he laughed. “We’ve all stepped up.”

Due to her treatments, Lim is “really limited in how much she can work here,” he said, but he knows how much she wishes she could be here all the time.

A WAY TO SUPPORT A CAUSE

When Lim received her first diagnosis in 2016, Filion created a notebook with instructions and tips for organizing a charity. “I asked her, ‘When you get through all of your treatments and your surgeries, what’s your biggest dream?’ It was to own her own place, and so in 2019, when we finally got a chance, we started to make that happen.”

After she entered remission, the couple moved to Tacoma from California to be nearer his ill father, who died just days after they arrived in their new home. Nonetheless, they forged ahead with their plan.

Her diagnosis has changed things, of course, but they see a surprise in these difficult circumstances: a vehicle for spreading awareness of late-stage breast cancer.

A disease with some of the highest funding rates, topping $500 million annually at the National Cancer Institute alone, research and awareness campaigns tend to focus on early detection. Lim hopes to channel her prognosis into the Thirsty Hound through a fundraising arm.

For now, she is all-in on helping the bar be successful.

“People can still live with having terminal cancer, and still live a good-quality life. I’m hoping to be on the other side of it.”

Thirsty Hound Drinkery

1905 Bridgeport Way W., Suite 112, 253-302-5606

Hours: Wednesday-Thursday and Sunday-Monday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Kristine Sherred joined The News Tribune in December 2019. She spent the past decade immersed in the culinary scene of Chicago and, for a time, covered the global chocolate and snacks industries. An avid home cook and beer/cocktail pro, she now explores all things edible and sippable throughout Pierce County. Reach her also at @kriscarasher on Twitter.
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