WARTHOG BARBEQUE PIT REVIEW
By Don and Peg Doman
Within a few hundred yards of I-5 and Fife High School is the Warthog Barbeque Pit. Located at 4921 20th Street East in Fife this restaurant is part log cabin, part Bavarian hunting lodge, part Old MacDonald Farm, and part backyard barbeque.
Last summer when we ate there Peg and I stopped in for dinner with our granddaughter Talia before attending a performance at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse. We tried everything from cornbread to Nasty Rice and of course various barbequed meats. Peg wore a white blouse that afternoon. We went home before going to the play that night so she could change out of her sauce dripped clothing.
On beautiful sunny Northwest days it's best to eat outside in the picnic area. The green and white checkered table cloths are held in place by strategically placed pieces of polished granite bearing sales messages for Warthog. This time we came for lunch and we came early. The picnic area was empty and there was only one customer inside waiting for an order. By the time we left most of the tables inside were full, there was a line of people ordering and people were claiming seats at the picnic tables. Each table at the Warthog has condiments of salt and pepper, ketchup and Tobasco Sauce. You can pick up a bottle of A1 Steak Sauce at the order desk.
There is limited parking in the front, but additional parking is available in the rear. Signs by the front parking stalls ask patrons to be careful. Long snouted cars could easily bump the fence surrounding the picnic area. There is some shade for outside eating and plenty of sitting in the sun for those who prefer exterior warmth as well as interior. I stumbled over some railroad type timbers while photographing the tables. Peg asked, "Are you going to tell them you tore apart their landscaping?" I shrugged my shoulders and said, "No."
Part of the picnic area contains a little barn where overflow customers can be seated. Also, the barn may be rented for small meetings and family gatherings.
Peg introduced herself to Doug Endres (kitchen manager) and Theresa Boggs (prep lead who will be serving at Zoobilee in July). Theresa and Peg planned out lunch for us while I looked around the compact dining room. The decor is slightly whimsical. Boar heads are mounted on many of the walls . . . along with deer, antelope and yes, even a buffalo (okay, bison). They do serve several variations of buffalo burgers . . . I noted that I could get a half-pound buffalo burger with smoked ham, lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon and Cheddar cheese with a Blackjack Sauce for only $8.95. I think one would be enough.
All foods at the Warthog are created from scratch. The recipes used are the result of Chef Gary Kurashima's travels.
Just inside the front door is a chef mannequin standing with a small blackboard where daily specials are displayed. Beer battered cod was featured that day. The chef stood at attention next to a cannon and beneath the staring eyes of stuffed boars. Passing along the glass case several pies called out to me and I dared not stop. The blackberry cobbler was really insistent. I may have to stop in for an intimate discussion. I'm thinking a personal picnic could be arranged. Perhaps a whole pie and say some meat by the pound. Yes, that might be good. Of course I would have to order more if the picnic involved a companion.
Side stepping between the tables I chose a window seat. Peg sat down to wait. We held hands and sipped sodas (diet cola for Peg and Thomas Kemper Root Beer for me). People came in and ordered. We didn't have long to wait for our meals. Theresa called our names.
Peg and I both had plates of samples. The samples didn't even begin to cover the Warthog House Specialties and entrees, but they were a good representation of taste and quality.
There were four ramekins: potato salad, cole slaw, barbequed beans, and barbeque sauce. There were two half sandwiches (one pork, one beef) and pieces of chicken and barbequed ribs. The barbequed ribs were the favorites of both of us. Yummy. A smaller version of the pork sandwich will be served at Zoobilee.
Peg liked both the potato salad and the cole slaw, neither of which she normally touches. I think she liked the potato salad because it didn't have an excess of mayonaise. The only other potato salad I've seen her eat was German potato salad, so I was shocked. She also liked the cole slaw. "Good flavor," she said. The beans were delicious also, although Peg had a large hunk of pork in her beans. I felt left out. She didn't even offer to share. Umphhhh.
The Warthog Barbeque is the reality of owner and chef Gary Kurashima's dream. He worked for over twelve years cooking barbeque for others and then thought, "Why don't I do that?" Although the flavor is reminiscent of North Carolina and Texas (people from the South will feel at home here), the barbeque sauce is original and went through a rigorous taste test and critique of 25 family members. Other versions of the barbeque sauce are in the works: sugar-free, sweeter, and hotter. As with everything else at the Warthog. Cooking and planning take time, but the service was quick.
The Warthog will be using recycled materials with their samples at Zoobilee as part of our "green" effort to help the environment.
I started my meal by eating the pieces of chicken and ribs and then moved onto the sandwiches. I dipped each piece into the sauce. Each time I picked up a sandwich meat fell onto the plate. I then had to fork the pieces and dip them in the sauce. Peg did likewise. Unlike last time at the Warthog, Peg wore a red blouse this time instead of a white one. Now, that's what I call being prepared. No drips showed up.
Peg can't eat really spicy food (there was a visit to the emergency room following some Thai sweet/sour soup that haunts her memory), but had no trouble with the barbeque sauce. I do like spicy, but only as an afterthought did I think about adding Tobasco. The sauce was tasty. They do have a Dog Sauce which is a little zestier, but I didn't realize that before dining. After we had eaten most of our samples, Doug came over and sat and talked with us. We told him about Zoobilee and he told us a bit about himself - about being in Germany and seeing his last name in the original German on tombstones. He never told us about his tatoos, but it was apparent that he was proud of them (they covered both his forearms . . . and I'm not sure how much more).
Monday - Slow Smoked Turkey Burger
Tuesday - Fresh Beer Battered Cod
Wednesday - Slow Smoked Baby Back Ribs
Thursday - Slow Smoked Chicken and Baby Back Ribs
Friday & Saturday - Slow Smoked Prime Rib in 7 oz., 12 oz. and 16 oz. cuts
Warthog Daily Specials:
The Warthog does catering and banquets from 20 to 2000. Small groups can be accomodated in the Warthog Barn. Orders can be faxed to 253-896-5092. With mock complaint I told Doug, "Peg and I both ran out of barbeque sauce." Doug said, "You can have more." Thinking about it, I declined. If I had more sauce then pulled pork and pulled chicken were high on my list of wants . . . along with some Warthog sausage. Oh, well. After our visit to the Warthog, they have decided to serve Slow Smoked Chopped Pork Sanwiches (with barbeque sauce) on a petite roll. I'll be in line waiting.
As I washed down the last forkful of pork with my final sip of Thomas Kemper Root Beer, I swear I heard a sigh from above. Looking down from the rafters with a satisfied grin was a tusky warthog with a cowboy hat on his ear. I knew how he felt, although I was wearing a baseball cap.
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