Cozy, romantic restaurants in Tacoma & Pierce County

At the coziest restaurant in Pierce County, you can make new friends around a fire pit, roast marshmallows with a s’mores kit, and sip cider under a pavilion by a handcrafted water mill.

Mill Haus Cider Co., the expansive outdoor taproom and restaurant in Eatonville, won readers’ hearts in our TNT Diner poll. About 17 percent of more than 200 tallies went to this year-old destination not far from the Ashford entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.

A close runner-up, Marzano Italian Restaurant in Parkland garnered almost as many votes. In third place is Tacoma icon Over the Moon Cafe, commonly cited as the city’s most romantic restaurant.

A chunk of voters said their favorite was missing from the list. Shout-out to Cooks Tavern, which was nominated by a couple of readers. We tried to bring a wide variety of price points, cuisines and styles to the list of 40 choices.

Others that snagged several tallies: Bar Rosa, en Rama, Crudo & Cotto, Netshed No. 9 and Bourbon Street Creole Kitchen.

Read on for a look at the Top 5 and a few of TNT Diner’s favorites for all your cozy restaurant needs this winter and beyond.

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Fire pits and pavilions make the outdoor taproom at Mill Haus Cider Co. in Eatonville a great choice for a family-friendly outing. Donna Ragazzo and her son Jarin play corn hole on the lawn on July 7, 2022. Clare Grant [email protected]


303 Center St. E, Eatonville, 253-487-7065,

Wednesday 4-8 pm, Thursday 4-9 pm, Friday-Saturday noon-9 pm, Sunday noon-8 pm

Longtime Eatonville resident Steve Schmidt built much of the unique fixtures on the property, from that water mill to a steel chandelier and a steam donkey replica above a stovepipe fireplace in the equally cozy lodge. Outside, there are several pavilions, ample fire pits, picnic tables with umbrellas, a stage for live music and an area dedicated to lawn games.

Schmidt started the cidery several years ago with son Caleb and his childhood friends, brothers Nick and Justin Baublits. While the taproom is a great choice for a cold one after a day in the mountains, it has quickly become a beloved Eatonville gathering place — the parking lot is regularly filled up on most days for lunch and dinner.

In addition to house ciders, the bar offers local craft brews and wines, while the kitchen churns out highly shareable plates, including flatbreads and Hawaiian pork sliders.


516 Garfield St., Tacoma, 253-537-4191,

Tuesday-Saturday 4-8 pm (8:30 pm weekend nights)

Elisa Marzano and her son Brian brought their seasonal Italian cooking to Parkland in 1998. Nearing its 25th birthday, the intimate restaurant inside a restored Craftsman house continues to hold the line as one of the region’s best.

Relish dishes like Northwest cioppino with Pacific clams, mussels, fin fish and prawns in a tomato-vermouth sauce; an assagi plate of homemade charcuterie and Sardinian-style crackers; classic spaghetti carbonara and “marvelous” meatballs. Pair with a glass of Rossa Toscana and finish with the light Swedish cream dessert. Reservations highly recommended.

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Marzano has been serving fine Italian fare focused on Northwest ingredients since 1988. The individual tent tables outside are almost as cozy as the dining room inside a vintage Craftsman in Parkland. Kristine Sherred [email protected]


709 Opera Alley, Tacoma, 253-284-3722,

Tuesday-Thursday 4:30-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 4:30-10 pm

More than two decades later, chef Deanna Harris-Bender’s Opera Alley getaway continues to be a sought-after table for anniversaries, graduation dinners and everyday celebrations. Its speakeasy sensibility stems from its two-story dining room with plush chairs, white tablecloths, heavy curtains, dim lighting and complementary background music.

Order a classic cocktail from the short-but-sweet list and start with a wedge salad, share the duck and try the vegetarian butternut squash “lasagna.” Wrap with a slice of the unique berry dessert. Reservations highly recommended.

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End your romantic meal at Over the Moon with a slice of chef-owner Deanna Harris-Bender’s unique berry pie, a date crust and dense mousse-like creation sweetened with coconut manna. Pete Caster [email protected]


723 E 34th St., Tacoma, 253-292-0106,

Daily 11am-11pm (midnight Friday-Saturday)

Dusty’s website describes the McKinley Avenue pub as “a cozy little pit stop,” and how could you not agree? Owners Dana and Dave Verellen transformed this old Craftsman house into a kitschy desert oasis that feels like going to your friend’s place, where vintage trinkets mingle with plenty of houseplants in macrame hangers.

As a family-friendly restaurant, the menu features a few delicious burgers, fun sandwiches like the Sam Elliot with turkey, cream cheese and blackberry jam, and one of the best breakfast burritos in town. (Hint: Breakfast all day!) Cocktails are great here, too. When it’s not raining, find a seat in one of the back or side yards, or on the front porch.

The same couple recently reopened The Pine Cone in University Place, also a pretty cozy choice.

The year-round patio hogs the attention at Le Sel Bistro, but the intimate main dining room is also great for a date. Drew Perine [email protected]


229 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253-327-1015,

Wednesday-Sunday 8am-3pm and 5-9pm

With its secret garden-style patio, Le Sel holds strong as a go-to choice for romantic dinner dates and brunch with friends. The small dining room holds just four tables, allowing for a quiet meal.

Reservations fill weekday mornings and weekends for pork belly benedicts, caramelized banana French toast and ham omelets with bechamel. Choose from an array of mimosas and bloody marys. Don’t overlook the evening menu for a Parisian bistro experience of onion soup, excellently cooked salmon or a ground-chuck, brie and bacon jam burger.



5101 N Pearl St., Ruston, 253-267-1340,

Tuesday-Thursday 5-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 5-10 pm, Sunday 4:30-9 pm

Macaluso’s is one of those restaurants you can return to again and again, where you can share a pizza and a bottle of wine or order your own plate of homemade gnocchi. With art-nouveau posters and exposed brick walls, enjoy this trattoria experience on a corner in Ruston. Reservations recommended.

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ALMA Lounge is a very cozy choice for dinner or just cocktails. Pete Caster [email protected]


1322 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, 253-368-6509,

Wednesday-Saturday 4pm-midnight

ALMA updated its Lounge menu in the spring of 2022, focusing intently on indigenous ingredients. The menu showcases meats like bison — try the sausage with the grape dumplings — and tender wild boar served with flatbread as a delightful dipping stew with cheddar and leafy greens. Sink into plush velvet seating at the bar and at a table. In addition to being one of the city’s best new restaurants, it’s also one of the best cocktail bars, worthy of a trip for just a drink, too.


3807 Center St., Tacoma, 253-248-9813,

Wednesday-Friday 11 am-2:30 pm and 4:30-8 pm, Saturday 11 am-8 pm

To the right of a modest entryway, the dining room at Loak Toung transports you to Southeast Asia. If you have the right-sized group, hope for the sit-down table on an elevated platform for a unique dining experience. One of the region’s best Thai restaurants, be sure to try some of the Isaan specialties: funky som tum, moo tod (marinated and fried pork), and when available, the homemade sausage.


4107 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor, 253-858-2114,

Thursday-Saturday 5-9 pm

Animarum is a particular gem of a restaurant in Gig Harbor that continues to fly under the radar. The ambiance defines cozy and elegant, with hushed lighting, cocktail-style tables and darn fine drinks. Always focused on local, seasonal ingredients, the theme of the menu changes a few times a year. A current speakeasy edition offers shared plates of fresh hamachi crudo in citrus and chili oil, Creole crab croquettes and Brussels sprouts with wagyu corned beef. Reservations are a must.

Kristine Sherred joined The News Tribune in December 2019, following a decade in Chicago where she worked for restaurants, a liquor wholesaler and a culinary bookstore. She previously covered the food business for Industry Dive and William Reed. Find her on Instagram @kcsherred and Twitter @kriscarasher.
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