The Best Indian Restaurants in Tacoma and Olympia

East India Grill is the Best Buffet in Tacoma/Federal Way Area

Indian food is my favorite cuisine of all the world’s offerings. I’ve tried every restaurant within 50 miles of Tacoma, and many beyond. In terms of overall food quality, Olympia’s Curry Corner and the Little India Express in Freighthouse Square are worthy competitors for the top spots, but when it comes to the buffet, the best I’ve ever found is the East India Grill.

I’ve eaten the East India buffet more times than I can count, and every time have found it to be top quality. The food is never stale or cold, and is always delicious. The servers are also very attentive and quick to refill beverages.

Curry Corner of Olympia

Determining my favorite overall Indian food in the area isn’t easy, but if someone were to force me to make the decision, Curry Corner would probably be my choice.

The restaurant interior is somewhat nondescript and even a little cramped, at times, but don’t let this fool you. These folks put together the most flavorful Indian food I’ve ever found.

It’s been almost a year since I ate there. When I used to live farther down south, however, I ate at this place every week or two, and I find it hard to believe that anything short of a full blown tragedy would make this place any less than great. I never had a bad dish from Curry Corner, and everyone working there has always been very professional.

(Be warned, foodies: If you ask for it “spicy” from Curry Corner, you’re getting a three-alarm fire in your mouth.)

Little India Express in Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square has an Interesting Location to go With Its High Quality Food

Freighthouse Square near the Tacoma Dome is a neat little place that feels every bit of its 105 years. Walking through its halls and visiting its shops feels like stepping back in time. Sometimes I’ll sit down there and just imagine what it looked like a century ago, full of workers and tourists shuffling along with the mad bustle of Old Tacoma in all its industrial glory hammering, pounding, and steam-whistling away outside.

The Square also has a few secret gems of cuisine, and one of those is the Little India Express. It’s a little kiosk restaurant in the food court area, but it serves a heavyweight menu. You can sit and watch the cook work if you’d like, as the whole kitchen is open to view. I have done this on a few occasions and find no mystery as to why their food tastes so good. That guy is an artist. I actually plan on asking if he’d be willing to a do a brief interview with me, because he’s an interesting guy who talks with an artist’s passion about his food.

Little India sometimes can take a little longer than one might hope, but that’s because they make every dish from scratch and because they do everything right.

The lead cook once told me how all his traditional Indian dishes have little twists of his own that he throws in. “Nobody cooks Indian like me,” he said with unabashed pride. In my experience, that statement has always held true.

Little Indian Express is a great reason to check out the Freighthouse Square. They’ve never steered me wrong.

Ruby in Mist

An orphaned strand
stretched out
two dream seas.

Great rocks like calcified husks
of ancient sea giants loom
out of the water.

Ancient trees stand
tall and blind,
patiently marking moments
in a world cut loose from time.

Driftwood, bones of nightmares,
twisted and deformed.
Ocean waves scramble over each other
in a
desperate bid to escape the sea.

The waves grasp and claw at the sand
but only find themselves sucked deeper into it,
becoming part of the aimless shore.
Below ground, slowly, they’ll be drawn through
the pores in the earth,
and cast back into their
doomed and inescapable cycle.

In this place of mystery,
each traveler has
private hands

Angels of frightful symmetry,
perch in clouds
owl-like eyes watching.

Ruby in the mist
the world

We’ve left many footprints here
on the way to other places.

We’re still wandering the shores, in fact,
just like those ocean waves,
trying to break free from ourselves.

But grasp and claw and cry as we may,
the trees root ever deeper into the soil,
and nothing

Family of Ducks Braves Rapids near Falls View Canyon Trail

Surprise Nature Magic Just off the Falls View Canyon Trail

Sit still in nature long enough and there’s a good chance you’ll be treated to something spectacular. I was reminded of this unfailing truth last spring on the shore of the Big Quilcene River, just off Falls View Canyon Trail.

I was there with my sister in July. It was a weekday, so even though the sun was shining we had the area to ourselves. We were just relaxing, dangling our feet in the water, when we saw a mother duck and three ducklings coming upstream, approaching the rough waters beside us.

I spend a lot of time outdoors and have had run-ins with bears, moose, bobcat, lynx, and all kinds of animals more dangerous and “exciting” than ducks. Still, every time I happen upon a wildlife scene, even when it’s “just” a little family of ducks, a hush comes over my soul. Everything quiets and narrows in on the scene.

My sister looked at me and we smiled and looked back to the scene unfolding. I was fully prepared for an idyllic little encounter, and had no idea the drama that was about to unfold.

The mother’s motive was unclear, but she was absolutely determined to get her youngsters up the heavy waters. She looked back multiple times towards the main stem of the river and was pushing her ducklings relentlessly onward, so it’s possible that she was fleeing a predator of some kind.

Whatever the case, she was about to take her kids on a tough journey, but she absolutely was not turning back until she completed it.

I couldn’t capture it on still camera, but the waters were batting the ducklings around violently. It didn’t seem like their frail little bodies could take it as they smashed up against the rocks. Still, they pressed on, in file, behind their mamma.

Though a good portion of the rapids, they actually walked along the rocks, rather than swimming over the water.

Obviously, I couldn’t capture this whole scene on still camera. Even if I did, showing the glut of images here would blow up your phone trying to load it all. But this struggle went on for a good ten, fifteen minutes. It was absolutely epic on a duck’s scale.

One or two of the ducklings would get rocked by the water and mother would zip back, round them up, and start over again. They progressed by slow, painful inch, and got knocked back in depressingly rapid speed. Yet, they continued, methodically finding a way up those rocks.

At points, the mother would stop against the rocky shoreline and wait, as if thinking, problem-solving on how to proceed. For most of the trip, I honestly thought it was impossible that they’d make it, and I wondered if they’d die of exhaustion in the effort.

Yet, just as I was ready to give up hope, they did it.

The ducks reached the top of the rapids and turned the bend and were gone from sight. I never saw them again.

My sister and I went back to dangling our feet in the water and talking excitedly about what we’d just seen.

The Big Quilcene doesn’t have a blockbuster Hollywood budget. No special effects. No whizz bangers. But I’ll never forget that moment watching that little family brave the rapids, possible predator in pursuit. Neither will my sister.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s the stuff of magic, and sharing stories like that is the reason I started this site.

Rockaway Beach, Oregon—Great Low Key Getaway (Plus A Rowdy Roddy Piper Story)

Rockaway Beach, Oregon: Low Key and Restful Vacation Destination

First things first — before getting into the Rockaway Beach, Oregon, story, allow me address the giant stuffed bear in the featured image. The short answer to Why is that giant stuffed bear there? is: I have no idea. During my last stay at Rockaway, that bear was there, under a yield sign, for three consecutive days. There’s no greater context around it, but I figured it was a more interesting picture than the typical shots of sand and sunbathers you get in beach stories.

Anybody familiar with the Pacific Northwest knows that our rocky, primitive beaches tend to be better suited for hiking and picture taking than for sunbathing or playing in the sand. The relative scarcity of sandy beaches means that hordes of tourists swarm to every appealing spot once the weather gets nice. Rockaway Beach, for some reason I’ve never quite understood (but always feel grateful for), somehow manages to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Go to Rockaway in wintertime and you’ll feel like you own your own private beach. Go there in summertime and you’ll find plenty of fellow beach goers, but nothing on the scale of the waves of humanity that descend upon places like Cannon Beach.

When I vacation, I prefer peace and quiet over crowds, so Rockaway is my go-to beach spot. That does not mean, however, that there aren’t plenty of events and activities going on there, as well.

My personal favorite Rockaway event is the annual Pirate Festival. It’s full of good, clean fun for kids and adults alike. At night, there are pirate fire artists who breathe fire and play with fire swords and swing around other various fire-themed items. They perform, by the way, in the parking lot in front of a steam train that takes you on a fantastic scenic coast tour.

Affordable Quality

Because they aren’t quite as overloaded with crowds, Rockaway tends to be less pricey than many of the other Oregon Coast destinations. I don’t have the numbers for this offhand and will update this blog in a couple months after I visit Rockaway again, but the prices for food and lodging have always been very reasonable in my experience. That doesn’t mean the stuff is “cheap” in terms of quality, though. I’ve honestly never had a bad stay in Rockaway, and at this point I’ve probably stayed in all the major rooming places.

The dining options are a bit more limited than some other places, which is of course the price you pay for choosing a low key destination over one of the more storied ones. However, the food that is there has always been good quality and the service always friendly.

Rowdy Roddy Piper Story Heard in a Rockaway Beach Bar

Notice to readers: this story really isn’t part of my Rockaway travelogue, so if that’s the only reason you’re here, feel free to move on (and thanks for visiting!). I just want to share this tale that was told to me by a local at Rick’s Roadhouse on the town’s main drag.

Apparently, wrestling and entertainment legend Roddy Rowdy Piper lived somewhere close to Rockaway. The woman I spoke lived in the same town as him. She told me that Piper was as nice and down to Earth as a guy can get.

She also told me about a boy with agoraphobia that also lived in their town. Piper was this boy’s hero. The kid spent hours watching wrestling in his bedroom and dreaming of meeting his idol.

As one might expect, the kid wanted Piper’s autograph badly, and as one may further expect, the boy’s mother wanted to fulfill her son’s dream and get him that autograph. So, when the boy’s mother ran into Piper at a restaurant, she immediately engaged him and begged for an autograph for her son.

Piper began to sign his name but then thought to ask why her son wasn’t getting it himself. The woman told Piper her son’s story.

Piper sat down, got a new piece of paper, and started writing again. This time, though, he wrote a full paged letter. When he was done, he signed it “Rowdy Roddy Piper” and promptly told the boy’s mother that she couldn’t take the letter home to her son. The only way the boy would get it was if he walked into the restaurant and got it himself. Piper then gave the letter to the hostess and told her she was not to give it to anyone except for the woman’s son.

The mother went home and told her son the story. The boy was driven fairly mad with curiosity and the desire to get a personal letter from his hero…mad enough, in fact, that he worked up the courage to go into the restaurant himself and get it.

After that, the story goes, the boy’s anxiety diminished, and he eventually was able to regularly go out into public again.

I heard this tale while drinking beers at the roadhouse. I have no way to corroborate it. But it’s one hell of a story, and Piper is a man I’ve always admired, so I decided it needed to be recorded somewhere.

Rest in peace, Hot Rod.

Tacoma Day Trip: Three Free Museums Every Third Thursday

Low to No-Cost Tacoma Day Trip

The Tacoma day trip I’m outlining here would be entirely free, except for whatever gas you use getting to Tacoma and whatever you elect to spend on food.

Every third Thursday of the month, three Tacoma museums offer free entry. Even better, all three of these museums are within 10 minutes or less walking distance of each other, and all within the University of Washington, Tacoma cultural hub, which happens to be one of the most enjoyable areas of the city.

You can start your trip by taking the free Tacoma Link light rail, which you can catch from the Tacoma Dome Station right outside the Tacoma Dome parking garage. You’d take the rail to its second stop, which is directly in front of the Washington State History Museum.

Washington State History Museum

This is my personal favorite of the freebies. The Washington State History Museum is full of fascinating stuff. The giant model railroad alone is an experience worth the trip. The permanent exhibits in the museum illuminate the evolution of Washington state with full sized replicas of early tools, machines, vehicles, and houses of early Washingtonians. They even have a mummy!

The museum also happens to stand at the end of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, which is a 500-feet long foot bridge decorated with hundreds of glass art pieces from the world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. The bridge itself is worthy destination, but it also leads to the Museum of Glass, which we’ll cover next.

Museum of Glass

The Museum of Glass is one of Tacoma’s most iconic attractions. It stands on the shore of the Thea Foss Waterway and is, as the name suggest, full of glass art. You can also watch glass artists at their work.

The exhibits are both in and outdoors. The cafe in the museum has good food with a lot of options, and the Social Bar and Grill right next door has a nice, relaxed atmosphere, drinks, and great eats, as well, though it may be a bit pricey for a budget trip such as this one.

Tacoma Art Museum (TAM)

The TAM is a five minute walk from the history museum and an eight minute walk from the glass museum.

The museum has more of Dale Chihuly’s work, but also a wide assortment of other fine art exhibits. They cycle in new exhibits pretty regularly, so the TAM always feels fresh and new.

Back on the Rail and Back Home

The Link station is five minutes from the TAM. From there, it’s a quick ride back to the parking garage and your car.

Have fun!