Authentic Mexican Cuisine and Paddling in the Tacoma Waterways Part 1

April 18, 2024

Thea Foss Waterway

Prior to embarking on our paddling adventure, we indulged in a culinary delight at Indita Mia, savoring the rich flavors of authentic Mexican cuisine. Owned by Angie Apodaca, whose lineage boasts five generations of culinary expertise, including her parents and brother who helm other esteemed Mexican eateries across the Puget Sound region

When Angie and her husband, Oreb, started their restaurant several years ago, Angie’s mom, Betty Villaseñor, was the head chef. Mom made sure that the signature dish of Grandma’s Quesadilla was perfect. By all accounts, it was a smashing success.

Wagyu beef tamal

Everything on the extensive menu is house-made. I was immediately drawn to the Wagyu Tamal, made in the Oaxacan style. The delicious beef and cornmeal filling was wrapped in a banana leaf to keep everything succulent and tender. I have tried many of the 14 different styles of tamales, and this one certainly ranks high on the list! By the way, one tamal was more than enough. In fact, I wish I could have finished it!

My wife enjoyed the Enchiladas Indita, a delicious corn tortilla folded in half and stuffed with spicy chicken. The enchilada was served with a creamy, rich, house-made chipotle sauce and garnished with sour cream and cilantro. It went very well with the classic Margarita.

All the food was served on their custom-made wood dinnerware, which is a tribute to the Indigenous peoples of Mexico. The restaurant’s name, Indita Mia, loosely translates to “My Indian,” which further acknowledges and celebrates the Indigenous culture of Mexico.


After our delicious meal, we walked around the waterfront a bit and admired the beautiful Museum of Glass building right next to the restaurant. The Museum of Glass is just one of several museums located in the area. We explored and wrote about the waterfront museums and other things downtown Tacoma had to offer several years ago.

Maritime museum

Just before our kayak trip, we discovered this gem, the Foss Waterway Seaport. We learned about the Norwegian immigrant Thea Foss, who started a business in 1889 by purchasing a used rowboat and renting it out. As more money came in, she bought more rowboats to add to her fleet. This little business eventually grew to become a very large company known as Foss Maritime. Today, Foss Maritime employs thousands of people, and its hundreds of tugs and barges provide services in all the West Coast U.S. ports and maritime services worldwide. All of this from a single rowboat!

The museum covers the maritime history and culture of Tacoma in great detail. We could have easily spent many hours there. I was especially fascinated by the collection of model boats. For over eight years, volunteers worked to complete the collection, which includes tens of thousands of tiny pieces. WOW, that must have been a labor of love!

We were now ready to start our own mini maritime outing, so we rented a couple of kayaks at Foss Harbor Marina. They also rent SUPs and are open year-round, weather permitting.

We received a briefing on the weather and tides from the friendly staff at the Marina and were given suggestions on where to go. One option was staying in the protected waters of the Thea Foss Waterway, which would be a paddle of 1.5 miles. We enjoyed paddling here and had fun admiring some of the big yachts. Since we had been told that the winds were light, the tide currants were favorable, and it was safe to go, we headed into Commencement Bay. (Always check for good weather and favorable tides before heading out.)

We proceeded north toward the other waterways, Middle and then Saint Paul. We admired the views of Mt. Rainier to the right and the Olympics to our left. It was a beautiful place and a superb day for a paddle!

Paddling Jack Hyde Park Commencement Bay

Jack Hyde Park-Commencement Bay

Our next stop was the short drive to Jack Hyde Park. The parking lot is next to the Chinese Reconciliation Park, which is worth checking out. It is a tribute to the diversity of Tacoma and a fascinating look at history. The park inspires communities working for reconciliation the world over.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Thursday through Sunday, you will find the Big Bus Paddlesports in the parking lot and renting SUPs at Jack Hyde Park. Then, it is a short two-minute walk from the parking lot to the beach.

We were starting to get hungry and thirsty. Luckily, several popular restaurant options were less than a mile away. We chose Katie Downs Waterfront Tavern & Eatery, which offers excellent food and drinks. The views from the restaurant are stunning, whether you are dining on the patio or inside. Katie Downs is a 21-and-over family-owned restaurant with a lively and friendly tavern vibe.

Before ordering food, we wanted to relax and enjoy the bright sun on the bay, so we ordered drinks. I had a refreshing microbrew, and my wife ordered a Katie’s Kinkin Kooler, which is an incredible green shade and is very delicious! Some of the seafood options looked tasty. However, we knew we were having a seafood dinner later.

Reuben sandwich

I selected The Ruben Sandwich, with house-made corned beef that was incredibly lean. The sandwich was dressed with Katie’s Special Sauce, which had a nice spicy hint of Dijon mustard. Excellent choice! Elizabeth enjoyed the mushroom burger with char-broiled grass-fed beef, Swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and garlicky mayo sauce. It was one of those big juicy burgers that was as messy as it was delicious!

We selected this restaurant because we like supporting locally-owned family businesses. Dr. John Hilger opened this restaurant in 1982; his son and grandson now run it. So, three generations of the Hilger family are still going strong!

Gig Harbor

This small waterfront community is a short distance from Tacoma and a great place for paddling in a protected bay. Located in the Harbor, Lee’s SUP & Kayak Rentals is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You can launch from their private pier, and they will even give you a free mini-intro lesson. Lee’s opened in 2011 and is now run by Lee Murray’s grandson Dalles Edge.

We launched our kayak at the Gig Harbor Public Boat Launch off Randal Street. You can also launch at Skansie Brothers Park and use the Jerisich Public Dock. We leisurely kayaked several miles around the Harbor. We had not done our homework to check the tidal and wind conditions in the unprotected water past the lighthouse, so when we got to the lighthouse, we turned around and started back to our launch point.

Tides Tavern Gig Harbor

When we passed the pier at the Tides Tavern, we decided to check it out. So, we tied the kayak to the pier, and I walked up to the restaurant. It was really busy for a weekday morning! It was tempting to stay and order some food, but we had recently eaten, and dinner was planned for later. So, the Tides Tavern went on our “Next Time List.”

The Tides is a 21-and-over restaurant owned by the Stanley family. It was opened by Peter Stanley in 1973 and is currently owned by his eldest son, Dylan. According to their website (and a nonpartisan local foodie), The Tides has the “greatest house-made food and the finest beverages in the Western hemisphere.” We will investigate this claim and report back later.

This was the end of another wonderful day on the water, accompanied by some great food. We checked in at the fabulous Silver Cloud Hotel Tacoma at Ruston Point. Continue reading Part 2 of our story here.