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A cocktail at En Rama.
Carly T./Yelp [Photo by Amelia Vaughn Photography]

20 Essential Tacoma Bars

Where to find everything from craft cocktails to boozy jukebox joints

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A cocktail at En Rama.
| Carly T./Yelp [Photo by Amelia Vaughn Photography]

Tacoma’s bar scene is a burst of boozy wonders, where bars that served as actual speakeasies during Prohibition bump up against modern cocktail lounges that still pretend to. Historical buildings in bizarre shapes might house classic dives or brand-new award-winning breweries. Downtown arcade bars clatter alongside karaoke caverns and sawdust-strewn dart dens in the port.

No matter what the occasion or preference, Tacoma can deliver — here are 20 pieces of evidence. Anyone looking for a more food-focused list should check out Eater’s guide to 24 essential Tacoma restaurants.

Note: Map points are listed geographically and are not ranked by preference. Did we miss your favorite value meal? Show it some love in the comments, send us an email about it, or start a forum thread in its honor.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Beach Tavern

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The iconic Beach Tavern, serving meatloaf and pitchers in the shadow of the Narrows Bridge, came onto the bar scene only months after the repeal of prohibition and it’s been earning regulars ever since. The interior is as lively as the exterior is drab.

The Mule Tavern

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Although the Mule is relatively new to Tacoma’s storied bar scene, it has the timeless trappings of a business that intends to stick around: blacked out windows, neon Rainier signs, an owner cleaning glasses behind the counter. Despite the dive-bar design and the freezer-aisle White Castle sliders, though, the drinks are righteous. The Moscow Mule, the tavern’s signature item, is prepared with a housemade ginger beer that simply is not messing around.

Bob's Java Jive

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On the National Register of Historic Places, this coffee pot-shaped bar has been rockin’ and rollin’, jumpin’ and jivin’ since 1927, hosting some of the world’s most famous musicians from Bing Crosby to The Ventures to Nirvana, and showing up in films like “I Love You to Death.” It’s struggled to stay relevant in recent years, though, despite weekly karaoke — maybe the next worldwide sensation will get their start performing for kicks in this nostalgic den.

Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe

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This revered neighborhood dive, chugging along like a well-oiled machine with affordable drinks and frequent happy hours, is perched atop a hill overlooking the Eastside. The sandwiches, tacos, and other menu items are a cut above, too: organic and with options for vegetarians and vegans.

The Valley

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Folded neatly into Tacoma’s surly port, The Valley has been delightfully divey in one form or another since 1926, with the latest incarnation under the control of the folks behind such gems as Engine House No. 9 and Peaks and Pints. It’s all about hoagies and local beers here, to the tune of punk and classic rock from a live stage in the corner, with animal heads and band posters watching from the walls.

Wingman Brewers

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Named for one of the founder’s grandfathers, a fighter plane-painting WW2 vet, Wingman has everything a drinker needs: darts, barrels, and knowledgeable staff pouring fantastic beer from the taps.

7 Seas Brewery and Taproom

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This Gig Harbor mainstay has spread its roots to Tacoma and the soil is good for growing. The massive interior hosts industrial brewing vats, a couple of shuffle board tables, a Valhalla coffee booth, and 3uilt’s next-level bar food. The rotating beers are made on the premises.

1022 South J

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This hip spot is home to serious drinks for the discerning palate, and yet it’s as friendly as a neighborhood bar should be, thanks to servers who give a damn.

Tacoma Brewing Company

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This brewery puts out an intriguing array of libations like hard ginger ales, chocolate chili stouts, and Broken Window IPA (voted best in Tacoma during a blind tasting at a Tacoma Beer Week). It also features a number of guest taps from other local brewers. No food is served, so outside treats are encouraged.

En Rama

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Those awaiting the reopening of Tacoma’s iconic Hilltop Kitchen will find that it’s basically been reincarnated in the old postal building downtown: same owner, same killer execution, slightly different style. En Rama specializes in daring cocktails — like the Get Down, featuring mezcal with Ancho Verde, pineapple falernum, lime, two kinds of sherry, and chili salt — made to pair with minimalist pasta dishes, all splashed against an Art Deco backdrop.

Carly T./Yelp [Photo by Amelia Vaughn Photography]

Dorky's Arcade

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Pinball and Sega classics pair well with a fresh slug of beer and Dorky’s doesn’t skimp on either. Cheese stretching off a slice of pizza, the blaring beep-boop, and the clatter of quarters in more than 100 arcade machines make Dorky’s the perfect place to be, well, dorky.

Jizelle O./Yelp

Tacoma Cabana

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The Tacoma Cabana nails the nostalgic, laid-back South Pacific style perfectly. Painkillers, Daiquiris, coconut, and rum add up to all the fruity goodness of island living without all the pesky sunshine.

Odd Otter Brewing Company

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This brewery was birthed from a Kickstarter campaign and is run from a community-renovated twisty-cozy space in downtown Tacoma by five local friends. If it’s unusual and fun — from a pint of the Ottermelon Hefeweizen to beer and yoga sessions Saturday mornings — the Odd Otter has it, 364 days a year (closed on Christmas).

The Mix

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This LGBTQ bar in downtown Tacoma features excellent drinks, a modest dance floor, spirited karaoke nights, and a wonderful group of patrons. The owner, a college professor, opened The Mix seven years ago and it's been a community gathering place ever since.

Kellen Burden for Eater

Dystopian State Brewing Company

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The brand embraces dark sci-fi tropes with beer names like The Immolator (a Scotch ale that won a bronze medal in the 2017 Washington Beer Awards) but the building it occupies, a former car dealership in the heart of downtown Tacoma, is surprisingly less industrial than is typical of taprooms. It’s more like a wedding venue, with warm wood floors and ceilings, big windows, and plenty of open space, perfect for gathering around a large table with friends and an excellent ale.

Doyle's Public House

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Specializing in pints, grub, and sports from across the pond, this dim and knick-knacky tavern is the place to go for those who wish to clink a glass of something dark while their favorite team plays football live, time difference be damned.

Parkway Tavern

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This tavern has been the heart and soul of Tacoma since 1935, spackled with accolades and lived in lovingly by its regular patrons and visitors. The team here knows their customers and their city and, unlike some old-school haunts, also knows their way around a tap. The sandwiches shouldn’t be missed either.

The Spar

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The most classic of classics, with the Puget Slund stretching beyond its windows. Established in 1913 and perfumed lightly with fish oil, this homey brick bar bursts with the sounds of local laughter. The Spar serves the kind of fish and chips that might make a landlubber take to the sea.

Peaks and Pints

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The fevered dream of beer aficionados comes to life in this freshly renovated beer hall, a collaboration of local business owners featuring a massive selection of suds from near and far catalogued by bitterness and type, served in glasses befitting their heritage. The bar food gets the same attention to detail, too; the menu focuses on sandwiches like pesto pastrami, all fresh and incredible.

Engine House No. 9

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Built beautifully to showcase the century-old bones of a fire station that relied on real horse power, Engine House No. 9 features a plethora of expertly brewed beers and some delicious bar food. E9’s range is wide, with fruited sours alongside solid IPAs and other standards, and an outdoor patio is a nice complement to a variety of well-lit indoor seating.

Beach Tavern

The iconic Beach Tavern, serving meatloaf and pitchers in the shadow of the Narrows Bridge, came onto the bar scene only months after the repeal of prohibition and it’s been earning regulars ever since. The interior is as lively as the exterior is drab.

The Mule Tavern

Although the Mule is relatively new to Tacoma’s storied bar scene, it has the timeless trappings of a business that intends to stick around: blacked out windows, neon Rainier signs, an owner cleaning glasses behind the counter. Despite the dive-bar design and the freezer-aisle White Castle sliders, though, the drinks are righteous. The Moscow Mule, the tavern’s signature item, is prepared with a housemade ginger beer that simply is not messing around.

Bob's Java Jive

On the National Register of Historic Places, this coffee pot-shaped bar has been rockin’ and rollin’, jumpin’ and jivin’ since 1927, hosting some of the world’s most famous musicians from Bing Crosby to The Ventures to Nirvana, and showing up in films like “I Love You to Death.” It’s struggled to stay relevant in recent years, though, despite weekly karaoke — maybe the next worldwide sensation will get their start performing for kicks in this nostalgic den.

Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe

This revered neighborhood dive, chugging along like a well-oiled machine with affordable drinks and frequent happy hours, is perched atop a hill overlooking the Eastside. The sandwiches, tacos, and other menu items are a cut above, too: organic and with options for vegetarians and vegans.

The Valley

Folded neatly into Tacoma’s surly port, The Valley has been delightfully divey in one form or another since 1926, with the latest incarnation under the control of the folks behind such gems as Engine House No. 9 and Peaks and Pints. It’s all about hoagies and local beers here, to the tune of punk and classic rock from a live stage in the corner, with animal heads and band posters watching from the walls.

Wingman Brewers

Named for one of the founder’s grandfathers, a fighter plane-painting WW2 vet, Wingman has everything a drinker needs: darts, barrels, and knowledgeable staff pouring fantastic beer from the taps.

7 Seas Brewery and Taproom

This Gig Harbor mainstay has spread its roots to Tacoma and the soil is good for growing. The massive interior hosts industrial brewing vats, a couple of shuffle board tables, a Valhalla coffee booth, and 3uilt’s next-level bar food. The rotating beers are made on the premises.

1022 South J

This hip spot is home to serious drinks for the discerning palate, and yet it’s as friendly as a neighborhood bar should be, thanks to servers who give a damn.

Tacoma Brewing Company

This brewery puts out an intriguing array of libations like hard ginger ales, chocolate chili stouts, and Broken Window IPA (voted best in Tacoma during a blind tasting at a Tacoma Beer Week). It also features a number of guest taps from other local brewers. No food is served, so outside treats are encouraged.

En Rama

Carly T./Yelp [Photo by Amelia Vaughn Photography]

Those awaiting the reopening of Tacoma’s iconic Hilltop Kitchen will find that it’s basically been reincarnated in the old postal building downtown: same owner, same killer execution, slightly different style. En Rama specializes in daring cocktails — like the Get Down, featuring mezcal with Ancho Verde, pineapple falernum, lime, two kinds of sherry, and chili salt — made to pair with minimalist pasta dishes, all splashed against an Art Deco backdrop.

Carly T./Yelp [Photo by Amelia Vaughn Photography]

Dorky's Arcade

Jizelle O./Yelp

Pinball and Sega classics pair well with a fresh slug of beer and Dorky’s doesn’t skimp on either. Cheese stretching off a slice of pizza, the blaring beep-boop, and the clatter of quarters in more than 100 arcade machines make Dorky’s the perfect place to be, well, dorky.

Jizelle O./Yelp

Tacoma Cabana