A Wild Night Out in Tacoma

Three compelling reasons to make the Sounder Train your designated driver.

By Allecia Vermillion December 1, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Seattle Met

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Image: Micah Sheldon


Chris Keil and Matthew Schweitzer, the duo behind Hilltop Kitchen, recently took over one of the loveliest restaurants in all of Tacoma. The food menu is structured differently, but remains a balance of vegetarian and decidedly not-vegetarian dishes. Cocktails have more emphasis than before and bear Keil’s trademark—a multitude of ingredients that don’t come off as overly fussy.

Hilltop Kitchen

The outside is the definition of non-descript, but inside, esteemed Tacoma bartender Chris Keil has created a temple of rum, tequila, cachaça, and mezcal, dividing his menu into “Goes Down Easy” and “Boozy and Odd.” No matter which side of the menu it falls on, nearly every drink has at least four elements that unify into something spectacular. It would be easy to shorthand this place as an Edison-bulbed den of obscure bitters and cocktail snobbery. Until the realization dawns that the drink list is packed with Full House references. Order a You Got It, Dude (rum, coffee cordial, and coconut horchata) and let the Kimmy Gibbler jokes fly. 

Tacoma Cabana

A black-walled tiki den, complete with thatched roof bar, fez-wearing ’tenders, and a roster of 235 different rums has sprung up in downtown Tacoma. A menu glossary helps decode terms like orgeat and falernum—no pretension here. But bartender Jason Alexander (yes, he knows) is dead serious about his mai tais, zombies, and other tiki classics like the Three Dots and a Dash. Garnishes are properly festive: flowers, tiny umbrellas, and—if you’re lucky—flames and a legit tiki mug. On weekends you’ll likely wait for a seat.

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