Throwback Eats: 6 Nostalgic Tacoma Joints

By Chelsea Lin

July 26, 2016

Go old school in Tacoma

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Image Credit: 

Chris Hayes

You may have visited Tacoma to take in the acclaimed Museum of Glass, or to spend a sunny afternoon at Point Defiance Park. But there are other reasons to make the trek south. Discover the historic heart and soul of this working-class city through its old-school restaurants, bars, shops and venues that have entertained locals for decades.

Begin by following the swooping, neon-lit arrow into Frisko Freeze, an iconic drive-in burger joint in the North End where little has changed since the 1950s. Since prices are low, you can go whole hog, er, cow: Get the double cheeseburger (triple, if you’re brave) and onion rings, plus a chocolate malt for dessert.

PHOTO: Homini. Johnson Candy Company.

About six blocks south in the Hilltop neighborhood is the family-run Johnson Candy Company, where they’ve been hand-dipping chocolates for more than 60 years. Expect the sort of treats that used to fill Grandma’s candy dish: decadent nut clusters, pastel-colored mints, handmade caramels and much more (about $10–$17 per pound).

PHOTO: Mary Letterman. Dorky’s.

Head a few miles east to downtown, where you can play Tetris and Frogger while drinking craft beer at Dorky’s. This delightfully retro bar and arcade features more than 100 games, most of them the kind you fed quarters into as a kid (and her they still eat a quarter a game), plus a killer assortment of pinball machines.

PHOTO: courtesy of Tacoma. Parkway Tavern.

If your thirst hasn’t yet been quenched, take yourself to The Parkway Tavern, the locals’ Stadium District bar of choice for more than eight decades. Inside this restored Craftsman bungalow, the focus now is on craft beer (33 taps’ worth) and a menu of simple snacks, hot sandwiches, burgers and salads.

PHOTO: Jessie Koon. Blue Mouse Theater.


When you’ve finished your food tour, head to The Blue Mouse Theatre in the Proctor District. It’s been showing films since it opened in 1923, making it one of the oldest continually operating theaters in the country. Along with screening a single first-run movie each week, the theater shows older flicks, such as horror movies on Friday nights and cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show—complete with live performances—every second and fourth Saturday of the month.

PHOTO: courtsey of Tower Lanes. Tower Lanes.

End your day at Tower Lanes, a landmark bowling alley and so much more, with décor straight out of the 1950s. There’s an indoor miniature golf course, an arcade with pool tables, and a bar and restaurant that serves towers of pancakes for the laughably cheap price of $3.99. And it’s all open 24 hours a day.


1. Johnson Candy Company:Hilltop, 924 Martin Luther King Jr. Way; 253.272.8504

2. Tower Lanes: West End, 6323 Sixth Ave.; 253.564.8853;

3. Blue Mouse Theatre:Proctor District, 2611 N Proctor St.; 253.752.9500;

4. Dorky’s: Downtown, 754 Pacific Ave.; 253.627.4156;

5. Parkway Tavern: Stadium District, 313 N “I” St., No. 1; 253.383.8748;

6. Frisko Freeze: North End, 1201 Division Ave.; 253.272.4800

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