A place that touts itself as Tacoma’s urban place for adults to camp, The Camp Bar, in downtown Tacoma brings a bit of wilderness and whimsy to the local bar scene.
Upon arrival, guests can’t help but notice the kayak hanging from the ceiling, along with various taxidermy mounts and a pair of 30-year-old hiking boots on the wall. The boots and kayak have been donated by fellow outdoor enthusiasts and they add to the bar’s playful decor. Other details that help create an authentic experience include small lanterns that adorn the tables and woodland themed artwork.
The outdoor motif is not only fun, it’s also a bit of a throwback to owner Patrick Haight’s childhood. When he was growing up, Patrick’s family had a cabin near Chinook Pass, and hiking and camping has been a big part of his life since he was about 12 years old.
“Looking back, it was some of the best times we ever had,” he says of his family life during that period.
He has a background in the hospitality industry and although he has opened and managed nightclubs, fine dining establishments and martini bars, he knew he wanted to do something slightly different with his own bar.
Patrick bought the business in June of 2017, and back then it went by the name Acme Tavern. After the purchase, he waited a few months before implementing the new name and decor. It took about three days to rehab the interior and overhaul the menu to reflect the bar’s new theme.
“I always knew when I owned something it was going to be a place I really enjoyed going to every day,” he says of the endeavor.
And enjoyment is something Patrick wants all patrons of the bar to experience. That’s evident from the decor to the selection of board games. But there’s also “not safe for work bingo,” which happens on Tuesday evenings. Bingo winners can snag prizes ranging from canned Spam to various chotskies. And, of course, since it’s bingo at a bar, the last person standing in the game gets a cocktail on the house. Additionally, every Friday there’s karaoke, an event that usually packs the bar.
The establishment identifies as a dive bar with a menu boasting comfort food and campground fare with a slight twist. Patrick says their burgers are by far the biggest seller, made from 100% angus beef and served on a brioche bun.
“I wanted this to be a great place to get a good quality burger,” he says of his business.
Of the burgers, one is a runaway hit. With two patties, bacon, peppers, cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, the lumberjack lives up to its name. If your appetite isn’t quite on par with a lumberjack, don’t worry. There’s also the fireside chili burger, served open-faced with chili, shredded cheese and chopped onions. Other delicious choices include the hangover burger, topped with bacon and a hash brown patty, and a meatless option made with chipotle black beans.
Smaller items to munch on are available as well. There’s Jiffy Pop, which the waitstaff brings out cooked, but the guests get to open the foil themselves at their tables and enjoy hot popcorn. And there’s the sharable tater tot bombs, available in two options. One is smothered in chili and shredded cheese, the other is covered with cheese and bacon bits and served with a side of sour cream.
Of course, no camping experience would be complete without a marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker treat. And there’s hardly a better way to enjoy the campfire favorite than by roasting and building them at your own table.
“When I opened, I knew I needed to have s’mores and have them be fun and interactive.”
The build-your-own s’mores experience starts when the bar staff brings out a small hibachi grill on a platter along with wooden skewers and all the makings for smores. And, the presentation makes it a great way for the whole table to share.
All that food and game playing is bound to make you thirsty. The bar offers draft beer, with 10 rotating taps, as well as a full bar. According to Patrick, there’s one hit cocktail served, called the one-eyed squirrel. The drink is made with vodka, lime and aloe vera juice – and just for a little tongue in cheek humor – it’s garnished with a plastic eyeball.
While it may not be the great outdoors, the bar does offer an experience for its guests to get away from it all. At least for a little while.
“It’s a place to come and feel like you get away from the concrete jungle around us.”