Tacoma has plenty of cool hot spots, trendy neighborhoods and areas where locals go to hang out – downtown, the Theatre District and 6th Ave have all only boomed in popularity. But while these areas are all well known for their restaurants, theaters, bars and other things to do, there’s another street nearby that has a bit of everything to offer, but rarely gets any buzz around it. North I Street – between Wright Park and about North Alder Street – also has a lineup of businesses, restaurants, coffee shops and more. While it’s not quite as compact as 6th Avenue or downtown Tacoma, North I Street is quiet and cozy, historic and lovely to stroll.
The Parkway Tavern is a legend among Tacoma beverage establishments. For one, the place has been at its location on I Street for more than 80 years (in fact, it celebrated its 82nd anniversary on July 29, 2017), but began as Rawlings Market, a store that sold beer as well as other items. Sometime around the 1950s, the Parkway took up its current name and the rest is history. While the ownership has changed a few times over the years, the awesomeness has not. Now owned by Jeff and Helen Fraychineaud, the Parkway is a low-key and friendly spot to enjoy one of 33 beers and ciders on tap.
“Jeff’s goal since he purchased the location over 20 years ago was to provide a nice, cozy, safe, place for people to congregate with a feeling of home,” says general manager Sean Jackson. “He put a lot of thought into the remodel of the establishment to create this atmosphere without taking away from its ‘old’ feel. We have seen quite a bit of change in the neighborhood over the years and would like to think we are at least a small part of its development. We believe it is important for neighborhoods to have places like ours within a safe walking or riding distance. Jeff and I agree we are fortunate to have a place ‘grandfathered’ into a residential area to provide this for our community.”
Location: 313 North I Street #1
Tacoma Little Theatre
Right across the street from the Parkway is Tacoma Little Theatre – indeed, you might say the pairing of these two could make the perfect night out. Since 1918 (and since 1940 at its current location), Tacoma Little Theatre has delivered plays that range from seasonal favorites to creepy Halloween-season shows to drama and comedy.
“Tacoma Little Theatre has been enriching the community with quality, live theatre experiences for almost 100 years,” says managing artistic director, Chris Serface. “We are the oldest community theatre in Washington and one of the oldest in the country. It is through the support of our community that we have been able to be a part of Tacoma for so many years.”
Location: 210 N I Street
Dave’s Meat and Produce
Dave’s Meat and Produce is a neighborhood market perfect for those who like to keep things local. The small, family-owned business has a focus on customer service and high-quality products, namely just what the business name suggests – meat and produce. The shop carries all-natural beef, pork, chicken and fish sourced from places that put responsibly raised meats as a high priority. Beef comes from Red Lodge, Montana, and Dave’s seeks to sell only free-range and grass-fed beef. Chicken is likewise free range. Produce is fresh and local. Even if you’re not in the market for dinner, stop by and see what’s in store as the staff are always friendly and knowledgeable to chat with.
Location: 1312 N I Street
Ooh LaLa Burgers
Ooh LaLa Burgers is the new kid in town on this historic street, but worth checking out for the perfect summer dinner. Located in front of Dave’s Meat and Produce, Ooh LaLa has outdoor seating or makes a fine place to grab a meal on the way home. Get a handmade burger or a salad, but don’t miss out on the side dishes. The fries are hand cut and made fresh at this burger joint, or try out the bleu cheese cole slaw.
Location: 1312 N I Street
Turn Key Real Estate
Turn Key Real Estate is a local real estate office that can help you buy or sell a home in Pierce County. Where many real estate offices go for a more is more approach, Turn Key is all about keeping it local and customer focused. So if what you seek is a home, new construction, land or a condo in Tacoma, Fircrest, University Place or other Pierce County communities, a stop at Turn Key might be in order.
Location: 1302 N I Street
Every neighborhood should have a pizza joint, and Sammy’s Pizza takes up the torch on I Street. If you want to dine in, the restaurant has plenty of seating and a casual atmosphere perfect for families, but also a bar if you’d prefer more of a night-out feel. Alternately, Sammy’s delivers to North and Central Tacoma, as well as UP and Fircrest (thanks to a second location on Regents in Fircrest). The pizza lineup includes several crust options – hand tossed, garlic thin, beer crust and a 12-inch gluten-free crust. Toppings run the gamut from your usual meats and veggies to gourmet toppings, including cashews, artichokes, spinach, black beans and even coconut if you’re feeling like something different.
Location: 1308 N I Street
Willow Salon and Spa
While the address says 21st Street, N I Street turns into N 21st Street and continues into Tacoma’s small-yet-mighty Three Bridges area. On the corner of N 21st and Oakes is Willow Salon and Spa, right near one of the bridges. Willow offers a range of services, including haircuts and styles, specialized color treatments from ombre to balayage, and extensions. Willow’s stylists come from a variety of backgrounds and you’ll find those who enjoy doing more traditional looks as well as those who love edgy and bright colors. Willow is also home to a spa where you can relax with a facial, get your makeup done professionally, or get a minor cosmetic service such as sugaring, waxing or microdermabrasion.
Location: 2702 N 21st Street
Sometimes you just need a good, neighborhood dive bar. Magoo’s Annex is here for you. This spot is popular with nearby University of Puget Sound students and other neighborhood residents alike, and you’ll find no pretension here. Instead, you’ll find strong drink pours, great happy hour specials and a strong taco Tuesday, and a menu filled with sandwiches, appetizers and snacks, and small bites. The atmosphere is laid back and casual and filled with regulars, but don’t be shy. They’re friendly.
Location: 2710 N 21st Street
Rustic Aristocrat Coffee Company
Rustic Aristocrat Coffee Company took over the neighborhood coffee shop reins from Cafe Brosseau in mid-2017 and has set out to keep this popular cafe doing many things the same, with a few changes.
“Many things have stayed the same,” says Ben Nation, one of the owners. “We have the same great staff, Madrona Coffee, Mad Hat Tea, and of course the avocado toast! Changes that patrons can expect are a lighter, brighter and less cluttered space as well as a streamlined menu. Our menu changes have been made in order to allow our baristas to really focus on doing what they are great at: coffee! We continue to be a family-friendly shop with a deep desire to create a welcoming space in the community.”
Much like Cafe Brosseau, the Rustic Aristocrat hopes to be a neighborhood coffee house that welcomes all and is a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. “Above all else we want to provide a great cup of coffee and a comfortable place to enjoy it,” adds Nation.
Location: 2716 N 21st Street