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Umi Wagoner’s Tacoma: Red Elm Cafe - Hilltop’s Cozy CafeAeroplane Icon
Umi Wagoner
December 02, 2022
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Hilltop Tacoma is going through some drastic changes over the last 4 years (2019-2022). It’s no longer the historically Black neighborhood that it once was, full of men and women that served their country and stayed in the PNW to make a better way for their families, inducing a serious White flight that is now attempting to circle back and push out the residents that made the community close knit and family oriented. It’s a shame but it’s the name of the game. That’s how change works good or bad, it affects people and it doesn’t affect everyone the same, for some there is opportunity for others there are empty promises unfulfilled. The change has come and will continue so why not highlight the few that aren’t harming the environment and have become a haven for some?

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Red Elm has potential to be a haven to the Hilltop that is emerging. Hilltop still feels like a melting pot for now but we’ll see what shakes out, time is the only truth teller. Until then the atmosphere, owner of Red Elm, Jennifer has been able to provide and maintain is exemplary. The pricing is appropriate, the hours are convenient to the residents and the offering is broad enough to satisfy a variety of customers. The food portion of the menu is sandwich heavy and that always works for Tacomans. There are 4 breakfast sandwiches and I would recommend all of them. I love hash browns and the fully loaded one is unique and cute but also surprisingly delicious. I’m usually only there from 9-11AM so I haven’t ventured into the brunch side of sandwiches but I’ve seen Jen and the staff make them and couldn’t see someone being upset with the results. I’ve tried every version of coffee to see what baristas make best there and it’s all very good but the Mocha/White Mocha is one rung above the rest. 

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The space itself is cozy. The walls are full of artwork from local artists and there’s a section in the front seating area to the right that features artists as well. The building has historic charm, an exposed brick wall to the left that runs the length of the building, a handicap ramp to the restroom, a small play area for toddlers and a conference room. I take plenty of coffee meetings at Red Elm, the staff is friendly and between Caroline and Sofie you’re going to get an amazing latte with some cute art. There’s a growing community bookshelf and heavily utilized community cork board that thus far has proven itself to be effective in adding awareness to events and happening around the Hilltop and inner city Tacoma. Like every great local coffee shop they provide coffee grounds for your garden FREE and right by the door to grab on your way out. It is a bright and friendly staff but it’s not a large staff so they do ask that you bus your own table as you leave. But with the space service and product they are providing that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.




Red Elm 

1114 Martin Luther King Jr Way

Tacoma, WA 98405


Monday - Saturday 7AM-3PM 

Sunday 8AM-3PM

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