Almanac

There’s a lot happening in Tacoma.

Music, visual arts, literature, printmaking, performing arts, public art, treasure hunting, found object-finding,

and more. The Almanac brings them all together as a weekly digital publication.

Umi Wagoner’s Tacoma: A Hub Out on the Way Aeroplane Icon
Umi Wagoner
March 31, 2023
Follow: instagramProfile
Screen Shot 2023-03-31 at 7

Airport Tavern

For decades South Tacoma Way has been silently and patiently waiting for things to come full circle. Prior to the I-5 and the Tacoma Mall scooping up all the attention the lengthy strip was home to the nightlife for Tacomans of the past, who saw those businesses and bars they love close down one after another due to diverted traffic. Historically this happens in Tacoma, one area rebuilds and the rest seems to be obsolete until they follow suit. A once very neon and bustling downtown suffered from something similar. But following suit isn’t so easy for most small businesses and without a cult following of regulars the ‘phase out’ happens faster than expected. But prior to the pandemic Tacoma was in a new stage of growth that shined a light on revitalization of our business districts as much as exploration into new territories or those that had been underused. And a man ahead of the curve as he has proven so many times before, Danno Rankin, saw that very early on. Like most of South Tacoma Way at that time, with the exception of a few key players, the Airport Tavern was on its way there before he had the foresight to remodel and bring it back to life. Danno did everything under the sun at Jazzbones for a long time including booking all the talent, so his resume and expertise speak for itself when it comes to understanding what Tacoma wants from a venue. His answer was providing the best of both worlds, Tacoma’s love for dives with his booking abilities creating a bar/venue. While it does tend to cater towards rock bands, Airport Tavern and Danno have a huge hand in putting on Reggae on The Way, a block party style reggae fest that in the past has shut down the main retail strip of South Tacoma Way. It has now outgrown that setting and is being held at LEMAY. His ability to revitalize has been impressive.

Screen Shot 2023-03-31 at 7

The current Airport Tavern looks just like the old Airport Tavern; he really did a great job at giving the place a facelift while preserving the integrity of the establishment that opened way back in 2004. A fresh coat of paint changed the faded baby blue to a bold but not bright red with navy trim, the window framing was updated to this era, the neon sign was painted and restored to its glory. The other two random “tavern” signs were removed and an added outdoor guardrail to both sides of the entrance with bar shelving attached for your pint. Pinball in Tacoma has a community of its own and Danno expanded their reach by adding another place to play. When you enter Airport Tavern you’re greeted by seven pinball machines to your left, seating and a few arcade games to your right. The bar has classic mirrored shelving and a straight forward selection that has all the hits. A personal favorite interior feature is a wood bench with the prettiest grain that runs the length of the far wall stopping just before the billiards table and digital jukebox. Just past that you can see into the kitchen and into the venue space at the end of the building. Every part of the space is used effectively. In an effort to cover all the bases and check all the boxes Danno put together a dynamic bar menu. They offer sandwiches, nachos, tacos, bar bites (pretzels, wings, sliders) and 10” pizza that has become popular via word of mouth and Internet reviews. I recommend getting the I Know Danno.

Screen Shot 2023-03-31 at 7

In my experiences at Airport Tavern it’s perfect for every setting. Enjoying it during the opening hours it's a nice and quiet workspace. You can sip your beer slowly and order lunch when you get tired of squinting at the computer screen. Despite what the mall goers have done to traffic the 48th-56th blocks of South Tacoma Way is still centrally located and a great place to dwindle time if you happen to be in between meetings. One of my first experiences at Airport Tavern was for a show. The venue space was the perfect size for the performances and the sound is surprisingly good for being segmented from the rest of the space. And the staff is always friendly and accommodating to our large parties in the evening. After getting through the worst of the pandemic (2020-2021) it’s evident Airport Tavern has a lot of future in front of it. 



Address: 

5406 S Tacoma Way 

Tacoma, WA 98409



Hours:

Monday Closed

Tuesday 4 PM–12 AM

Wednesday 4 PM–12 AM

Thursday 4 PM–12 AM

Friday     4 PM–2 AM

Saturday 4 PM–2 AM

Sunday 4 PM–12 AM


airporttavern.com

instagram

facebook

Screen Shot 2023-03-31 at 7

More from Almanac

Screen Shot 2023-07-05 at 1

11:11 - Synchronize Sipping

Sandwiches in Tacoma are a big deal, it makes them easy to find but not all them are worth the bread. 1111 is owned by brothers from Tacoma, it’s nestled right in the center of the Hilltop neighborhood on 11th and MLK Blvd. Since 2012, 1111 has been showing their ability to be consistent with the food, service, experience, commitment to serving Tacoma and its inclusiveness. The coolest thing about their menu is how the vegan side mirrors the original versions of the sandwiches. It’s quite the convenience for friend groups that are diverse in diet. There were once pasta options on the menu as well - but zooming in their focus on the sandwiches is not a bad decision.

Screen Shot 2022-12-01 at 11

Umi Wagoner’s Tacoma: Red Elm Cafe - Hilltop’s Cozy Cafe

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?

Screen Shot 2023-07-05 at 1

Make It To The Show: Small Paul 7/14

Someday, there will be proper studies done to explore the effect that a certain global pandemic had on creative processes. Anecdotally, through conversations and interviews over the past few years, I’ve heard artists report everything from a complete inability to create, to others claiming that they’ve never been more productive with their art. For those who were able to avoid writers’ block, though, one thing seems to be a constant: projects that might’ve otherwise never seen the light of day were given the chance to blossom in these times.This is certainly the case with Small Paul, a band that came together in a Seattle basement, formed with members of the Moondoggies, Chris King and the Gutterballs, and All Star Opera, towards the beginning of the pandemic. Rather than reflect any of the anxiety that has permeated the past few years, Small Paul carries with a warm, harmonic twang that recalls the ‘70s intersection of country and rock, a sound both laidback and soulful. Their debut EP, Strangeland, feels at times like a balm to protect against the stressors of the modern world. This is especially felt on album standout “Mexico,” with its vibes of golden hour, of a sun peacefully disappearing behind a horizon, and untold adventures waiting in the future.Small Paul’s debut LP, Come Alive & Live Again, is due to be released at the end of July – hopefully supplying the perfect soundtrack for another summer in the unknown.ALMA RooftopFriday, July 14thSmall Paul, w/ Salt Lick, RestrospecterAll Ages, Doors at 6pm, Show at 7pm, $15Tickets instagram

DSCF0164

I Went On A Tour and Now I'm Back In Tacoma Washington

I’m in a sea of people trying my hardest to hold the tears back as the opening riff of Hope by Alex G begins to play. The crowd erupts as I’m immediately transported to my desk in the freight department at the Lakewood Fastenal warehouse. That’s where I listened to Hope for the first time. Overcome by the way music can take you back to a time and place I finally let a few tears breath to honor how much my life’s changed. I’m on tour!!!As we like to say, “all off the music baby!”. Somehow a song about feeling annoying that I named after the shitty warehouse job I had for 3 years, has landed me in Minneapolis on a surprisingly warm November night. My band Enumclaw and I as well as 2 of my closest friends have managed to get on the guest list for the Alex G show at Minneapolis’s historic First Avenue. We all look like kids in a candy store when we realize we’ve all been given a drink ticket along with our list spot.