Welcome to T-Town

Oh, Tacoma, or as your infatuated locals like to call you... T-Town. You are the perfect balance of outdoorsy and urban, where historical and eclectic mesh beautifully. How we love your food, your picturesque waterfront, your drinks, and all the other fun and trendy goodness you had to share with us. 

Real talk: This miiiiiight be why Tacoma is number ONE in the U.S. real estate market currently. Tacoma has been named one of the most livable areas in the entire country and was listed as one of the "most walkable" cities in America. So come for a stroll through T-town with us and see what everyone is talking about! 

As we said when we released our first city guide in the Tacoma series a few weeks back, there is just too much to love about Tacoma to fit into one post! We already covered Downtown and 6th Ave but there are so many more districts to explore, so here we will take you through our favorite places in Stadium and Proctor districts, Historic Old Town, Point Ruston, and Point Defiance! Without further Ado, here are our favorite things to do in Tacoma: Part 2! 



Stadium District:

A little old, a little new… a lot of incredible.

 

Stadium High School

Where did you go to high school? Was it in a castle built in the 1800’s? Tacoma teenagers attending here have something that’s pretty hard to beat. This amazing building was originally meant to be a hotel but ran out of funding and was repurposed as a place of education in the early 1900’s. If it looks familiar to you there’s a reason…. It’s the setting for the cult classic movie “10 Things I Hate About You.” That’s right, this amazing place has seen the likes of Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. Not to mention it’s been visited by Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and other incredible people of history. This school is old, it’s beautiful, it has a secret tunnel, it won a Guinness world record, and is definitely a place worth visiting.

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Seymour Botanical Conservatory 

Listed on the City of Tacoma, Washington State and National Historic registers, the tropical plants taken care of inside of this conservatory continue to enthrall all who visit. These tropical plants and flowers gave many of the early T-Town residents their first chance to learn about many exotic species not common in the PNW. Some of the natural beauties you can see here include orchids, bird of paradise plants, crown of thorns and citrus trees. On regular display, you can expect to find an environment that resembles a midsummer night's dream: more than 250 individual plant species from all over the world. They also host a range of events here! For example: Story Hour for the kiddos (can you imagine a more incredible setting for kids to learn about nature and plants?) or Second Sunday Music, which are live acoustic performances on every second Sunday of the month surrounded by the lush beauty. 

Also, you can enjoy the magnificent colors and fragrances of each season by visiting the grand floral exhibits which happen four times annually.

  • Spring Feb. 12-Apr. 7, 2019: azaleas, cyclamen, tulips, clivia, cymbidium orchids, different species of winter-blooming orchids and oxalis (purple shamrocks).

  • Summer May 7-Jun. 16, 2019: impatiens, salvia, begonias, lilies, caladiums, mimosa pudica, agapanthus, orchids and coleus.

  • Fall Oct. 22-Nov. 24, 2019: peppers, coleus and exhibition mums.

  • Winter Dec. 6, 2019-Jan 5, 2020: cymbidiums, poinsettias, paperwhites and amaryllis.

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Wright Park

This park's impressive collection of over 600 trees makes it the perfect place for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or a place to catch up on some reading in the shade on a beautiful day. Have kids who are out of school for the Summer? The Summer Playgrounds Program is perfect. It's a free program that happens at parks all over Tacoma like Wright Park. Bring the kiddos by Mon-Fri during summer for some fun activities, learning, and games. Speaking of kids... we'd be remiss not to mention what Wright Park refers to as a "sprayground." It's exactly what you think it is! It's a giant playground with water continually shooting up from the ground! It's a child's paradise. Or an adult's. We won't judge. Make sure to get over and enjoy parks like this while we still have a few late summer days left!

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Ramen Moshi Moshi

Ramen: it's so simple, yet so complex. Here, they make their own broth and noodles daily. They also offer traditional izakaya delights like dumplings, fried chicken and grilled meats. They even make a vegan broth that is so rich in flavor from shitake mushroom, kombu, and two types of miso that you would never guess it's vegan. Their impressive bar and sake collection is the perfect companion to this vibrant and delicious menu. The Paper Crane (whiskey, Aperol, and yuzu!) or the Matcha Mule are some of our favorite cocktails. In their own words, in reference to Tacoma's food culture, the chef here said "I thing we're attempting to be a progressive city, trying to do good food without being pretentious, while sticking to who we are: blue collar and gritty, but that doesn't mean we can't care about our food and technique." We couldn't agree more. Make sure to get a little taste of Japan while you're visiting T-Town.

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Point Defiance District:

Right on the water, filled with the outdoors and wildlife.

 

Zoo & Aquarium

Okay, where to begin!? The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium are absolutely the perfect place to spend an afternoon or even the full day. Kids or not, it's a genuinely fun and educational trip for all ages. The zoo and aquarium are the home to over 9,000 different specimens spanning over 350 different species! From goats to polar bears to tigers, elephants and more. Get an up-close visit with a Red Wolf, who, without the help of the zoo, may have gone extinct. And if you're feeling up to it, experience the odd yet incredible sensation of riding a camel! Whatever it is you're looking for, there's a high chance you'll find it here. You can also meet Kazu, their endangered Malaysian tapir calf on the weekends. He's awful cute. At the aquarium, you can watch hammerhead sharks, giant pacific octopus, or touch jellies and tidal creatures. They even do "eye-to-eye" shark dives if you want the thrill of being up close while you learn about them! 

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Point Defiance Park

Most people don't know this, but Point Defiance Park is currently the second-largest inner-city park, second only to Central Park in New York. It's 760 acres are visited by over 3 million people every year. From an awesome off-leash dog park to the zoo to a natural history museum, you could easily spend a full and fun day here at the park. Excellent bike paths wind through the park. They even cut off motor vehicle access on Sunday mornings to give cyclists the freedom to ride the 5 mile loop safely and comfortably. So if you're out for a morning drive or want to take the kids on a fun day out, make sure to keep Point Defiance Park in mind.

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Proctor District:

Oh, the charm of living here! This district has some of our favorite real estate in Tacoma! Tree-lined streets and beautiful homes filled with character that are all centered around a retail core focused on community and local goods. Not to mention the other districts are very close so you don’t have to miss out on any of T-Town.

 

Blue Mouse Theater

Due to the popularity in huge theater chain multiplexes, hard times fell on neighborhood movie theaters in the late 80s and 90s. In the 90s a group of activists joined forces to purchase and restore this amazing property. After removing decades of layers of paint, wood veneer and glass tiles put on in the ‘30s and ‘40s, they discovered the original Craftsman-style timbering, stucco, brick pillars, polished marble terrazzo and original mahogany doors. The same was the case with interior renovation. The theater’s original architectural charm was brought back to life! It’s quite an experience to enjoy either vintage or modern films in this incredible theater.

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Cooks Tavern 

The background of their website is a spattering of mouth-watering olives. They seriously had me at olives. Here you can enjoy some American comfort food done really, really well. The owners also love to travel the world and they make sure that it shows in their menu. They change their menu every four months to stay seasonal and fresh. It's in a very cozy little corner of the Proctor District, is kid-friendly but also has 14 Northwest beers on tap at all times. Sounds like a great time to us! 

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Old Town District:

Small, historic and super charming!

 

Breakfast Montamara Kitchen

If you were traveling through Tacoma about 100 years ago, you might find yourself stumbling on a festival celebrating food, family and friends. The name of this festival? Montamara. It's roughly translated "where the mountain meets the sea." Here at Montamara Kitchen, a keen focus is given to seasonal, locally produced, natural ingredients. They do all the classics really well. Eggs Benny, biscuits n' gravy, chilaquiles, and pulled pork n' biscuits which is a local favorite. You are sure to fall in love with this rustic yet straightforward approach to delicious food.

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Northern Fish Company

Just like us, Northern Fish Co is family-owned and operated. Something we don't see too often in today's landscape. Five generations of the Swanes family have owned and operated Northern Fish Products since 1912. They are proud to be one of the oldest family-owned and operated businesses in Washington State. They have an incredible reputation for providing genuinely quality seafood for years and years. They set a very high standard for a clean, fresh and delicious product that is safe to eat year-round. Stop into one of their shops to pick up some fresh fish for that back yard barbecue or get quite possibly the best halibut fish and chips you'll ever taste.

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Point Ruston District:

Point Ruston is a waterfront village with panoramic views of the South Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier!

 

The Grand Plaza

The Grand Plaza is referred to as the “centerpiece” of Point Ruston. Sprawling over an acre, the Grand Plaza has it all— including a state of the art children’s “sprayground” that mimics the motion of salmon swimming upstream (!) and that concludes every day with a technicolor light show from dusk until close. There’s also a waterfront amphitheater perfect for events and concerts!

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The Mile Long Waterwalk

One of the most popular attractions at Point Ruston is the (nearly) one mile-long scenic “Waterwalk,” or trail system, along Commencement Bay. It’s a gorgeous and well maintained open space for visitors and locals alike to run, stroll, walk their dog, or even rollerblade. Running parallel to the paved waterwalk is a jogging path paved with crushed rock that offers a different terrain but still amazing views at the water’s edge. The waterwalk is also a great place to gain direct access to The Sound for endless water activities, like kayaking or stand up paddle boarding. Just put your board or kayak in the water at the entrance of the Waterwalk and paddle out in the direction of Point Defiance Park!

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Things to do in Fremont

Have you been to the center of the universe? The Fremont neighborhood in Seattle has given itself this bold title. Honestly, after spending some time there, we can absolutely see why! It's a bohemian wonderland littered with great coffee, even better food, and a seemingly endless variety of funky art. Let's face it, anywhere that boasts a gigantic troll under a bridge is a place worth visiting, right? It's just the right distance away from the craziness of downtown and it's seated along a canal. This means as you're buying your fresh produce and local art at the Fremont Sunday Market, you have the gorgeous backdrop of ships slowly passing under the Aurora bridge. Here's why we think you should spend one of these few late summer days left exploring Fremont.


Brouwer's Cafe

Looking for those one-off crazy beers you can't find anywhere else? For over a decade, Brouwer's Cafe has been one of Seattle's most sought-out craft beer destinations. They have over 60 rotating beers on tap and an impressive selection of over 400 bottles to choose from. Plus an incredible scotch collection, impressive whiskey offering, and some pretty swell house cocktails. Now... typically a place with this insane of a beer selection isn't known for its food. Not the case with Brouwer's. Their modern take on classic Belgian cuisine is incredible and they are probably most well known for their mouth-watering lamb burger. So we'll finish with this: after a long day of cycling along the canal or walking the Fremont Sunday Market, Brouwer's is the perfect place to cut loose and unwind.

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The Whale Wins

Waterfront dining at it's best. Renee Erickson was awarded a James Beard award in 2016 and when you visit this establishment, it's apparent why. This vegetable-forward menu is the embodiment of local and seasonal. They do a near flawless job of gathering fresh ingredients from the local coastline, farms and gardens, cooking them to perfection in their wood-fired oven, then excitingly serving them for the table to share. Renee's own words sum it up perfectly: "The Whale Wins is a warm, approachable, neighborhood restaurant — a place to enjoy great wines by the glass, draft beer, spirited cocktails, and flavorful, ingredient-focused food with friends and family." 

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Theo Chocolate

If you're looking for the closest thing to a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory kind of experience (and yes, of course we're referring to the Gene Wilder version), then make sure to tour the Theo chocolate factory while you're in Fremont! There may not be any Oompa Loompas, but you will be stuffed to the gills in amazing samples. All the while you can feel good about supporting these guys because frankly, they're amazing when it comes to running a sustainable business. They build long-term relationships with farmers around the world, and their products reflect the value of those relationships and the quality of cocoa they buy. They go above and beyond to support critical needs like reforestation programs in Peru and maternal health initiatives in Eastern Congo. Every bar contributes to Theo's positive impact all over the globe. And if that wasn't enough, the chocolate is just amazing! Personal faves are the mint or chili dark chocolate, but they are sure to always have exciting new flavors! 

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Mischief Distillery 

At Mischief, the tastings are lively, engaging, and delicious. The grounds are pristine, the decor is unique, and the owners and staff are inviting. We love that all their whiskeys are exclusively rye whiskeys because of a commitment to sustainability in their local growing region here in Washington and Oregon (and rye grain being the only grain not requiring chemicals to grow). Because of committing to this specific type of whiskey, they've really honed their skills and consider themselves "rye experts." In addition to the rye, we have to say their gin is one of the best we've ever had: the aromatics they use really make it unique and stand out from the norm. If you leave your tasting with a bottle or two, don't miss the cocktail recipes on their website! 

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Kamonegi 

In Japan, soba is a way of life, but here in the States, soba restaurants are few and far between. We love that Kamonegi is trying to change that! What this cozy little restaurant lacks in seating and space, they make up for in incredible service and perfectly executed dishes. The chef-owner is an artisan soba maker and the Japanese equivalent of a sake sommelier, so you are getting a very authentic soba and sake experience with an aggressively seasonal & modern slant. The soba noodles themselves are outrageously good, nutty with a perfect al-dente chew. We recommend starting with the umami-rich broccolini tempura with parmesan and miso anchovy aioli, moving onto the mushroom soba with leek, mitsuba, and truffle oil, and finishing off with the charcoal Butter Mochi Cake with grilled corn ice cream and soy caramel. But the staff can guide you through all your questions and you really can't go wrong with anything you decide on. 

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Sunday Market

This European style indoor-outdoor market has been building a following for almost 30 years now. Over 200 vendors bring antiques, collectibles, retro, vintage, original fashion, tools, and estate sale treasures. Also, there's a continually changing bazaar of unusual items from all over the world, new and innovative designers, artists and craftsmen with one-of-a-kind artisan products. Don't even get us started on the gourmet food trucks that line up to offer their incredibly eclectic cuisines. The market is free and happens no matter what the weather brings. With Seattle's own Theo Chocolate on one end and the Red Door Ale House on the other, its surrounded by a fabulous selection of neighboring shops, cafes and restaurants. Little insider's tip: The Red Door Ale House has some of the best buffalo wings we've ever had.

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Canal Park

Right along the canal you'll find this unique and truly romantic park. It sort of winds along the water with a beautiful walking trail. It features several benches to watch the ships slowly pass or to watch the incredible summer sunsets. Or walk right up to the canal and sit above the water for a more intimate view. The park provides a community gathering space, notably for the annual Fremont Fair, which is celebrated in June and draws more than 100,000 people! On a beautiful night, take someone you love to an incredible meal in Fremont, then find a spot on the canal and watch the sun go down. Hard to beat! 

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Burke Gilman Trail

The 19 mile long Burke Gilman is without a doubt the most popular trail in Seattle. It's paved. It's flat. It's beautiful. What more could you ask for in a trail? From commuters cycling to work daily to evening joggers, it's rare ever to find this trail empty. We bring it up here because quite a nice stretch of it takes you right through Fremont. You follow the beautiful curvy path of the canal and see some pretty interesting installments like the Fremont Rocket, Vladimir Lenin statue, and the Fremont Troll. If you want to explore Fremont on a bike, the Burke Gilman trail is the way to do it.

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Fremont Troll

Ah yes... The infamous Fremont Troll. In 1989, the city launched an art competition to fix up the area under the bridge, which was becoming a common hang out for drug dealers. Later that year a team led by sculptor Steve Badanes started a project inspired by the folktale Billy Goat's Gruff. It's 18 ft. tall and made of 2 tons of concrete and is 100% weird. But that's what's so great about areas like Fremont! It's home to some major tech giants and big business, yet has a giant creepy troll sculpture under its bridges. It's incredible.

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Vintage Mall

You're walking along, head down an art-filled stairwell out of nowhere and it opens up into this massively packed, super funky, super cool vintage shop. Imagine you went to 900 estate sales and painstakingly picked out only the very coolest items you could find. Organize them in an easy to browse fashion in a basement in Fremont and you've got the Vintage Mall! From rare vinyl to vintage pyrex to that insanely cool armchair your great-great-grandmother hand made for great grandmother... Even if you're not looking to buy anything, you'll leave here with some crazy cool trinket you won't soon forget.

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Tacoma Top Ten

It isn’t just Tacoma’s real estate market that’s grown in the last few years— this urban port city has been changing for the better and is really on par with Seattle in so many ways! Not only does it warrant a visit, but the sense of community just feels so welcoming and special for such a big city that you may just decide to stay for longer once you’re here. 

There were so many places and things we were excited to talk about that this is part one of a series we will be featuring on Tacoma, WA! For now, we’re going to take a stroll through Downtown and 6th Ave—because it’s alive with impressive art culture, hip restaurants, waterfront views, and shops! 

Here’s our Tacoma Top 10! 


Blue Beard Coffee Roasters 

Third-wave coffee in a restored old building, with plenty of natural light and open space—perfect for that place you need sometimes between work and home. Since their coffee roasting takes place in the main area, you are met with the delicious aroma the second you walk in. They believe that their success is no great secret— just a simple combination of finding neat coffee, roasting it well, and extracting it precisely. The staff is always happy to answer questions and take pride in their craft. We highly recommend a cortado and a bit of people watching while you sip it. 

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Asado

This incredible Argentinian restaurant is right in the heart of the 6th avenue dining district. Garage doors roll up and open the restaurant to fresh air and happy hour seekers during the day and at night the dim lighting creates a very intimate, romantic and rustic feel. The smell of smoke  wafting in the air as they slow grill meats over mesquite wood is part of the ambience. They offer lunch, a phenomenal happy hour (all their bar menu food items are 50% off), and of course, dinner. Although Argentinians are most well known for their grilled meat, they also make incredible pasta and have amazing seafood dishes like the Asado seared sea bass with piquillo beurre blanc. Don’t miss the ceviche, empanadas, or queso frito on the starters menu, either. This is a great place to come with a group and share the food family style so you can try a bit of everything!

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Dirty Oscar’s Annex

This is what we love about the northwest: Bars aren’t just bars here! They are places you can go for excellent food that also happen to serve drinks. At Dirty Oscar’s, they are known their creative, handcrafted moonshine cocktails, New American, elevated comfort food, and relaxed vibe. So whether you want fried chicken & waffles for brunch, parmesan tots or elk sliders for happy hour, the chicken quinoa salad for a lighter, healthier lunch option, or shrimp and grits for dinner— they have a unique and exciting menu that has you covered any time of day. On Wednesdays, they offer any whiskey or scotch on their shelf for only $5 and 10/10 we would recommend the moonshine mule with homemade ginger beer. 

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Wooden City

We love the clean, modern, but inviting vibe of this local favorite spot. The open kitchen and shelving is not only aesthetically pleasing but makes it feel a little more familiar and approachable. We like that it has a grown-up feel but is still kid-friendly. Wooden city has happy hour every single day, even on the weekends. In addition to small plates and wood-fired pizza, the beet ravioli is a fan favorite and the peel & eat shrimp come highly recommended by locals. Personally, we think their smoked salmon toast is a thing of beauty and we are still talking about the pink rabbit cocktail— gin, Aperol, peach, lemon, and frothed egg white— which was unbelievably refreshing and delightfully floral. 

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Sel

Here’s a little gem of Tacoma that shouldn’t be overlooked. We love the small, intimate setting and vintage feel just as much as the French cuisine itself and the way it’s plated. They have a phenomenal brunch here: fantastic coffee served in a french press and might we suggest the brioche Pommes French toast? To top it off, the outdoor seating overlooks the bay. It doesn’t get much better than that if you ask us. 

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Ice Cream Social

This is the place in town if you want handcrafted ice cream with natural, locally sourced ingredients. Which is always, right?! They have every-day flavors you can always depend on being there like roasted banana, almond poppyseed, and salted caramel as well as rotating, seasonal flavors. Right now it’s blackberry ginger or black sesame we can’t get enough of. There are also always Dairy Free and Vegan options for those with dietary restrictions! 

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Ruston Mercantile 

A little walking and shopping along 6th Ave is a great way to spend your time between meals, and we love Ruston Mercantile for unique home goods and truly special gifts. They even have some select pieces of great quality furniture. The owners themselves are present and so helpful. So swing in, smell the candles, and grab a gift— for yourself or a loved one! 

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Glass Museum 

There are many options to chose from in the Museum district of downtown, but you can’t miss this one. You can explore the museum yourself or chose a guided tour, but we highly recommend the Hot Shop where you can watch glass artists in action! They create blown glass artwork live while step by step their process is narrated to you. These daily demonstrations help to deepen your understanding and appreciation for how everything in the museum is made! Also, don’t miss the Chihuly bridge of glass! It's a 500-ft pedestrian overpass between the museum and downtown and is considered a Tacoma landmark. Oh, and on the third Thursday of every month, the museum stays open late and offers free admission from 5-8pm!

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The Grand Cinema

This cinema may not be grand in size but it is certainly grand in personality and intentions. It is a nonprofit theater for indie & foreign films and is so community-oriented. On the third Sat of every month, they welcome all ages to a free family-friendly movie. Every Wednesday they offer modified baby & sensory-friendly screenings for parents with infants or autistic children, intending to give these families a break from being at home while still providing a safe space for those that wish to move around, dance, talk and express themselves throughout the movie. They also offer film education programs, like screenwriting workshops and a summer film camp. They even teamed up with local a restaurant (Red Star Taco Bar) to bring you dinner & a movie— a taco plate, margarita, & movie for two for only $25 a person. 

And between us… they also have a new pizza & a movie deal with Sammy's Pizza here.

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Alma Mater

This relatively new, hip and beautiful space is more of a “tell me what you don’t do!” situation. It’s a coffee shop, restaurant, live music venue, art gallery, and courtyard night market all under one roof. Their goal is to “make space for artists” and support the Tacoma community through all the avenues we as humans seem to enjoy— food, performance, and social exchange. You can start any day off at Honey, their all-day brunch restaurant that serves espresso beverages and a wide range of breakfast options, including vegetarian, vegan, and allergy-friendly plates. With options like baked eggs in black lentils with goat cheese or the lemon ricotta stuffed ebelskivers, it's impossible to pick just one! In the evening on Thursdays through Saturdays, this same space is used for storytelling, open mic, book clubs, live bands, and comedy shows. Fawcett Hall is the main venue space, although they try to reserve space throughout their entire building for smaller events and shows. They also have a restaurant called Matriarch with an impressive dinner menu and handcrafted cocktails!

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Fried chicken isn’t all we know…

We’d love to help you find your next home.