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John Batchelor

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Six reasons Tacoma is better than Seattle

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Until recently, I lived my whole life in or just outside of Tacoma. About six months ago I moved to Seattle for work.

The move was really good for me, and even with all its flaws, I feel like Seattle is a nice fit.

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That doesn’t mean there aren’t several things I miss about my old stomping grounds. Here are the big six.

Growth is … different in Seattle: This isn’t breaking news, but the whole region is filling with more and more people. Seattle is driving the growth, obviously, but places like Tacoma aren’t immune.

Both cities are growing, but the quality of the expansion feels different. In Seattle, the growth feels exponential and overwhelming. In Tacoma, it’s still a lot but it feels less … blazing.

The pace of change in Tacoma felt more manageable and it was still at least kind of a big deal when a new restaurant opened. Meanwhile, Seattle is a city that feels harder and harder to know when individual neighborhoods keep reinventing themselves.

The best bar in the region: My friend and I discovered Tacoma’s North End Social Club one Saturday night while we were searching Sixth Avenue for a bar with a shuffleboard table. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but I liked it enough to start following the bar’s Instagram account.

That’s how I learned the bar gave out free pizza for every Seahawks game. I know, I know — it’s a marketing ploy. Every time I went to watch a game I would spend more money on drinks than I would have if I watched the game at home and ordered a pizza.

Don’t care. I loved it. I started to get to know the bartenders and I started to feel like a regular. It was so fun.

North End isn’t a brewery where you’re limited just to the beer they brew in the back. All the taps rotate and they feature a ton of unique local brews. I highly recommend visiting some time they have Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout on nitro.

Frisko Freeze: Dick’s is great. Very reasonable price given the quality, and they’re pretty quick, too. Unless it’s past 9 p.m. on a weekend, in which case the wait will be at least 30 minutes and you’ll be surrounded by drunks (but it’s OK because let’s face it, you’re drunk too).

Frisko Freeze in Tacoma is so much better. They are a little more expensive, but it’s worth it. I recommend going at night. It gets too busy during the lunch hour, but anytime after 8 p.m. is good. Plus the big, neon sign out front is cooler after dark.

If you’re going to go to Frisko Freeze you do need to go all out, though. Get a burger and fries and a shake. Frisko is really a place that’s leaning into the nostalgic factor, but not in an annoying, insincere way, and that’s what makes it great.

Not paying rent: Before moving to Seattle, I lived with my parents and they very graciously allowed me to live rent-free. Obviously, moving out required signing a lease.

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I actually think my rent is pretty reasonable compared to a lot of my friends here in Seattle. I live in a small two bedroom that I split with a roommate. That’s never stopped my parents from reminding me I’m paying more in rent than they’ve ever paid in their lives.

Tacoma Comedy Club’s Open Mic: Comedy open mics are a real mixed bag, and when I say mixed-bag, I mean they’re so close to unilaterally terrible.

You just have to go into it with the right mindset, pretend like you’re panning for gold. Chances are slim you’ll end up with anything, but at the same time, you could stumble upon something really lovely. If you’re not mentally prepared for what to expect, you might end up like this fool.

That being said, as open mics go, Tacoma Comedy Club’s Wednesday night show is one of the best. To sign up, comics have to email in advance, sometimes a month before they’ll perform. This means you aren’t just getting people off the street. One time at an open mic I witnessed a guy put the microphone down his pants. They had to kick him out and get a new mic.

The ceilings are a little high for a comedy club, but the shows move quickly and they attract a reasonably-sized audience most weeks which is probably the biggest factor in an open mic’s success.

Thrift stores: Tacoma has its hipsters, but they’re still a spectacle. In Seattle, they’re commonplace.

That’s why the thrift stores are better in Tacoma. You’re competing against fewer other weirdos for that silly old dad-shirt.

If you’re a real fan of vintage clothing, Scorpio Rising (also on Sixth Avenue) is my favorite. Don’t go in expecting Goodwill prices, but you’ll find some really neat stuff. In particular, they do a great job of curating local vintage items.

Just one final thought: If you’re a recent college grad, like I was, considering a move from the small city to the bigger one, I recommend waiting as long as reasonably possible. Seattle, with all of its big, expensive problems, will still be here when you’re ready.

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