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Western R Bar & Grill's gin and tonic

The Puyallup Avenue joint seems more friendly

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Tacoma has an abundance of dives — some murky, some dark, some that smell funny, some that are just plain dangerous. There are joints, holes-in-the-wall and hellholes of every description in this town — the Western R took the prize, because depending on what day of the week and what hour of the day you arrive, the Western R could be any (or all) of these things.

I’ll be damned if the Western R didn’t morph into a decent place.

In the past I would hit the Western R usually to “finish up” after a night at the Emerald Queen Casino. Usually it would be late, I’d be half in the bag and have little interest in anything other than the square foot of bar top directly in front of me — the magical zone in which I would lay down money and it would miraculously turn into booze. But last Friday Tator Tot and I end up at the Western R relatively early in evening.

I ordered a gin and tonic easily enough, but it takes Tator Tot five or six tries to find a beer they actually carry. And it’s not like she ordered some obscure German hägenschtüffel. We’re talking your basic faux microbrews. Finally, she ordered a Heineken, which provoked a smart look from the bartender, as if the Bud Light everyone else drank tasted like golden nectar or something. To be fair, the bartender, Donna, was awesome. She treated us like royalty all night and begged us to come back to the “new Western R” soon.

We grabbed a seat at one of the high tables and discussed how happy we were with the entertainment. The Peninsula-based band Wheels cranked blues and rock hits of the past proficiently. The band members traded instruments several times during the night. Talented chaps. One guy sounds like Tom Waits. The aging bongo player grooved like one of those Fembots from the Austin Powers flick. Righteous dude!

I noticed Bill Farmer moved his Thursday night open jam to the Western R. I highly recommend it.

I also couldn’t help notice the kitchen in the back as it was the brightest spot on the planet. I think the light was shrinking everyone’s tumors. Through the glare I could make out a bored woman slumped in a chair waiting for an order. She waited all night.

We felt safe inside throughout the night. And it wasn’t because our favorite giant, bald blues singer was in the house. Rather, they have a security guard in the corner. He was only summoned once. The drunk woman finally moved and became the human pinball.

Donna says the Christmas beers are on their way. Put one on ice dear, I’m showing up early tonight.

[Western R Bar & Grill, 1214 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.627. 6920]

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