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Best hidden gem: The Mule Tavern

Winner in 2017's Best of Tacoma

South Tacoma Way’s Mule Tavern boasts an impressive array of liquor -- including 30 to 40 different types of whiskey. Photo credit: Allegra Antwine

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When choosing the ideal bar, one must go through a mental checklist of the attributes of importance: ambiance, drink and food selection, friendliness of staff, and more. In order to hook patrons into returning, these characteristics must be met for people of all different interests and tastes. Luckily, South Tacoma Way's Mule Tavern has done a fine job of checking boxes and establishing rapport with locals since its establishment in 2016.

The brainchild of longtime bartender Sam Halhuli, the Mule Tavern was conceptualized in part by what he saw while working and visiting various establishments in the Seattle and Bellingham areas.

"I have wanted to open my own bar for a long time. It's something I have been working toward for (more than) ten years," Halhuli said. "What makes the bar unique is the inspiration behind it. It came from frustration with the fact (that) I felt like I had to choose between either going out for cocktails and being comfortable in a casual setting or going to a dive bar -- I felt like I had to compromise. I wanted to build my dream bar. I wanted to have a place where one guy felt like he could order a Bud Light and the next person could have a really well-crafted cocktail."

Although the bar does indeed serve up Moscow mules, Mule Tavern offers a host of other delicious and refreshing adult beverages.

"We do good cocktails, but we are also kind of a dive bar," Halhuli offered. "We have a little bit of craft beer, we have a little bit of almost every liquor someone could want. We have at least thirty to forty kinds of whiskey. I really make an effort to offer something for everyone, without diluting authenticity. Everything we're doing, we're doing right."

The Mule Tavern also offers the drink that played a role in its name: the Moscow mule, which is essentially vodka, ginger beer and lime juice. It also offers El Diablos, Pimm's Cups, drinks made with Bradley's Kina Tonic, and of course -- a good Old Fashioned.

Aspects that allow the Mule Tavern to shine are its dedication to authenticity, mission to diversity in clientele and emphasis on community involvement. With lively events such as open mic burlesque shows, palm readings, monthly vinyl DJ nights and charity dance parties, there's always something that appeals to a wide variety of interests.

"My intention is for people to like the bar," Halhuli said. "All members of the community are welcome here. It's a safe place."

The Mule Tavern, 4 p.m. to midnight, Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday, 5227 South Tacoma Way, 253.212.3112,

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