Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue is arguably the most representative street of Tacoma. It starts just up the hill from the waterfront at Antique Row, goes past The Hob Nob and Wright’s Park, then by It’s Greek To Me and Jason Lee Middle School, past that is one O’Malley’s, one of the best dive bars in Tacoma, a little past that is the best Indian Restaurant in that state, Gateway to India. About a block up from there is a Piano Bar called Chopsticks. Before that it was a place called Fenders and just across the street from there is a coffee shop called Shakabra Java. Just a few blocks up from that is a 7-11 near the campus for the University of Puget Sound, but before you get that far up the road, look to your left and you just might see a little bar called The Red Hot.
I first heard about The Red Hot from my friend Bridget. She told me it was a bar that sold gourmet hot dogs. I thought to myself ‘a bar called The Red Hot that sells hot dogs….how is this not a gay bar?’ Not that I have a problem with that. Hell gay bars are the only places where someone might buy me a drink. But Bridget insisted it wasn’t a gay bar and that their hot dogs were amazing. Personally I’m not one for hot dogs, but as much as I love the Parkway, sometimes a little variety is good.
So the other day when I was in the neighborhood with my friend Nate, we went to the Red Hot. Turns out, despite knowing about where it was and having Nate even point it out to me, I drove right by the place. This is not a bar that screams out its location (Unlike Hell’s Kitchen further up Sixth Ave.).I turned around, found a place to park and we walked into one of the smallest bars I’ve ever been to. The walls are red (which makes sense if you’re going to call a place The Red Hot). The first thing I noticed though was that a bartender named Anne worked there. I knew her from a couple of her previous jobs. One as a bartender at O’Malley’s. Another as the woman I paid my rent to at Williams’ Properties. At some point I will write more about Williams’ Properties and their recently deceased patriarch, Rex Williams, but right now the important thing is that a bartender I recognize poured us a pitcher of Cinder Cone. Cinder Cone is a great red ale and exactly the sort of beer Nate and I can agree on.
We selected a table near the front of the place. There’s a big window looking out on Sixth Avenue and from it we watched this pimp-looking guy on a bicycle repeatedly ride around then stop and use the pay phone across the street. I picked up their menu off the table, which is actually just a tall thin laminated card printed on both sides. The entire menu was hot dogs. Hot dogs with onions, mustard, chili, whatever. And most of them had Tacoma-centric names. Being a lifelong Tacoman, I could appreciate names like ‘The Hilltop Stranger’. Still, I’m not a hot dog guy. So I just order a hotdog with meat chili and no mustard. (They call it The Coney). It was good, but not amazing. But that’s just my opinion. Bridget feels entirely differently. Nate didn’t have one so I don’t know how he feels.
A short while later Bridget showed up and as we were talking, I realized this bar wasn’t half bad. It was Wednesday, which apparently means Movie Night. That night’s movie was Shaun Of The Dead. A good movie to watch in a bar; It’s damn funny and not something you have to pay complete attention to. Unfortunately it wasn’t on for another hour and a half and we weren’t going to be there that long.
The Red Hot is a good addition to Sixth Avenue and Tacoma. And if you’re someone who likes hot dogs, you’ll probably like it even better than I do. Here’s hoping it lasts longer than Fenders.
The Red Hot
2914 6th Ave
Tacoma, WA 98406