TNT Diner

Here’s a look at Tacoma’s newest cocktail den. It’ll remind you of the Regal Beagle

A Grasshopper is topped with a raft of bubbles at The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma.
A Grasshopper is topped with a raft of bubbles at The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. skidd@thenewstribune.com

Consider The Fern Room cocktail lounge a campy collection of all things ‘70s.

There’s a menu that would be at home at your Aunt Dottie’s pinochle game.

The cocktails sport names you probably haven’t heard for a few decades: Harvey Wallbanger, Grasshopper, Brandy Alexander and Midori Sour.

The decor of the new downtown Tacoma bar at 728 Pacific looks straight out of the Regal Beagle, that mythical bar from ‘70s sitcom, “Three’s Company.”

I’m talking macrame curtains, stained glass lamps and potted ferns everywhere.

The lounge’s funky ‘70s sense-of-place feels unlike any other downtown Tacoma bar, save for Devil’s Reef, the nautical themed theatrical retreat in a cavernous space in the St. Helens neighborhood.

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The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

It’s no surprise that both concept bars are owned by Jason and Robyn Alexander. If that whole bar thing doesn’t work out for the couple (not likely), they could pursue a second career as set designers. Walking into Devil’s Reef feels like wandering onto a Disney ride.

The couple operated the tiki cocktail lounge Tacoma Cabana in the home of The Fern Room for six years, but the couple flipped the concept in October.

Robyn is responsible for The Fern Room’s food menu, which looks inspired by Sunday supper at grandma’s house — fancy deviled eggs, Swedish meatballs over egg noodles and Salisbury steak.

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An order of Swedish meatballs over egg noodles at The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Jason is the barkeep and calls his cocktail menu a reinvention of 1970s and 1980s era drinks, but slightly more complicated.

“I applied all my tiki knowledge and know-how to these old drinks from the ‘70s and re-imagined them. They’re obviously not tiki drinks, but they’re definitely influenced, so you have nice depth and balance of flavor in the drinks,” he said.

That tiki influence shows up in the universal house sweet-and-sour mix he makes from house-squeezed citrus juice and spices. All the creamy drinks — there are many — are fueled with a tiki classic of coconut cream, which makes them ultra frothy without any of the pain and suffering dairy can cause so many diners. Alexander also makes the coconut cream from scratch using coconut steeped in coconut oil and blended with coconut milk and a few secret ingredients.

Here’s a first-bite look of the new lounge.

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A tequila sunrise, left, and The Spaghetti Western, from The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Drink categories: Newcomers to these kinds of drinks will appreciate the menu categories designed to help the unfamiliar.

“Smooth and creamy” drinks list the grasshopper, brandy Alexander, lemon drop and fuzzy navel, all made with the house coconut cream ($10 to $12).

“Lush and dreamy” drinks include classic sour cocktails, such as an amaretto, midori and whiskey sour, plus tequila sunrise and salty dog ($10 to $12).

There’s also a menu of three $10 frozen cocktail drinks — Long Island Iced Tea, a White Russian and Mac Nut Chi Chi.

Highballs are just as they sound — the family of Collins cocktails and more ($6).

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The dining room of The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Order at the counter: Food and drink brought to your table, but order and pay at the counter.

Kids: Allowed until 10 p.m. in the front dining room.

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A salty dog from The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

That salty dog: This is the one drink grapefruit lovers should not miss.

“I wanted to cram as much grapefruit flavor as I could into the salty dog,” said Alexander of the grapefruit and vodka cocktail that comes with a touch of salt. “You get grapefruit layered four ways in this drink between the flavored vodka, the juice, a grapefruit cordial and other things.”

Tart, tangy, salty and delicious ($10).

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A tequila sunrise is a pretty shade of pink at The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Also drink on a first visit: The grasshopper tasted like Christmas in a glass with layers of mint and chocolate and topped with a frothy cloud of bubbles from well-shaken coconut cream ($10).

Alexander’s version of a tequila sunrise was pink from grenadine and got a tweak of orange from liqueur rather than a cloud of orange juice, which I’ve never really cared for in cocktails ($10). This was expertly balanced: sweet, tart and boozy.

The Spaghetti Western combined two divergent spirits I’d never think to put together — bourbon and Galliano ($12). The cocktail smelled more of licorice than tasted of it. The bourbon and sweet-and-sour mix were the anchor flavors.

The Long Island Iced Tea was slap-you-in-the-face strong with a subtle cola finish ($10). I can’t wait to sip the other two house slushy cocktails, the White Russian and Mac Nut Chi Chi ($10).

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Fancy deviled eggs from The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Eat on a first visit: Swedish meatballs, housemade and served over egg noodles and a generous river of sour cream gravy ($12). That same beefy gravy, minus the sour cream, shows up on the Salisbury steak ($12). Don’t miss the deviled eggs topped with bacon and dill and possibly the prettiest presentation in town ($6).

More of the menu: Street tacos ($9), caprese skewers ($6), tomato soup and grilled cheese ($12) and a turkey croissant sandwich ($12).

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Uncle Owen’s Blue Milk is one of many ‘Star Wars’ references at The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

May the force be with you: “Star Wars” fans, be sure to try Uncle Owen’s Blue Milk, a sly wink to Luke Skywalker and his Uncle Owen from the original “Star Wars” movie. The creamy blue drink combines rum, coconut cream, fresh citrus and a splash of “blue stuff,” as Alexander calls it ($10). I’m pretty sure it came from a bantha.

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270, @tntdiner

The Fern Room

Where: 728 Pacific Ave., Tacoma

Hours: Open at 5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.

Note. All-ages until 10 p.m.

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