The Church Cantina: yummy eats and spooky beats

A wonderful gathering place for local goths and horror fanatics.

As a new writer for the Tacoma Ledger and a veteran goth, I’ve made it my mission to create a small community for students who are into goth subculture. I’ve met lovely souls during my time on campus, and have heard the same thing over and over again: it’s rough making friends out here. This is especially true for those who are part of the goth, alternative, j-fashion and punk communities. I find that even though we are many, there are very few places that cater to our specific subcultures. That is why I’ve set off on a journey to find, promote and perhaps even create these places for my classmates and other peers in the Tacoma area.

The Church Cantina is a hidden gem that deserves to be talked about more often. It was surprising to me that I hadn’t heard of such a well-kept, innovative and fun little restaurant. It was even more surprising that I only found out about it through a Facebook group. My first impressions were very positive: the owners engage with their customers often and know their stuff. It’s not just a goth-themed restaurant and bar, but it’s also a goth-run restaurant & bar. 

The owners, Nicole and Adam, opened their doors four years ago. Their mission is simple: they wanted to create a space where everyone feels welcome. Their idea sprouted from the wish of making a restaurant/bar that has no sports (yucky) and some quality music. I mean, who wouldn’t want to sit at a bar & listen to The Cure while taking sips? 

Despite its very niche and targeted décor, Nicole and Adam aim to please and cater their Cuban-inspired menu to be delicious & inclusive, with a wide variety of vegan dishes. As a Puerto Rican though, I’d definitely consider their menu to be more Latinx-inspired than Cuban since their food ranges from elotes, nachos and tacos to tostones, chimichurri steaks and chorizo. That’s why I made the decision to try their ‘Cantina Cuban” sandwich and really put them up to the test. But it’s safe to say it was delicious, toasty and savory. I matched it with their “Strawberry Apocalypse” cocktail, and I fell into unholy heaven. Extra props for adding garlic to the sandwich, and for the extremely clever names for every item!

Other than their yummy food, they have some of the best decor I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. There are framed retro horror movie posters throughout the entire establishment. Skulls, pumpkins and serial killer props adorn the walls and hang between liquor bottle shelves. There’s also a large collection of intricate, golden mirrors, statuettes and knick knacks that scream vampire goth. For lack of a better description, it gave “Van Helsing”vibes. But my favorite piece by far was their hanging skeleton chandelier. Each skeleton is tied together by chains and they each hold candles that light up the room. I also had no idea before visiting that they have a separate recreational area with a small collection of horror-themed pinball and skee ball games. One of them being “Munsters” themed, which I thought was so unique. There’s also a large pool table where patrons often go to have drinks and vibe with the music. I felt like a little kid “ooo”-ing and “aaa”-ing at every little detail. Especially when I kept finding myself thinking how cute some of those decorations would look in my room. I’m definitely using it as decor inspiration when I get my own house!

On the 2nd Friday of every month, they host a goth night with DJs spinning Bauhaus, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Clan of Xymox, Molchat Doma and other goth and darkwave bands. These events start anywhere from 8 p.m. till 2 a.m. This is the perfect chance to meet with friends, have a few drinks and jam to your favorite songs. Though I couldn’t make it this week for their one-year goth night anniversary, I’ll definitely be dropping by for the next one. If you find some free time and would like to de-stress from the busy student life, I recommend visiting The Church Cantina. Just remember to stay safe, drink responsibly and Goo Goo Muck it out with your spooky pals.

Photo by The Church Cantina via Facebook | An example of a poster from November 2022, DJs change every so often with the Facebook announcing the change over.