Manuscript and Dialogue joins Tacoma late night scene

By Drew Dotson, For the Tacoma Daily Index

Tacoma’s late night scene added a combination restaurant and nightclub this year with the opening of Manuscript and Dialogue.

“The name comes from being close to the Theater District. Manuscript is like a story being told,” owner and operator of Manuscript and Dialogue, Eda Johnson, said. “It also kind of has a dual meaning in like, ‘This is the standard of how we feel like a business in this area should operate.’”

Johnson said she has worked for a lot of bad people while working in the restaurant business since she was 17 years old. She wants her restaurant to not be a miserable place to work.

“It’s pretty important for us to create a good work environment,” Johnson said. “Leaning into that concept, we tip pool because we believe we are all in it together and the kitchen is included in that.

The other half of the building is dedicated to an event space called Dialogue.

“We want it to be like a hub for artists of different mediums. So dialogue being like a conversation that happens between an artist, like a DJ, and someone attending a show,” Johnson said. “It’s also pretty intentional why we didn’t have any TVs in the space because we want people to interact. We want to create that communal space.”

Electronic dance music DJs can be found performing at Dialogue every Saturday, while a variety of artists can be heard on Friday nights, Johnson said. But the space is not exclusive to musicians.

“We also host maker’s markets and stuff like that in the back space. We host community yoga on the first and third Thursdays of the month,” Johnson said.

As a DJ and vocalist herself, Johnson said she wants to create a venue that supports the artists.

“Door fees always go to artists. The restaurant doesn’t keep much of that because we believe in the arts,” Johnson said.

After graduating from Spaceworks, an initiative that helps artists and creative entrepreneurs activate vacant space in Tacoma, Johnson said her and her husband had been trying to open a nightclub space in Tacoma for years.

“We’ve noticed that a solid place to dance doesn’t really exist in Tacoma until now. We wanted to create a space where artists can express and people can experience that expression and be a part of it,” Johnson said. “Given my experience in restaurants, the two being together made a lot of sense.”

Johnson said the city took a big loss when Alma Mater, a multipurpose venue and restaurant in downtown Tacoma, closed last year.

“I felt like that was a communal space that we kind of needed. I feel like this is more of an organic and local version of that,” Johnson said.

Johnson said they saw a lot of potential in the building that led them to choose the location at 203 Tacoma Ave.

“That venue space had been taken up by a lot of tables and benches that were permanent structures. When we stripped everything out we realized this could be a 200-person venue,” Johnson said.

The combination of event space and dining space is what drew Johnson to the space. With large garage doors in the front of the building, the space can be open air when the weather is nice. Johnson said they are also going to be launching access to a beer garden this summer as well.

Johnson described the food at Manuscript as “italian-inspired” because she doesn’t want to be limited by a certain cuisine. She described a Korean-inspired bim bap burger that they currently have on their menu, but said their head chef, Brandon Barrios, has a background in pizza and handmade pasta.

“All of our pizza is made from scratch. It’s Roman pan pizza so it is a little bit different then a lot of the pizza you can find in the rest of the city,” Johnson said. “It’s almost like focaccia,thicker crust and a little bit crunchy on the bottom. He also makes all the pasta from scratch too.”

Johnson said when she heard Barrios, the former head chef of Bar Rosa, was leaving the restaurant, she wanted to add him to the team at Manuscript.

“At the time he was about to leave to travel to Europe to spend some time learning in a variety of kitchens over there, some farm to table stuff,” Johnson said.

When he came back from Europe, Johnson said he would help her get Manuscript off the ground because the space had a big pizza oven and he had a lot of experience in pizza making. After getting involved in the restaurant, he decided to stick around.

“He is now an integral part of it and actually is becoming a business partner too,” Johnson said.

Johnson said her background is in craft cocktails, in which the restaurant offers a wide variety.

“I don’t like to be boxed in too much by certain genres and playing by the rules. We just come up with drinks that taste good,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she wanted people to know there is now a place in Tacoma for late nights. She said they keep a limited food menu available until 1:30 a.m.

“There are so few places in this city, other than drive-thru, where you can eat quality food late at night and be on the dance floor too with your food. That’s one of our things too: pizza on the dance floor,” Johnson said.

Johnson hopes to convince people that Tacoma has a good nightlife on its own.

“There’s no need to go all the way up to Seattle, spend the money, fight the traffic. We have a ton of talented DJs and artists in this area and they have a place to play now,” Johnson said.