By Terri Gleich
With a waterfront location, dock service and the well-worn comfort of a beloved family beach house, the Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor is more than a restaurant, it’s a quintessential Pacific Northwest experience.
“When somebody comes to Gig Harbor and says, ‘Where do we go?’ the number one stop is the Tides,” said longtime customer Lowell Hartkorn.
“It’s our go-to place,” agreed his wife, Dottie. “When the kids come up from California, they want to see us and they want to go to the Tides.”
The 21-and-older restaurant is known for its seafood, especially lightly battered fish and chips and creamy, thyme-infused clam chowder. Thrillist recently listed it among the 21 best seafood shacks in America.
But the 10-page menu also offers a wide variety of burgers, salads, sandwiches and pizzas.
The 42-year-old restaurant, which is built into the hillside and juts out over the water on pilings, seats 195 inside and 73 on the deck. The wood-paneled walls are scuffed with dings from countless chair backs and covered with nautical art and photos of customers in Tides t-shirts posing in front of landmarks around the world.
“It can get a little loud,” said Tides CEO and co-owner Dylan Stanley. “Vibrant people are coming here to enjoy themselves in an adult environment. Everybody is talking and having great conversations. Blue collar, white collar, everybody is equal here.”
Adding to the party atmosphere is the Tides’ 128-foot dock, where boats tie up four and five deep on the weekends. Mariners of all ages can order from the full menu and have the food delivered by runners to their vessels. Wine by the bottle and growlers of beer are also available.
Stanley grew up at the Tides. His father and co-owner Peter Stanley bought the historic building in 1973 from the colorfully named “Three-Finger Jack,” a few weeks ahead of the IRS shuttering the tavern. Located next to the town’s public dock, the structure was built in 1910 and once housed a general store.
“It was really, really rough,” said Peter Stanley. Dirt from the parking lot was piled 4 to 5 feet deep against the walls, the dock had sunk, harbor water was visible through the rotten wood floors in the men’s room and muddy water seeped through the front door when it rained.
Still, at age 26, he saw the potential.
When the refurbished Tides opened on a sunny day in June 1973, 300 people were waiting in the parking lot...