Just across the Narrows Bridge from Tacoma is the charming, waterfront town of Gig Harbor. Lined with boats of all sizes, the harbor offers a walkable, visual delight, a unique shopping experience, and many fabulous restaurants. A visit to Gig Harbor makes a perfect day trip for most Puget Sound residents.
With so many worthy restaurants dotting the immediate harbor area, you might think it would be hard to feature just one. But there is a local favorite that is not to be missed - the Tides Tavern. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and the food is fresh, delicious, and unpretentious.
The Tides, as it’s referred to locally, comes with a heaping side of harbor history. The old building was constructed in 1910 as the local general store known as the West Side Mercantile. It stood right next to the public ferry landing of the time. When prohibition came to an end in the 1930’s, a tavern was added on to the store and it quickly became a popular meeting place for the community, serving beers for 10 cents a piece. Some things never change - except the price of the beer. The Tides Tavern is still popular with the locals and, in my opinion, has some of the best food in the harbor.
With an old, wooden deck that sits out over the water and a dock that serves hungry boaters, the Tides Tavern is a hub of activity in the summer months. But the cozy, eclectic interior provides a relaxing repast in any season. The menu, which is packed with favorites, always features a list of special offerings for each new season.
If you are a fish and chowder lover, like I am, you will not be disappointed. You will find many fresh fish offerings and the chowder is one of the best I’ve ever tried, and I pretty much try the chowder at every restaurant that offers a steaming bowl.
Generous sandwiches, salads, and pizzas are also prized by Tides diners. And of course, there are the libations. It is a tavern, after all. Delicious local beers on tap, including several Tides Tavern original brews, are sure to satisfy your thirst. There are usually a few specialty cocktails featuring fresh ingredients of the season as well.
While you’re waiting for your drinks to arrive, take a look at the photos that cover the walls. One of the tavern traditions is for faithful diners to don their Tides Tavern t-shirts and have their photos taken on their travels around the world. You’ll see the emblematic t-shirts show up in front of such destinations as the Taj Mahal and proudly worn up at Machu Pichu, just to mention a few.
A few years ago, on Christmas Eve, a friend and I met for a celebratory lunch at the Tides. While we were enjoying some wonderful conversation and sipping a hearty beer, we were surprised to see a full-suited Santa and several of his elves sail past the tavern deck on stand-up paddle boards, ho-ho-ho-ing all the way. Hearty souls, indeed! But par for the course at this unique, treasure of a local tavern.