Tacoma is enjoying a small renaissance these days. Locals are taking a renewed pride in their `City Of Destiny’, cherishing and preserving its history, even as new tech businesses and re-vitalization of old neighborhoods and the downtown area are giving the once-booming port city a modern facelift.
Johnny’s Dock, perched on the Thea Foss Waterway overlooking the Marina, is one such historical landmark that is also moving along with the times by re-inventing itself.
Since as far back as the 1950s, the restaurant has hosted local Tacomans celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and other happy occasions with a best-in-class cuisine of Northwestern specialties — amazing steaks cooked to perfection, and of course, a mouthwatering selection of freshly-caught seafood.
The legend of Johnny Meaker, founder of the restaurant, has also added to the nostalgia surrounding Johnny’s Dock, deepening its connection with the local people here.
But in spite of its rich historical footprint and abiding popularity, Johnny’s Dock restaurant – much like the rest of Tacoma – needed new investments in modernization and renovation to carry on into the future. And just as the city is starting a new chapter of its own existence with a fresh influx of building and economic resources, so is Johnny’s Dock under a new management which is committed to preserving the heritage of the property while introducing fresh and exciting innovations that will keep its appeal current for many years to come.
“Our goal is to restore Johnny’s Dock with a contemporary perspective, so it can be the jewel of Tacoma, like it used to be back in its heydays,” says Steve Novotny, one of the five investors who dream of making Johnny’s Dock a fine dining experience again, where people can enjoy everything from business lunches to celebratory dinners with some of the best waterside views and food available in Tacoma.
“All of us five partners – Roy Kissler, Neil Holden, Adam Raygor, Ken Rody and myself – work in the building and real estate industry, and we are locals from Tacoma who love Johnny’s Dock and eat at Johnny’s Dock,” says Novotny. “And we’re each working on projects we do best. Roy Kissler and Adam Raygor, for example, are working on the remodeling. My wife Trisha and I are in charge of renovating the operations of the restaurant. Neil Holden is in charge of the Marina. And Ken Rody is working with the new condo complex we’re also putting in here.”
It’s a complex renovation project, when you’re trying to preserve the existing character of a property instead of tearing it all down and rebuilding from scratch, but for these five investors, the labor of love is well worth it. After all, there’s so much to save here for future generations of Tacomans to experience and enjoy.
“We have a 58-slip Marina on the Thea Foss Waterway, which is an important landmark in Tacoma with a colorful history of its own from the old lumbering days in the 1800s,” says Novotny. “The Marina allows people to access the restaurant via waterway [accommodating boats up to 55 ft long], and further enhances facilities at Johnny’s Dock as a waterside property,” says Novotny. “Plus we have the deck that has always been a favorite spot with customers to enjoy lunch or dinner on a sunny day in Tacoma.”
Johnny’s Dock, in fact, is the only restaurant in city that looks back at the Tacoma skyline. At night, the lights look amazing against an inky sky, and during the day you can look right back at the Tacoma Museum Of Glass.
In perfect harmony with its surroundings, the refurbished décor of Johnny’s Dock is going to reflect a marine/nautical theme too. “We’re using a lot of blues and grays that sort of brings the water view inside the restaurant and creates the right mood to enjoy our unique location on the Foss Waterway,” says Novotny. “And the menu’s going to mostly be Northwestern Classic, like it has always been.”
Top hits from Johnny’s Dock restaurant will continue, while a lot of new, locally-sourced items will be added to extend the dining options here. The Prom Sundae – a hot fudge dessert that was famous in the 1950s among kids coming in for their high school prom dinner – will still be available, as will other favorites like the steamed local clams, seafood fettucini and the Tricity steaks. And yes, you can still buy Johnny’s Original Seasoning and other spices created by the founder, the famous Johnny Meaker.
“Our core clientele is made up of people who have grown up with Johnny’s Docks and have made lots of happy memories here,” says Novotny. “And though we’re introducing innovations, like the new bistro menu at the Dockside Landing Bar with 16 local craft beer on tap, we’re making sure that the restaurant does not lose its sentimental value with our loyal customers.”
“Since the 1950s, the people of Tacoma have considered Johnny’s Dock to be the place to go to for special occasions, special dates and special meals,” says Novotny. “With this new chapter in the restaurant’s history, we’re only giving our new and existing clientele more reasons to celebrate.”