At the north crux of Harborview Drive, and settled at possibly one of the most scenic spots at the edge of the Gig Harbor bay, a burned-out bistro has been turned into a hub for gourmet hamburgers.
And that’s just what owner Travis Hightower envisioned when he opened his Gourmet Burgers restaurant there just this past weekend.
“We’re going to be busy, no matter what,” he said. “It’s a great location that has a lot of visibility, much more so than along Highway 302.”
Gourmet Burgers, formerly located along that busy Kitsap Peninsula highway, saw a lot of traffic fly by but not stop there, Hightower explained. Gig Harbor’s downtown waterfront, with its walkable streets, steady shop-local attitude and strong year-round tourist market, made the Harborview Drive site a natural choice for a new site, he said.
However, the journey to opening this summer was far from easy, thanks to the complicated history of the building. Formerly, the century-old structure was home to the city’s long-time Le Bistro restaurant, which was gutted by an arson fire in 2010. Owners Ken and Debit McAlpine sold the building for $300,000 in late 2011, but between renovations, inspections and permits, Hightower said the process of opening had definitely had its challenges.
“It’s been a long struggle,” he said. “Nobody will ever know what we’ve been through. I’d advise anyone looking into starting a restaurant to do thorough research on the building they’re trying to get into.”
Success, though, has been achieved, and now he’s not only pleased with the finished product, but also with its expanded capacities to create more types of food and serve greater numbers of customers. The restaurant now offers milkshakes, in addition to a broader array of appetizers and main menu items. Most meals range around $10.
The best part about opening in Gig Harbor, besides the steady and loyal customer base, and the picturesque locale, is the opportunity to keep working for himself, Hightower said.
“I’ve been working in head chef jobs for about the past 20 years, so I’m kind of used to being in charge,” he explained. “This is just a continuation of that process, on a better level.”
Besides hamburgers, a new all-day breakfast spot has also opened in town, filling another scenic spot at the edge of the harbor.
Netshed No. 9, opened in March by the owners of the well-known Brix 25, has taken the latter casually upscale dinner restaurant’s following and created a comfortable morning noshing site as well.
Owner Katie Doherty, who operates both restaurants with her husband and chef Thad Lyman, said that Netshed fills the niche for a local place that serves breakfast all day. The only other option for that is Kelly’s, a half-mile down the street on Grandview Drive, which often overflows on mornings and weekends.
Settled into the Arabella’s Landing Marina, Netshed No. 9 not only has immediate visibility to the area’s boating community, but it also helps round out the growing stretch of businesses along Harborview Drive.
And, like Gourmet Burgers, the restaurant also fills in a gap where another business in a historic building has closed. Built in 1910, and later remodeled in the 1940s and 1990s, the structure was originally the home of local resident Tony Novak, and known as the Novak Net Shed. Most recently, it housed the Red Rooster CafÃƒï¿½Ã‚Â©, which closed last December.
Now, even without signage yet, the hidden hometown spot has a strong following that crowded the cozy main room and broad deck even on a late Thursday afternoon.
Gig Harbor Waterfront Alliance program director Mary DesMarais said that those crowds are nothing unusual at any hour.
“It’s very popular, and I know that because it’s right across from us and I see people coming and going whenever it’s open,” she said. “It’s definitely been a positive impact for this part of the Harbor.”