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Best of Tacoma 2019: Johnny’s Dock Restaurant and Marina

Writer's Pick: Best icon renovation

Lovely views of Tacoma and the Glass Museum from Johnny’s Dock Restaurant, a Tacoma icon from the 1950s. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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As a newbie to the Gritty City, the story of Johnny Meaker gradually unfolded for me. It began with a visit to a hole-in-the-wall burger dive and my comments on the great seasoning sprinkled on the fries. The short-order cook waxed poetically about Johnny's seasoning, a local concoction which brings seasoning salt to a whole new level of gourmet. So just who was this Johnny?

From an early age, Johnny had a love of flavor and spent hours combining spices and other ingredients which he used to flavor the steaks and seafood in his three restaurants including Johnny's Dock in Tacoma. He received so many requests for that special spice on his food that he opened Johnny's Fine Foods where to this day you can still purchase his salts, rubs, marinades and other bits of culinary magic.

Johnny's Dock Restaurant had its heydays in the 1950s when it was the place to go for celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries and prom nights. As the years went on and Tacoma began to earn its Gritty City reputation, Johnny's began to lose its magic and gradually aged into that place that people heard about when their grandmothers spoke of their prom. It became a sad grand dame of Tacoma's glory days.

Enter five building and real estate developers who purchased the property. Roy Kissler, Neil Holden, Adam Raygor, Ken Rody and Steve Novotny all loved Johnny's. It made financial sense to raze the old restaurant which hadn't been renovated in years. But the group, all local men, did not want to be known for shutting Johnny's down.

"Our goal was 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," said Steve Novotny. The dream is to make 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.

Matt Wakefield, Senior Communications Manager at Travel Tacoma, is happy to see the new Johnny's. "Tacoma chooses renovation and revitalization over demolition and reconstruction every time. We love to see those connections to our rich, complicated history around every corner. You see the buildings on Pacific Avenue in downtown connecting us to the railroad boom in the early 1900s. On the Foss Waterway, you see the Seaport Museum building connecting us to our maritime heritage, and now Johnny's Dock reconnecting us with our 1950s heyday. Tacoma is a sophisticated, modern city, but one that refuses to lose touch with the eras that built us into one," he said.

Walking into Johnny's, you can see the bones of the original restaurant all jazzed up and tastefully renovated. There is a room for private events, and the deck is a great place to enjoy live music while taking in the waterfront views of downtown Tacoma and the Glass Museum. It is a truly unique city view. The menu has been updated and includes the famous Senior Prom Hot Fudge Sundae. Oh, and you can purchase Johnny Meaker's famed seasonings at the Hostess Desk.

JOHNNY'S DOCK RESTAURANT AND MARINA, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday; 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday; 1900 East D St., Tacoma, 253.627.3186,

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