Arts & Entertainment Business
Gig Harbor eateries: Here’s what’s new and on deck
Like hermit crabs taking up residence in empty shells, new restaurants and eateries are filling up vacant properties around town, bringing with them new opportunities for dining and noshing in Gig Harbor.
Crumbl Cookies, the Utah-based franchise with a nationwide following of devotees, opened in late October in the former Yo! G’s Frozen Yogurt location on Borgen Boulevard.
KettleFish, offering steam kettle-cooked clams, mussels and fresh seafood dishes, will expand from its Silverdale flagship store to open a second location this spring on Pioneer Way, in the former Kelly’s Café & Espresso.
New owners of the former Harvester Restaurant property are in negotiations with several potential occupants and are closing in on a deal, Carl Swanes of Gig Harvest LLC, shared Friday.
And a Chipotle Mexican Grill is coming to the Uptown Gig Harbor complex. The restaurant chain has obtained a conditional use permit to renovate the old Opus Bank location on Point Fosdick Drive (near Applebee’s), according to Laura Pettitt, communications and tourism director for the city of Gig Harbor.
Could this be a glimmer of light at the end of the pandemic tunnel?
Miriam Battson, president and CEO of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce, says local restaurants that have survived the pandemic “have been getting as creative as they can for how to work within the constraints of regulations coming down from the state.”
Adaptation for most has involved a beefed-up takeout process, Battson said, and staffing issues are likely to hamper (though not doom) the food service industry for a while yet. That said, Batten is encouraged by the new activity filling old spaces and the resilience of those places that have weathered the pandemic.
“The restaurants are doing what they can to come back,” Battson said. “Some have done incredibly well. Some have struggled a little bit, you know, and they’ve all each been on a different journey.”
One thing is certain, the new eateries will have the loyal support of locals.
“There are Facebook groups that are all about supporting local businesses,” Battson said. “The thing that I love about Gig Harbor is our community takes care of itself, and we watch out for each other.”
Cookies “to die for”
OK, Battson may not be an unbiased bystander, but she has officially fallen for Crumbl Cookies, calling them “crazy decadent.”
“Last week, they had this Key Lime cookie that was to die for,” she said. “It’s all cookies. They are huge and delicious. Don’t look at the calories.”
Owner Amy Beam of Olalla has been a Crumbl fan since 2019 when she first walked into a Crumbl bakery. The pink box of cookies was still warm on her lap when she applied for a franchise in Washington.
“You walk in and you get this warm welcome to Crumbl and you can see the open kitchen, see every step of the cookies being made,” she said. “I just fell in love with it. And to be honest, I applied for a franchise without even trying a cookie.”
Beam was looking for “Phase 2” of her life, now that her kids are all in school. She wasn’t daunted, even when the pandemic hit small businesses hard.
“There’s delivery options, curbside pickup and carry-out that were already established even before the pandemic,” she said. “We spoke to several franchise owners before we made our decision and everyone had amazing things to say.”
Crumbl, which opened its first store in 2017 in Utah, now has more than 264 shops in 36 states.
Each Sunday evening the fandom waits for the weekly rotating menu announcement. Beam knows people who set an alarm to see what cookies will be available on Monday. The recent menu proffered Dulce de Leche, Pecan Pie and Chocolate Cookies and Cream, among other flavors.
Beam and her staff of 93 full- and part-time employees (yes, 93) make 3,000 to 4,000 cookies a week. Open Monday through Saturday, they almost always sell out.
“It’s kind of like the most amazing first job I think you can have,” Beam said. “We spend a lot of time at the table balling cookies and we get to chat about our day and, you know, team building is super easy. It’s just a fun place to be.”
KettleFish to open downtown
KettleFish seafood restaurant opened in May 2019 in Silverdale’s Old Town district. From the start, the vision of owners Dave Montoure and Paddy O’Brien was to add other locations.
When the Pioneer Way location became available, the partners saw it as an opportunity to bring their fresh and responsibly sourced seafood dishes to Gig Harbor tourists and locals alike.
The restaurant uses steam kettle cooking to whip up made-to-order fish soups and stews like cioppino and bouillabaisse, along with steamed clams and mussels. The method, popular in southern cooking, uses stainless steel vessels heated by pressurized steam instead of other heat sources. KettleFish uses two-quart vessels to quickly cook single- or double-serving orders.
Their signature dish is cioppino, an Italian-American style, tomato-based fish soup. Also popular are their Northwest-style fish and chips (not steam-cooked) and clam chowder.
Dishes are accompanied by local craft brews and wines.
Montoure said they’ve ridden out the pandemic and are on a trajectory to increase sales. The new Gig Harbor location will be about three times larger than the Silverdale restaurant, with 43 seats indoors and about six seats outside.
Montoure on Friday said they’d just gotten the keys to the new place and have considerable work ahead to renovate and equip it. He hesitated to say exactly when they will be up and running, given supply chain issues, but said it will be sometime this spring. Montoure said he’s gotten positive feedback from folks around town.
“It’s really exciting that people are picking up on it,” he said. “And they’re talking about it, they’re excited about it. So now the pressure is on us to deliver. So, we’re excited.”
Harvester property owners still mum on new occupant
The Harvester, a landmark in Gig Harbor known for its comfort food dishes, closed in June after 38 years when owner Kirby Tweten retired.
Despite rumors swirling around the fate of the property, no firm deals have been made yet, said Carl Swanes of Gig Harvest LLC, the investment group that bought the property at 5601 Soundview Drive this summer for $1.35 million.
“There’s been a lot of interest,” said Swanes, an attorney and former Gig Harbor resident now living in Seattle. “I mean from national brands, local brands, really all over the map. It’s just, you know everyone’s kind of nervous to jump in the pool, I guess, so to speak. So that’s kind of where it is. I’m pretty confident that one of the three or four we’re talking about will come through and that will be a great fit for Gig Harbor.”
Swanes (pronounced Swan-esh, from the Norwegian) said he still feels strong ties to Gig Harbor as do most of the other investment partners. “The group has their fingers crossed,” that an agreement with a new occupant will be reached soon, he said.