- Gig Harbor Living Local
Keep ‘em Smiling
Tides Tavern presses forward
By Colin Anderson
Photo Courtesy of Tides Tavern
“I don’t know how he did it, I don’t think he knows how he did it, everything just sort of happened,” said Dylan Stanley. From the roof of the 110-year-old building, the Tides Tavern owner can take a breath during the always busy day to take in the astounding views of the Puget Sound, see his staff running orders out to boats docked just outside his doors, and the lovely flowers that Gail takes care of throughout the year. The Tides is a mainstay in the harbor—and it almost never happened.
The building that still stands was built in 1910 and was originally a general store. In the decades to follow it served as several businesses and taverns, which included ownership by “Three Fingered Jack” in the late ‘60s to early ‘70s. After 60 years the building had fallen into disrepair and was about to be condemned. That’s when a recent college graduate and some friends decided to take a chance and see if they could keep the place alive. “He was out of school, needed something to do, and he liked drinking beer,” laughed Dylan.
That graduate was Dylan’s father, Peter Stanley. In 1973, alongside a couple of friends, he decided to purchase the old building in hopes of keeping the good times rolling. They spent six months getting it back into shape and up to code in order to allow visitors in again. The Tides Tavern was opened on “Harbor Holidays” weekend. “When you first start a business, you are doing everything,” said Dylan. “They were continuing to make improvements and work on the building while serving customers too.” The Tides was so popular off the bat that when Dylan was born you could often find him sleeping in his bassinet behind the bar during lunch hours (back when it was allowed).
While Dylan grew up around the tavern, he initially decided to take a different path. He worked in several industries running businesses but ultimately decided to come home to the Tides in 2012. “Dad lost his GM and wanted to figure out what to do next. He wanted me in the role, I accepted, and I’ve never left,” said Dylan.
Now in its 47th year in operation, The Tides Tavern looks much the same as it did the day it opened in 1973. A kitchen remodel was done in 2009, and the docks out front were replaced in 2012, but most everything else is behind-the-scenes maintenance in keeping a more than century-old building flourishing.
The Tides is lined with old photos of the building and surrounding waters. Their T-shirts are always for sale, and if you snap your photo wearing one in a unique locale, there’s a chance you will be put up on the walls as well. “We have fighter pilots from the view of a refueling plane, the Himalayas and Nepal, people skydiving, on board Coast Guard ships; they’ve really been all over the world,” said Dylan. A frequent traveler himself, he says it’s rare he goes on a trip and doesn’t see a Tides Tavern shirt or have someone comment on his shirt, no matter where he is.
While the atmosphere is of great importance, Dylan believes the food is also what keeps people coming back to the Tides. Their chowder and multi-award-winning Fish & Chips are immensely popular, but they are also committed to serving up high-quality pizza, burgers and other handhelds. With a chef of Hawaiian descent working the kitchen this summer, Dylan says the Ahi Poke has been extremely popular.
There is a full bar, so you can have your favorite cocktail mixed up, and the selection of local beers includes a unique relationship with 7Seas Brewing, which makes several beers exclusively for the Tides. “I’ve known Mike for a long time, and 7Seas is near and dear to us,” said Dylan. “I believe we bought their first keg when they started, and it’s been a great partnership since.”
As with all other restaurants, The Tides Tavern has had to alter its approach for 2020. Online ordering was something that was planned for the near future, but the pandemic forced them to incorporate it earlier. While the tavern still brings in daily diners, Dylan says many fans have appreciated the to-go options as well.
While Dylan knows they have the right building, and the right location, he believes strongly that the restaurant would not have lasted so long without the right group of staff whose goal is to make the guests smile and have a great overall experience.
As he sits atop the 110-year-old building and continues to reflect, Dylan is still astonished as to what this place means to so many people. “Every day people come in to talk about how important this place is to them, one way or another. People have met their wives here, and others have [had celebrations of life for] the loss of a loved one here too.”
On any given day you’ll find business meetings taking place alongside road crews who are just finishing up their day. The Tides is a place for everyone, and Dylan and his staff are committed to keeping it that way. “The Tides will continue as it has and hopefully do it for another 47 years.”