Shawn Burke’s new Gig Harbor restaurant is a den for kids and families, which makes it even more appropriate that his 4-year-old son Mason named the Blue Cannon Pizza Company. The name is an intersection of Mason’s favorite color and the family’s favorite vacation locale.
“My wife (Dana) and I have been going to Cannon Beach for about 10 years ... It’s our little close-to-home getaway. I proposed to her down there. We got married on the beach at Cannon Beach,” Burke said in a phone interview.
He had thoughts of naming his son Cannon, but wife Dana wanted nothing to do with that. “She won. We named him Mason,” Burke said. “But when I was building this restaurant, I was trying to put Cannon in there. I asked (Mason) and everything in his world has to be blue. He said, ‘It has to be a Blue Cannon, dad.’ ”
If you see a 4-year-old dressed up as a police chief at Blue Cannon, that would be Mason. He’s so obsessed with being a police chief, Burke added blue and red lights in the dining room. There also is a blue-and-red cannon tucked under the front counter.
The menu at Blue Cannon is a mix of specialty pizzas ($11.99-$18.99) with an abbreviated offering of microbrews on tap and a short menu of sandwiches ($6.99), salads and appetizers ($2.49-$9.99).
Some pizza ingredients – clams, Thai chili oil, eggplant, sauerkraut and pastrami – might target a slightly more sophisticated palate, but an average gourmet won’t be baffled by much on the menu. Pepperoni and cheese purists might scream blasphemy at the Philly pizza (steak or chicken, onion, green peppers, mushrooms, pepperoncinis) and Reuben pizza (corned beef, pastrami,sauerkraut and creamy garlic Thousand Island sauce), but those sandwich-themed pizzas haven’t seemed to discourage many diners. Burke said those are the two most popular pizzas on the menu.
We sampled three pizzas on a single First Bite visit. The clam shell pizza ($12.99 for a 12-inch, $15.99 for a 14-inch and $18.99 for a 16-inch) was a shallow pizza with scant toppings of fresh clams and chewy, thick-cut pieces of smoked bacon on a creamy white garlic sauce. A dose of fresh garlic topped the thin, hand-tossed crust that shattered crispy around the edges. It pulled chewy and with more doughy resistance toward the center of the pie. What I liked about the pies is that even hot out of the oven, they didn’t flop over, with the exception of one pizza that arrived slightly undercooked. Slices from two of the three pizzas were easy to hold squarely, without worry of the end tipping down and spilling the toppings. I like sturdy pizza. One quibble: the pizzas were hastily cut, the slices not perforated all of the way through. Be prepared to cut through your pie slices.
Pizzas came covered in a cheese blend that’s half whole milk mozzarella and half provolone. Burke said he prefers whole milk mozzarella to give his pizza that stringy, cheesy tug, but found the flavor of the mild mozzarella lacking. The provolone in the mix added just a twinge of sharp, cheesy bite.
The margarita ($10.99/$12.99/$14.99) was simply topped with basil, olive oil, tomatoes and a sprinkling of garlic on the provolone-mozzarella blend. The tamatafeta ($10.99/$12.99/$14.99) came with a heavier concentration of toppings – a scattering of ribbons of spinach, sundried tomato and pools of feta cheese over a provolone-mozzarella cheese blend with a garlic white sauce base.
The Blue Cannon bread appetizer ($5.99) was a puffy piece of dough, the same used in the pizza, dosed liberally with chewy bacon and gooey mozzarella. The bread came with white creamy garlic dipping sauce, but we were offered marinara, too.
Burke developed the pizza crust – which he describes as New York style – with kitchen manager Ricardo Costa, who Burke met while the two worked as cooks at a Seattle restaurant more than 20 years ago at age 16. Burke has worked in a half-dozen kitchens and hotels. Most recently, he owned four franchise locations of Taco Del Mar in Westgate, University Place, Tacoma Mall and Gig Harbor.
He intended to open an Irish pub in Gig Harbor earlier this year, but the deal fell apart after the building’s owners entered foreclosure, he said. The idea and location for the pizza restaurant emerged six months ago. He found the location in the Costco complex, a space well-suited for a family pizza restaurant.
The scene is casual – soccer kids with parents in tow, families with toddlers and even a table of 30-something couples dining sans kids.
The setup is casual with a come-as-you-are vibe. Diners order at the counter, take a number and find a seat at a handful of tables in configurations of small and large. Several gray-and-red booths offer seating for four or more. A gaming area is sequestered in a corner behind the booths, hidden from the main dining room, but far from being out of earshot (it gets loud at full capacity). A small room in the back offers seating when private parties aren’t occupying the room.
As should be expected at restaurants that cater to kids, expect plenty of young diners, which might delight or irritate you depending on your tolerance for clamor. Service is friendly and knowledgeable. For a fast-service style restaurant, counter workers easily navigated questions about ingredients.
Look for menu changes to come soon at Blue Cannon. In the works are the addition of a combo pizza, a chicken bacon ranch and a five-cheese vegetarian pizza. More sandwiches and personal-sizepizzas for kids also will be on the menu. The new menu debuts in three weeks.
Blue Cannon Pizza Company Where: 4726 Borgen Blvd., Gig HarborContact: 253-851-4800 or www.bluecannonpizza.comHours:10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays