We popped in for a quick first bite at the new Harmon Tap Room, which opened last Monday in a space that’s just around the corner and below its sibling restaurant, The Hub.
We liked what we found: a smaller dining room with a push for convivial gathering at two large communal tables that span the length of the front dining room. Just beyond the dining room is a glass-enclosed industrial room displaying brewing tanks and brewers Mike Davis, Bill Lundeen and Jeff Carlson at work. The scene made for voyeuristic foodie gazing during our meal there, but I also didn’t want to make them feel like Ivan the Gorilla. But I suppose the Harmon wouldn’t have put them behind glass if they didn’t want lookie loos.
The back room of the Harmon is a gathering space for standing and gaming. Two pool tables, a pinball and another video machine take up most of the room. There’s no real seating back there, save for a leather couch and a few chairs.
If you go to the new Tap Room – the third outpost of the Harmon Brewery Company– don’t expect the same pizza you’ll get upstairs at the The Hub.
At the Harmon Tap Room, the pizza is thicker, meatier and requires knife and fork when it’s piping hot out of the oven. They call it Sicilian style pizza.
“We wanted to do a different pizza than the thin crust artisan style pizza at The Hub down in the Tap Room for a couple reasons,” wrote Pat Nagle, who owns the three Harmon locations with business partner Carole Holder, in an email. “We want the Tap Room to have a different and simpler menu - panini sandwiches, pizzas and salads,” he said.
And the restaurant also has its eye on the carryout market for the St. Helens neighborhood. “The thicker crust carries better for takeout - or delivery, which may be in our future. Our version of the Sicilian style pizza is thicker, but not a ‘deep dish’ crust. We cook it in a pan which produces a nice, thick, crispy crust - unlike the thin, artisan type crust upstairs at the Hub.”
Chef Treff Baker, of the upstairs Hub, developed the menu.
As described by Nagle, the pizza arrived at our table about twice the thickness of an artisan pizza, but not truly a deep-dish pizza. The pie was oven blasted, crispy brown around the edges, the toppings kissed golden brown from the heat. A healthy measure of oil in the pan gave the crust a crisp, buttery texture, but the oiliness also left us reaching for extra napkins. It’s not quite deep dish, but it’s close. When the pizza is hot, the crust flops over from the burden of all the toppings, which is to be expected for that style of pizza. This is pizza meant to be enjoyed with a fork and knife. Thick layers of meat, cheese and veggies turn every slice a mini meal.
The Taproom pizza ($14) was a spicy, meaty behemoth layered with red sauce and topped with gooey, stringy mozzarella, black olives, red onions, mushrooms and kicky, hot Italian sausage sliced thickly on the bias, which yielded big, meaty bites of spice in just about every bite. I liked the topping distribution, every bite contained all the desired flavor layers and we didn’t have to go hunting in alternating bites after the meat and veggies.
Every day features a different specialty pizza, priced $12. The pesto chicken special on our visit last week came with a bubbly crust covered in bright green, fresh pesto, a heavy cover of mozzarella cheese, sliced green onions, chopped tomatoes and thick cut chicken breast. Much like the large slices of sausages on the Taproom pizza, the chicken on the pesto pizza were thick chunks. They don’t skimp on the toppings here and each pizza easily feeds two or three people.
From the panini sandwich menu, we ordered a classic Reuben ($9). The bread was a spent grain focaccia, not the usual rye. Although the sandwich was loaded with plenty of corned beef, melted Swiss, housemade sauerkraut and a dose of tangy Thousand Island dressing, the thick, puffy focaccia bread overwhelmed the layers of ingredients inside. Although the bread-to-filling ratio seemed off, the bread was an interesting texture. It shattered crispy to crumbly on the exterior, but was pillowy and bready inside. On a return visit, I’d order the roasted chicken sandwich with brie and fresh tomato, which I think would be better suited for that style of focaccia bread.
See the menus below to see what else the Tap Room serves.
What’s next for Harmon Tap Room? An outdoor beer garden that looks inviting. The area adjacent to the Tap Room is a rocky landscape with an ugly chain-link fence surrounding it now, but if it looks anything like the mock-up designs advertise, it’s going to be one of the top al fresco experiences in that area of town when completed. The garden is designed by Robert Horner, an artist, architect and brewer. The beer garden will be landscaped with native plants and a variety of Northwest hops provided by hop grower Joel Attaway.
As for the brewing part of the operation, Nagle said that adding the Tap Room tank room has tripled production for the Harmon Brewing Company. It sounds like some exciting things are on the horizon for the company.
“The Harmon downtown on Pacific Avenue is where we brew and we have been at capacity for some time now,” said Nagle. “It's a 15 barrel brewery - 30 kegs per batch. Our new brewery at the Tap Room is 14 barrel, but we have 30 barrel fermenters that will allow us to double batch in one day - so as soon as we can ramp up we hope to be producing 3,000 barrels per year on top of the 2,000 barrels we do at the Harmon Pacific Ave location.”
What else is on tap, so to speak? The Harmon previously has distributed its own beer, but now it is teaming up with Marine View Beverage to distribute Harmon beer throughout Western Washington. “We want to put Tacoma-made beer on the map,” said Nagle. “There is such great history of brewing in Tacoma - Heidelberg, Columbia Brewery - and we are doing our best to carry on the tradition. We will be doing lots of brew dinners, brewery tours and other fun, interactive events for food and beer. And of course, our future beer garden will be truly a one-of-a-kind.”
Harmon Tap Room
Where: 204 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma
Other Harmon locations:
Harmon Brewery: 1938 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253-383-2739
The Hub: 203 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, 253-683-4606