Burgers are finally sizzling in the Stadium neighborhood - Shake Shake Shake opened this afternoon. The restaurant is from business partners Steve Naccarato and Robert Stocker, two well-known Tacoma artists turned restaurant owners.
The retro-themed burger restaurant - some already have nicknamed Shake 3 - was expected to open earlier this year and has looked cosmetically ready for months. It took longer than expected to convert the infrastructure from a mini mart to restaurant space. That’s not unusual for restaurants with complicated equipment needs that don’t always align with the inner workings of an old building. While the delay was understandable, diners have been antsy for an opening. In recent days, some diners have taken to Twitter and Facebook to post minor grumblings asking "when? when? when?" Well, Tacoma. Here’s your chance to try the burgers and fries. They’re open.
Shake Shake Shake sports a dining room that looks as if it was designed by two artists. Oversized windows provide an unfettered view of a striking palette - aqua set against electric orange. A looming sign - made by Stocker - declaring “Eat” anchors the dining room. The funky retro dining chairs look right out of a bowling alley - mostly because they are. They used to line the lanes at the Old Elks Club bowling alley. Owner Steve Naccarato’s brother, Gordon, of downtown Tacoma's Pacific Grill, has been one of the biggest boosters of his brother’s project - lending menu advice. Both have quite the history in restaurants. The brothers worked together at restaurants in Los Angeles and Steve helped Gordon open his Aspen restaurant Gordon's. They also opened The Beach House at Purdy, the precursor to Pacific Grill. When interviewed for a review of Pacific Grill a few months ago, Gordon Naccarato mentioned that the burger restaurant has been an idea floated in the family for years. He characterized Shake Shake Shake this way, “We all have a favorite burger that we grew up with that becomes your model against which all burgers get compared. We want to be your favorite neighborhood burger. In California it would be In & Out, in Seattle—Dick’s—here in Tacoma, Frisko Freeze or Pick-Quick. This won’t be a 'chef-y' burger. This will be a straightforward, roadside diner style burger. Inexpensive but with better products like hormone-free local Angus beef from the Tri-Cities. And house-made secret sauce.”
UPDATE: I took a first bite this evening - the place was packed, but they were working hard to get orders out the door. The menu (a picture is below) lists three burgers - a classic deluxe ($3.99), steak-n-bacon ($4.99) and hickory burger ($4.29). I bit into a steak-n-bacon and loved the tangy steak sauce - there was a lot of it- a smoky match for the thick-cut bacon. The burger hit the hallmarks of a good roadside style burger: Crinkle-cut dill pickle chips, diced onions and shredded iceberg on a toasted bun.
Fries ($2.39/$2.89) are the shoestring variety - I'm a fan. They're much like the fries served with the cheeseburger sliders on Pacific Grill's happy hour menu - just minus the fried herbs. They're ultra thin-cut, the kind you want to pick up by the handful and jam into your mouth because just eating one fry at a time feels so unsatisfying (Gourmet Burger Shop in Gig Harbor also serves those style of fries). Shake Shake Shake also offers the option of sweet potato fries ($2.99/$3.49). A small order was enough for two diners.
Shake Shake Shake's dog menu lists three choices ($3.99 each) - a bacon dog, a jalapeno-green chile dog and a Tacoma dog. I ordered the Tacoma dog - it was a spinoff of a Chicago classic dog with mustard, relish, sport peppers and celery salt, just missing the poppy seed bun, sliced tomato and neon colored relish (OK, it's missing too many elements to be considered a true Chicago dog spinoff, but I love sport peppers and celery salt). Here's something they get exactly right - they split the dogs -which are Nathan's dogs - and griddle cook them - just like at Pick-Quick.
The shake menu lists enlivened flavors - one of the test flavors this week before the restaurant's opening was a shake made with Tacoma’s most iconic candy - Almond Roca. It's on the menu now, called the "Tiger shake," a nod to the mascot at nearby Stadium High School. I took a big swig of the Tiger before I realize it also had salted caramel in it - yum. Other shake flavors: the usual vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ($3.79) and deluxe flavors ($4.19) - miso butterscotch with salted caramel, nutella, mocha banana malted, coconut, pb&j, banana brulee, frozen latte and something unexpected - a Red Bull flavored shake. I won't be ordering that one. Nope. Add malt flavor to any shake for 75 cents. Oh, for kids? Nesquick strawberry and Kool-Aid.
Shake Shake Shake is a small space with a 40-seat dining room. There’s no drive-thru or drive-in. Expect the restaurant to be slammed the next few weeks as everyone checks out the neighborhood's newest addition.
Speaking of that neighborhood, there's plenty of room for more restaurants in Stadium - and one more is coming soon. Opening across the street within the next month will be the Art House Cafe, a restaurant that also has had a delayed opening from February. That restaurant is the project of Open Art Studios owners Lucy and John Armstrong and Dustin Joseph, previously the executive chef of Chambers Bay Grill. The cafe will be an outpost of Open Arts, which the Armstrongs opened in 1996. Read more about the Art House Cafe in this story.
Shake Shake ShakeWhere: 124 N. Tacoma Ave. (corner of North Tacoma Avenue and North Second Streets, where the Stadium Corner mini mart once operated)Info: 253-507-4060 or Facebook