Place: Johnny's in Fife
Place: Johnny's Dock
Place: Johnny's on the Mall
Place: Crawford's Sea Grill
Person: John E. Meaker
The: Grandfather of them all
Because it's sacrilege to utter the word "Seattle" while in the presence of most Tacoma audiences, I'll skip over the part of John E. Meaker's butcher shop and restaurant history that includes our large, unmentionable neighbor up north.
Instead, I'll take you through Mr. Meaker's Tacoma-area restaurant history, one which you can take a stroll through anytime you visit Johnny's in Fife.
Upon entering Johnny's in Fife, guests are greeted by loyal employee Kathy, who has been with the Meaker clan for more than 10 years. She'll describe to you what Fife looked like before development, and how rich farmland graced the area where buildings now stand. Afterward she'll encourage you to stroll through the hallways where Meaker restaurant history is proudly displayed.
An original menu from Crawford's Sea Grill, once located at 505 Broadway in Tacoma, shows the highest priced item as Baked Lobster for $2.00. A lower-priced option would have you ordering Oyster on a Bun for 40 cents.
Now if only Pacific Grill's Gordon Naccarato would bring back the Oyster on a Bun. He'd make it fabulous, I'm sure.
After Crawford's closed in 1952, Meaker opened Johnny's Dock Restaurant at it's original location on the Tacoma Tideflats; that restaurant was destroyed in a devastating fire on Christmas Eve in 1961.
Later Johnny's Dock was rebuilt, and then eventually moved to it's current location on D Street in 1977.
The Johnny's franchise even invaded the Tacoma Mall back in its 1960s heyday. Johnny's on the Mall seated 300 people and included a banquet room, coffee shop and cocktail lounge. Very fancy and very, very Mad Men-esque.
Kathy tells me that Johnny's in Fife has been open since 1968, and it still family-owned, with Meaker's grandson currently running the show.
"All our meat for sandwiches are smoked in-house, and we really do have the best bacon in town," Kathy says with confidence.
"How is it the best bacon in town? Bacon is bacon." I ask.
She replies, "I don't know how, but for years the owners have only bought this certain type of bacon and it is the best."
Well, of course I then ordered some bacon, and trust me - Johnny's in Fife has the best bacon. So far.