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Tournament of Burgers champion: Westside Tavern

Westside Olympia neighborhood bar wears the crown of best patty in the South Sound

Westside Tavern crew celebrate minutes after learning their Olympia neighborhood bar's burgers are the best in the South Sound. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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The people have spoken. For the past several weeks, 64 burger-flipping establishments have been pitted against each other in a bracket-style competition to crown South Sound burger royalty. On April 7, weeks of voting came down to two unlikely contenders: Westside Tavern in Olympia and Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge of Tacoma. Alas, there can be only one, and Westside came out on top within four votes.

I connected with co-owner Dean Damitio over the phone to talk shop and burgers in light of the victory.

Restaurant industry veteran Damitio tells me that the Westside Tavern journey began when he and old high school chum and attorney Mario Madden - and their spouses, Lisa and Kristy - partnered and decided to open a bar. Remodeling began in October 2011, and doors opened by Christmas that same year.

"Clientele is really diverse," Damitio said. "We get everyone from college kids to bikers and the elderly."

He describes the tavern as a neat, comfortable space where just about anyone can ante up to the rail and feel at ease, whether with a group of friends or solo.

It's been "truly amazing and always a great partnership," Damitio said of the foursome's joint venture.

>>> Westside Tavern's delicious Tavern Burger

So what's the secret to burger awesomeness? The Westside's menu consists of seven or eight burgers alongside a collection of adventurous sliders, tasty appetizers and what Damitio boasts as some of the best mac and cheese. Featuring bacon and jalapeño, the dish is a shoe in for next spring's Tournament of Mac ‘n Cheese, which Damitio, as well as runner-up Chef Hudson Slater of Maxwells, is stoked about.

When asked what he thinks led to them coming out on top, he said it's all about quality. "When we started, we wanted to do something a little different than the same old fried foods," he said. "Though we do fried food, too, we make most of our sauces from scratch, and our burgers are made with fresh, local ground chuck beef. It's all about quality."

He goes on to divulge what he believes to be the true secret to the Westside's success: "Honestly, we can credit our success to the staff," he said. "Both front and back of the house staff are the real nuts and bolts of the Westside. They are family, period."

"To come out with the win after only two and a half years as sort of an underdog is really exciting," Damitio continued with a smile in his voice, "and the networking opportunity and meeting others in the industry, or even the friendly banter between fellow Olympian contenders Eastside Big Toms (a Tournament of Burgers Final Four participant) has been a lot of fun."

The Westside Tavern recently expanded its outdoor patio space with 20 more seats, meaning with the warmer weather months on the horizon, patrons are in for some summer night fun. The list of reasons to check out Westside Tavern goes beyond noshing on the best burger in the region, including live music performances from classic rock to reggae on Saturday evenings, weekly specials and breakfast when the football season rolls around.

Congrats again to the crew at the Westside Tavern. It just goes to show that if you deliver superb bites in a genuinely rad and casual joint, the people come out, show their love and declare your burger the ultimate burger champion.

WESTSIDE TAVERN, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, 1815 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia, 360.915.7839

LINK: Words and photos from Tournament of Burgers championship game

LINK: Tournament of Burgers voting recap


(based on victories and votes)

Westside Tavern, Olympia

Maxwell's Restaurant, Tacoma

Eastside Big Tom, Olympia

Tatanka Takeout, Ruston

Shake Shake Shake, Tacoma

Lefty's Burger Shake, University Place

Crown Bar, Tacoma

The Spar, Tacoma

Asado, Tacoma

Lunchbox Laboratory, Gig Harbor

The Forum, Tacoma

Pick-Quick Drive-In, Fife

Best Burgers, Lakewood

Little Jerry's, Tacoma

NetShed No. 9, Gig Harbor

Herfy's, Lakewood

Marrow Kitchen + Bar, Tacoma

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Lakewood

Classics Café, Tacoma

Frisko Freeze, Tacoma

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