This Tacoma treasure is turning into a burger palace (temporarily)
In this era of constantly evolving regulations guiding which businesses can operate (or can’t), locals are doing what we all should strive to do: Turn into scrappy fighters in the face of adversity.
Here’s one more amazing survival story of a local business doing a complete turn-around of its business plan.
Enter: Tacoma Burger Co.
For the time being, you can call the Tacoma Comedy Club the Tacoma Burger Co. because that’s how the club’s owners are going to get through this: One big ol’ juicy patty at a time. They’re switching from a venue with live comedy shows to one that focuses on making a wide range of burgers for diners of all ages.
Adam Norwest, who owns and operates the 10-year-old Tacoma Comedy Club with wife Bree and parents Kevin and Renee Fandt, has been open only five weeks of the last 21.
The changing regulations have served Adam Norwest and his family a heaping pile of anxiety.
They closed in March along with the rest of the industry, but when Pierce County entered Phase 2 in June, the Tacoma Comedy Club reopened.
And then came a clarification of the rules. They closed again when the state put all live entertainment on hiatus.
It’s a bummer of a situation for a club with 3,000 square feet of space that’s ideal for well-spaced tables. They also are licensed as a restaurant.
“It’s confusing what the difference is between a regular restaurant and a comedy club and why it’s less safe, but we have to adjust and we have to accept that’s OK,” said Norwest.
Although he’s hopeful the business twist will work, he’s also filled with that heaping pile of anxiety. “Ultimately if we don’t make it work, there’s going to end up being no live comedy in Tacoma,” he fears.
So what they’re going to do is make it work.
And you should make a point to visit and stuff your face.
Because these burgers sound awesome.
BUY A BURGER, SAVE THE ARTS
“Buy a burger, save the arts,” will be one of the restaurant’s new taglines, joked Norwest, who credited his family and ever-flexible staff with coming up with a marketable game plan to get them through the next handful of months until live entertainment resumes.
When they sat down to talk through ideas of how to survive, the idea to shift to a burger restaurant became the clear direction because “our customers were always raving about our burgers,” he said.
“It was either going to be called Tacoma Burger Company or Covid-19 Forces Us To Sell Burgers Company, but that domain was already taken. So here we are,” he said, laughing.
The menu at Tacoma Comedy Club always has featured a few different kinds of burgers, but the club’s kitchen staff traditionally kept the menu small to service large crowds in a short period of time.
“Our menu has extended from four burgers and 10 items total, to 10 burgers and 25 items total,” said Norwest. “The nice thing is we have such a huge space, it’s 3,000 square feet, and so we can do super safe socially distant dining and still seat a decent number of people.”
And those people include kids, typically a demographic not catered to at a comedy club focused on adult patrons.
They’ll have a kids menu with a handful of choices and Thursdays will be kids eat for 99 cents.
And comedy will be part of the game plan. They’ll broadcast comedy shows on their projector on “Netflix and Chill” Mondays (that’ll be 21-and-older night after 5 p.m., but kids are allowed every other day of the week).
On Tuesdays, they’ll have half-off deals. Wednesdays will have some form of a trivia game allowed under current rules. Sunday will be all-day happy hour. They’ll also have happy hours 3-6 p.m. on weekdays with half-off appetizers and booze specials.
TEN BURGERS ON THE MENU
Norwest does not suffer crappy burgers. He believes (as do I) that if a beef burger is not at least an 80-20 fat ratio, then it’s not worth eating.
But if you skip meat, like we should all try at least once a week, they’ve got you covered. For a fee of only one dollar (that’s way under market, people), you can swap out a beef patty for a plant-based Impossible Burger, which are really truly delicious and never will leave you asking “what the hell am I eating?” (pinky swear).
And speaking of under-market prices, the entire burger menu is priced $9 to $12, and those burgers are served with fries (or another side).
Those burgers are grilled on a flat-top and made with an 80-20(ish) fat ratio patty, although one burger, called the Triple Double, will get an extra dose of fat.
“The triple double has the patties and American cheese, but the beef patties have a higher amount of fat than you should ever have in a beef patty or a burger, it should be illegal,” joked Norwest.
That patty will be made with a patty with somewhere around a 75-25 or 70-30 fat content. The reason why is because it’s replicating a roadside burger, In-N-Out style, and needs that extra fat to make you extra satisfied.
The rest of the burgers will feature fan favorites from past menus. One burger Norwest is a fanatic about is one made with potato chips. They squish a layer of Tim’s Cascade kettle chips in there.
Another will be a 9-layer burger day served on Sunday (August 9) and named in honor of former Seahawks player Jon Ryan. And $3 from the sale of that burger goes to the Tacoma Rescue Mission. In keeping with Ryan’s #9 on his jersey, it’ll come with nine ounces of meat and nine ingredients. And, of course, there will be American cheese AND Canadian bacon, as a hat tip to the Canadian-born punter who made his name in American football.
Another burger will be a spin on a meatball sub with a pork-and-beef burger patty that’s made in the style of a meatball and squished flat into a burger when grilled. It’s served hot with a pile of provolone, marinara and parmesan on a toasted bun.
There’s also a bacon-blue burger, a classic burger and there might even be one with peanut butter on the menu.
Those are all served with fries, which Norwest described as medium-width fries that are somewhere between a shoestring and steak fry.
The Tacoma Burger Co. will debut at 5 p.m. Friday (August 7, 2020) and will open at 11 a.m. daily after that.
TACOMA BURGER CO. AT THE TACOMA COMEDY CLUB
Where: 933 Market St., Tacoma; 253-282-7203; https://www.tacomacomedyclub.com/ (call 253-693-8268 for carry out)
When: Debuting Friday (August 7) at 5 p.m.
Hours: Open daily at 11 a.m. after Friday
LOS AMIGOS TAQUERIA IS NOW OPEN
Did you see my story about the long-awaited opening of Los Amigos Taqueria in South Hill? The restaurant is without a steering wheel for the first time. The taco truck has turned brick-and-mortar, a year after it closed. Read all about it here.