In this, the final instalment of my series Tacoma by Transit, I decided to revisit Harmon Brewing: this time at their location in Tacoma’s Stadium District located just north of downtown. This is where Harmon houses their other production brewery, their Taproom, and The Hub neighborhood pub…
For this return trip to Tacoma I used essentially the same transit itinerary as Tacoma by Transit Part 1: Sound Transit’s 594 Express bus from Seattle to Tacoma Dome Station. From there transfer to the free Tacoma Link streetcar, ride to the end of the line – Theater District Station – then continue on foot (approx. 1/2 mile).
After getting off the streetcar proceed on foot north along Commerce, cross the street at the next crosswalk, then take the Spanish Steps up to Broadway. Cross Broadway and continue uphill on 7th Street to St Helens Ave. Turn right and resume the northward trek for five blocks along St Helens.
The Harmon Hub occupies the upper level of the brewery and taproom building: entrance on Tacoma Ave. The building is located at the end of the block bounded on three sides by St Helens and Tacoma Avenues and 2nd Street.
Upon reaching the building on the St Helens side, the door to the Taproom entrance prominently states “No Minors”. So if you have kids, walk around the outside of the building to The Hub neighborhood pub, whose entrance is at the opposite end of the building on Tacoma Ave.
As a restaurant, I quite liked The Hub: it is a very nice brewpub with large bar and food preparation areas in front and a spacious family dining area in back.
The antique bicycle theme – hub, get it? – is pretty cool. The extensive menu features appetizers, soups & salads, sandwiches & burgers, salads, pizza & pasta, and a small selection of fish, steak and chicken entrees.
Since she had the day off school, The Daughter was along for the ride so between us we enjoyed a really excellent pizza and a meatball hero that was to die for.
The Hub makes a big deal about their wood-fired pizzas – with good reason – when you walk in the door the first thing you see is the large brick pizza oven. The pizza dough, the meatballs, and the marinara sauce used on both items are all home-made.
There’s no haute-cuisine here, only limited heart-healthy and vegetarian options. I’ll make no pretense: The Hub is all about great artery-clogging pub-grub, and based on what we had to eat, and what we saw coming out to the other diners, The Hub is above average in this hotly contested segment of the PNW restaurant market – brewpubs.
Unfortunately The Hub isn’t all good news: in the area that should matter most to a brewpub – the beer – they are sadly lacking. In part 1 of my series – at the Harmon Brewery & Eatery – while I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Harmon’s five flagship beers, at least they offered a taster tray of the five plus the three brewer’s specials then on tap, which were the standouts on the day. As a reminder, Harmon’s flagship ales are: Blonde, Pale, ESB, Porter, and IPA; with the exception of the Porter, all pretty blah to this palate.
So it was particularly disappointing to find that The Hub was limited to Harmon’s five flagship beers plus only the rotating seasonal – the Stryker Stout – that was it. And, unbelievably for a brewpub, The Hub offered no taster tray – our server claimed ‘they don’t have the glassware’. I settled for a pint of the Porter, my preferred brew of the six on offer.
So, my verdict…
The Hub is an OK neighborhood pub serving good food at reasonable prices in a family-friendly environment. More discerning beer drinkers might be disappointed with the limited selection of brews on offer but perhaps others, those who might be happy with an average ESB, IPA, or Porter, will likely be quite happy here.
However for out of towners I don’t believe The Hub is worth making a special trip – especially since Harmon Brewing’s downtown location is more convenient, offers more beer, including samplers, and offers comparable food.
There is one thing The Hub has going for it that I haven’t yet mentioned: its close proximity to Wright Park. While this might not be significant to some, it was to me and The Daughter. The day of our trip – a beautiful fall day – was certainly too nice to be spent indoors.
Wright Park is a classic Victorian City Park dating from the 1890s. Covering 27 acres (10 city blocks), the park’s primary attraction, besides its role as a public open space in the middle of a dense urban neighborhood, is as an Arboretum. It contains more than 700 mature trees, representing over 100 species from North America and Europe.
Here, for example, may be found the Buckeye Tree and the Horse Chestnut, or Conker Tree to us Brits. I always believed them to be the same tree – just named differently on each side of the pond. While they are related, they’re not the same at all, and I now know how to tell them apart – cool.
In addition to serving as Arboretum, Wright Park is also the home of Seymour Botanical Conservatory, an Edwardian-era miniature Crystal Palace built in 1907. Unlike the temperate zone Arboretum specimens, the Conservatory specializes in exotic tropical plants and floral displays.
After downing a beer or two and chowing on Hub-grub, Wright Park provides the perfect place to walk off some calories in idlyic surroundings. Tacoma may lag behind Seattle by most criteria but the city’s Wright Park, I believe, has no equal in Seattle.