It’s the spot everyone seems to pass, across from the railroad tracks on Richmond Beach Drive. It’s the spot where most Shoreline High School reunion weekends start. It’s the spot where everybody knows your name.
The Cabin Tavern is that local business, serving the locals for 75 years.
Built in 1927 as a cafe to serve Seattle residents summering at Richmond Beach, The Cabin became a tavern shortly after Prohibition ended in 1933. Shoreline native, Paul Gorgen, serves as the current proprietor.
In 1989 Gorgen left the bright lights of Seattle’s high-end white
tablecloth restaurant world to pursue the path of a neighborhood tavern owner.
“I was tired of high-end fine dining,” he explains. “I wanted to have some fun. I went around the state looking for a spot. Then I found The Cabin in my own backyard.”
Gorgen bought the business and the property, along with a plot behind The Cabin where he lives with his two dogs, Metro and Sunny, in what may be the only trailer in Richmond Beach in order to keep a close eye on the business.
During the past three years Gorgen has been put to work buffing and scrubbing the interior and brushing up the exterior beer garden patio area. He has also concentrated his efforts on advancing the menu to keep pace with the local demands.
In a galley-sized open kitchen, Gorgen prepares sauces, soups and salad dressings from scratch. The smoker on the patio is put to work in the production of succulent meats.
“The favorites are definitely the fish and chips and the spinach salad,” boasts Gorgen.
The fish and chips feature baked cod fillets with a teriyaki glaze and topped with homemade tarter sauce.
“I can’t get over teriyaki with tarter sauce. But it works,” says Gorgen.
The spinach salad showcases Gorgen’s homemade raspberry- vinaigrette dressing atop spinach leaves, fresh apples, dried cranberries, sugar-glazed pecans and bleu cheese. For a salad meal, chicken or smoked pork loin can be added.
“I’ve worked hard to get the costs out of the menu and adjust portions just for my customers,” he explains. “Maintaining consistency in the food is key. All this effort must be working because plates come back empty 90 percent of the time. People are coming in for the food. It’s like what taverns used to be, a meeting place to get a meal and discuss affairs of the day.”
Despite the tough times many restaurants in the region are facing, Gorgen claims that The Cabin had the best summer season ever. Special events and friendly hometown service have wooed the locals to keep The Cabin in their dining radar.
“I offer free snacks,” he says. “It makes the regulars feel happy. Plus we have fun events like the halibut feed that celebrates the opening of the beer garden. Then there is the Richmond Beach Penguins’ dip on New Year’s Day at half-time of the Rose Bowl. All fun.”
Being licensed as a tavern, The Cabin’s customers must at least be 21 years-old. Gorgen estimates that most customers are between ages 35 and 45.
“In the wintertime it’s a neighborhood spot,” he says. “People walk down for dinner, stop in for a beer. There are landscapers sitting next to retired people sitting next to lawyers. There are Mercedes parked next to pick-up trucks.”
This past fall Grogen made additional adjustments to meet the local customer’s needs. A pool table kept its spot, but darts and video games had to go.
“It’s not uncommon to find fathers and sons shooting a game here,” Gorgen explains. “When the college kids are home for vacations, they all meet up here and compare notes.”
Outside of a few new shingles the future of The Cabin, under Gorgen’s direction is “steady as she goes.”
“If we made the jump to offer a full bar, the ambiance of a friendly neighborhood tavern would be lost,” says Grogen. “The Cabin is a meeting place, a dining place, a place to come to watch the baseball game.”
He intends to keep The Cabin the spot where birthdays and celebrated, chili cook-offs are held, golf tournaments are launched and the annual Strawberry Festival is celebrated. He intends to keep The Cabin the neighborhood spot serving the locals where everybody knows your name for the past 75 years.Mina Williams is a student in the University of Washington School of Communications News Laboratory.