Top of The Ocean

I grew up in a lower middle class family living in South Tacoma. My dad was a welder. My mom was a nurse. I have a brother, two years younger than me. Occasionally we would go to Chuck E. Cheese’s and eat pizza and play video games or sometimes Godfather’s Pizza or even Pizza N’ Pipes (more on that later). But more often than not, when we went ‘out’ to eat, it meant going to any given fast food place, ordering at the drive-through and parking on the waterfront down on Schuster Parkway and eating in the car as we looked out on the waterfront. In the water there were these pylons in the water where some structure once stood. My parents told me there used to be a restaurant shaped like a boat here called The Top of The Ocean.

The Top of the Ocean Restaurant (pictured below) opened on December 15, 1946. With incredible food, a great view, and top notch entertainment, The Top of the Ocean was a good place for a romantic dinner or a formal party. Masons, Rotary Clubs, and business leaders made it a point to use the Top of the Ocean anytime they wanted an impressive celebration.

1950s Top of the Ocean exterior

1950s Top of the Ocean


In the fifties the Top of the Ocean was arguably the best restaurant in Tacoma. It wasn’t uncommon to have difficulty finding a parking space. Any given night you’d hear live music coming from inside and a lively time being had by all.

By 1976 the Top of the Ocean had seen better days. Over the years many more waterfront restaurants had popped up (though none with the style of the Top). The Top of the World was then sold to Mark and Dave Mitchell. In 1977 Tacoma lost another landmark when the Top of the World Restaurant burned to the waterline, leaving only pylons. It was found that this fire was one of a string of arsons that took place in the late 70’s under suspicious circumstances.

3 responses to “Top of The Ocean

  1. Hi, I happened to be surfing through these msn pages and found your site. Wow! Im not always into history but i loved the stories. I couldnt help but continue reading on about all of the interesting places and experiences in Tacoma! Its neat to hear about the old times and ways. Keep up the great entries!

  2. I love the comment about Chucke Cheese. That was not only a part of my childhood but is now a main event for my own children! Rock on dude! Love the site!

  3. I used to play in the band at the Top! The leader was Louis Grenier, whose day job was running an accounting and tax preparation service. I joined the band in 1972. By then Louis had already been there about 25 years. I think the size of the band had decreased over those years. I\’ve seen old pictures (try where it had been more like a regular-sized dance band. When I joined, it was a quartet on Fridays and 6-piece on Saturdays. We played all the old standards, music from the 1920s on up, even a few quasi-rock tunes. I had to leave Tacoma in 1976, right around the time the top was sold. The band got moved upstairs and the downstairs became a disco (you can see where this is going!) The fire that burned it down was indeed suspicious: my mother was on the jury for the guy who torched it! He had gone down to the Top late one night IN A TAXI WITH A GASOLINE CAN! It always amazed me that they had my mom on the jury, what with my connection there.I loved playing there, the atmosphere and all, plus there\’s that thing that\’s kind of a joke with musicians, which is you know you\’re in heaven when you have a gig that\’s so steady that you don\’t have to tear down equipment each night!There is or was a great model of Tacoma down at the museum which is/was at Union Station, and the Top is there.Thanks for having this info on your site. I don\’t see any picture, however, but the rest is great.Randy Dary

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