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Noah's Ark Restaurant: Third-generation family affair

Noah's Ark RestaurantOne of Bremerton’s best-loved places for hamburgers is Noah’s Ark Restaurant, an unassuming establishment that has been owned and operated by the same family since 1974. More than one regular customer who’s moved away from Kitsap has said that Noah’s Ark is one of the things they’ve missed — and if they ever return to the area, it’s one of the first stops on their agenda.

The restaurant (www.noahsark-restaurant.com), located on Sixth Street, has a fairly modest exterior as well as a simply decorated dining room, but the food is another story. The menu has 16 varieties of hamburgers alone (all under $6) plus a generous list of sandwiches, salads, fish & chips and other possibilities.

Bianca Garguile, manager of Noah's Ark Restaurant“We serve our food fast but I wouldn’t say we’re fast food. Everything is made to order,” said Bianca Garguile, the manager of the establishment and the granddaughter of founder Nick Garguile.

She said what makes the food different is not any sort of secret ingredient but how it’s prepared — as well as the creative recipes. Several family members have contributed their ideas over the years, and the menu is a testament: There’s Nick’s Special Steak (Nick Garguile hailed from Philadelphia, so the Philly steak sandwich is a signature), Gary’s Guacamole Chicken Sandwich, Janet’s Special Croissant Sandwich and Bianca’s Bacon Bleu Cheese Burger, among others.

“A lot of people that work in offices only have a half hour or 45 minutes for lunch break and we can get them in and out fast and still serve quality food,” Garguile said. “What’s different about our burgers is that we use all fresh products and the sauces are homemade.”

The other aspect customers rave about is the friendliness of the staff. Many employees have been with the company for more than five years, and many high school and college students through the years have been able to work a flexible schedule around their classes.

“People like working for us because we treat them as family,” Garguile said.

Bianca’s parents, Janet and Nick Jr., took over the business two years after opening and are still keeping hands-on. Over the years, the restaurant evolved from a takeout place (with some outdoor seating) to include a dining room for about 80 people and a much more extensive menu, and several family members have helped out.

Nick Jr. himself can be frequently seen in the kitchen, while Janet runs the administrative side of things. Bianca and her younger brother, Noah (named after his great-grandfather, the namesake for the restaurant), started helping out as children. She became officially employed there at age 16, then two years later, took the reigns as the manager and continued working while taking business classes at Olympic College.

“Becoming manager at 18, I definitely had to step up my game but I had to start at the bottom and work my way up,” she said. “I was ready for the challenge. My dad likes to say, ‘Burgers are our business but we offer so much more.’”

Noah’s Ark has been giving back quietly as well. For many years, the business has supported various sports group — and sports are a family tradition. Nick Garguile, a West High School grad who grew up in Bremerton, played several sports while in school, as did his children. Bianca and Noah, who have a younger sister, are both Bremerton High School grads. She said sports taught her confidence and team play, both traits that are important in business.

As the third-generation Garguile at Noah’s Ark, Bianca said she’d be happy to someday take over the business. That’s the reason she’s stayed involved, so the restaurant could stay in the family. Asked what it takes to keep the family strong while working together, she said the Garguiles, like everyone else, have difficulties and difference of opinion.

“But we always want the best outcome for the business. Our philosophy is, let our family feed your family,” she said, “so we work through our challenges.”

There’s one rule, however: no business talk at home (at least as much as possible). She said that’s one way they stay balanced because after all, the business is built on family values. Which is one reason they’re not open on Sundays, for family day.

“My phone is always on,” Garguile said. “But we train our staff well and we trust them.”

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