By Margo Greenman
It was nearly a decade ago when Tacoma resident Anthony Valadez caught “Seinfeld” fever. “When my wife and I first got together, we couldn’t afford cable, so for Christmas we got the complete series,” he says. He was working as a real estate agent and would binge watch the classic show during downtime at open houses.
Prior to working as a realtor, Anthony, a formally trained chef, worked in restaurants in San Francisco and Portland before returning to his hometown of Port Angeles where he met his wife, Tara. The two worked side-by-side in the kitchen of a local casino.
Not long after the two met, the couple moved to Tacoma where Anthony earned his realtor license and worked selling houses and bartending to put himself through college at Pacific Lutheran University. He was studying biochemistry, but the subject didn’t hold his interest.
Bored with science, Anthony stuck with real estate, which provided a comfortable living for his growing family, but both he and his wife missed being in the kitchen.
Three years ago, when foreclosures saturated the market, Anthony told his wife they should take what they could get and open a restaurant. The two found a cozy piece of real estate on South Park Avenue in Tacoma and opened up Little Jerry’s — a restaurant inspired by the couple’s favorite show.
A kitschy little hole-in-the-wall, Little Jerry’s is one of Tacoma’s hidden gems. Attracting visitors near and far, Anthony says the diner has been a popular destination for “Seinfeld”-fanatics and hungry restaurant-goers alike. “The area needed a little neighborhood restaurant,” says Anthony. “We were steady from the get go.”
With subtle hints of the sitcom sprinkled throughout the decor and menu, some may not get the references right away, but a true diehard fan can appreciate it from the minute they walk in.
The walls are decorated in photographs and framed posters of cast members and less obvious memorabilia like a Scrabble board spelling out iconic phrases from the show like “festivus” and “Newman.”
Fans of the show will also enjoy ordering off the cleverly named menu, which features items like Anthony’s version of a “big salad” and the popular “Mimbo,” a burger loaded with bacon and egg and served between two grilled cheese sandwiches. It is, of course, named after Elaine’s short-lived boyfriend, Tony, who Jerry dubbed a male bimbo, or “mimbo.”
In addition to the restaurant’s well-executed theme, the food is what keeps Little Jerry’s customers coming back. Specializing in early-morning breakfast grub like the “Kramerica” (a veggie Benedict) and jazzed-up lunchtime favorites like the “Puffy Shirt” (Little Jerry’s take on a Monte Cristo), the menu features everything from classic eats to bold and brazen kitchen creations.
To keep up with demand, last year Little Jerry’s expanded by purchasing a cafe next door to accommodate more customers. If you can believe it, the second dining room is even more decked-out in “Seinfeld” decor than the main one. (Think tabletops plastered with photos and magazine clippings of the famed characters.)
Anthony continues to deal real estate, but it’s being a restaurateur (and dad of three young boys) that keeps him busiest. Earlier this month Anthony opened the doors to his newest project and second restaurant — Uncle Leo’s. Located at Pacific Run Antique Mall, Anthony says, other than the name, the restaurant doesn’t carry over the same “Seinfeld” theme as Little Jerry’s, but there is one thing in particular that makes the eatery unique — everything on the walls is for sale. Featuring a variety of collectibles, visitors of the restaurants may leave with more than just a full belly.
Whether you’re a fan of the show or just want a delicious, hearty meal, Little Jerry’s is a local, family-owned diner worth a taste.
You can learn more about Little Jerry’s (and brush up on your “Seinfeld” trivia) by following the restaurant on Facebook, or by visiting the restaurant in person for breakfast or lunch Tuesday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. or Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
8233 S Park Ave
Tacoma, WA 98408