By Neal Broverman
Originally published on Advocate.com January 09 2013 9:00 AM ET
According to us, and our unscientific research, Tacoma, Wash., is the gayest city in the nation. But don't just take it from us: Gordon Naccarato, the executive chef and vice president of the Naccarato Restaurant Group, which runs the much-loved Pacific Grill restaurant, describes his city's many attributes and tells us why a gay professional like him is thriving in this friendly mini-metropolis.
(RELATED: The Complete 2013 List of Gayest Cities in America)
The Advocate: What makes life great for LGBT people in Tacoma?
Naccarato: There is a great sense of community and pride in Tacoma. And for a city of modest size we have amazing museums, gorgeously restored performing arts theaters, and a beloved art-house cinema with a great local film festival, good restaurants, Puget Sound, and mountains that surround us with beauty. And Lady Gaga performed here at the Tacoma Dome — not Seattle!
Are LGBT people integrated into most facets of Tacoma culture?
Yes, [we have politicians like] Ryan Mello, who serves on the Tacoma City Council. And Laurie Jenkins in our state legislature. Our mayor, Marilyn Strickland, is very pro-gay and she was instrumental in flying the gay flag over City Hall for our Pride festival that lasts two weeks. Also, with Joint Base Lewis-McChord nearby, I had the pleasure of getting to know many of our LGBT members of the armed forces, and it was tremendously exciting to share with them when DADT was overturned.
Do things feel different since Washington enacted marriage equality?
I was so excited that our state is one of the first that voted to legalize gay marriage. Washington State is very liberal — I attended a gay wedding this summer just before the law passed. I am hoping they will tie the knot again, now that the law passed, so we can all celebrate!
Do LGBT customers support Pacific Grill because it's gay-owned?
We donate to many gay causes over the year, but I don't think the LGBT clientele support us because I'm a gay restaurant owner. I think they support us because they like delicious food. But if that is their reason to visit Pacific Grill, I'm all for it. I also am looking forward to our restaurant catering our first gay wedding.
What about Tacoma would surprise people?
Besides the spectacular scenery — I think the quality of our museums would surprise the most. The New York Times wrote up our latest — LeMay-America's Car Museum, with its world-class collection of automobiles. Currently, the Tacoma Art Museum has a great Warhol exhibit. And earlier this year the internationally acclaimed exhibition "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," which debuted at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery under clouds of controversy for addressing the question of how gender identity and sexual orientation dramatically shaped the creation of modern American portraiture. I was really proud that we were asked to cater the food for their opening night gala. Oh, and Lady Gaga will be back in town in two weeks to perform again.
The Pacific Grill is located at 1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, Wash.