John Zemla has always loved a good burger.
As a boy he traveled the country with his dad and his staple meal was always a burger no matter the type of restaurant, he said. His love for diner and drive-in food only grew from there.
John and his wife Sara have been bringing their passion for burgers and good food to Sequim since mid-May at their new restaurant, Shadowline Burgers and Brews, at 179 W. Washington St.
The burger joint just off Washington Street and South Second Avenue offers elevated burgers and regional drive-in classics along with appetizers, sandwiches, salads and milkshakes.
“There’s a good balance of the whole menu in sales,” John said.
Since opening, Shadowline has found a dedicated contingent of diners, the couple said.
“The community has already embraced us,” John said.
The restaurant idea grew during the pandemic. John was laid off from Google in March 2020 as transportation manager for the company’s car wash and parking lot.
“So I felt it’d be fun to open a burger restaurant,” he said.
John got to work in their home researching and testing various burgers to see what could work.
During this time, he and Sara — a Sequim pioneer family member and Port Angeles High School graduate — felt led to move from Covington to Sequim.
John said he fell in love with the area when they first started dating years ago, and he wanted to share his passion for burgers with his new home. Each burger was tested and vetted; the Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger was his first attempt, followed by more than a dozen varieties.
“I did not want a menu this big at first, but this is everything I love,” he said.
Top billing on the menu for elevated burgers is The Cowboy with three patties, Tillamook pepper jack cheese, applewood smoked bacon, house BBQ sauce, chopped onions, pickles, an onion ring, lettuce and tomato on an artisan bun.
Sara says her favorite is The Black Belt, invented by head chef Mark Diaz, with three patties, American cheese, Tillamook pepper jack cheese, deep fried jalapeno bottle caps, bacon jam and Ghost chili mayo on an artisan bun.
“It’s spicy but just right; it’s not unbearable,” she said.
John likes The Cuban burger with a burger, Tillamook Swiss cheese, thin sliced slow roasted pork, smoked ham, more Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles and whipped butter on an artisan bun.
“It’s just amazing,” he said.
It’s been more than a week since John said he feels they’ve gotten their fries just right, too.
Available in hand-cut, sweet potato, tater tots and garlic fries, cooks hand cut them in the morning and then cook them at a low temperature for a few minutes before letting them cool, and when ordered they’re cooked at a higher temperature.
John said they do their best to order local ingredients, including their meat from Port Angeles, and they make about 95 percent of their sauces in-house.
Sara said she loves that the menu can cater to a variety of people too with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options with various dressings and sauces, and wraps available for people’s needs. Another key element in the foods, John said, is that they try to get the best of their ingredients, such as the core of fresh veggies with scraps going to staff members’ livestock instead of the trash.
John said they also look at every review and discuss it with staff to see if changes are needed.
“You’d be surprised to hear how far we’d go to make someone happy,” he said.
Early on during their opening days, the couple said they faced some long wait times, which angered one large group. But because of their customer service and communication, the Zemlas said the family has become repeat customers.
“Bottom line, I want to serve food the community loves,” he said.
“We love Sequim,” Sara said.
This August, the couple tentatively plans to introduce craft cocktails in its bar area depending on if they can hire more servers. John said they worked with their alcohol distributor to handpick ideal beer, wine and hard alcohol options while not competing with neighboring downtown businesses.
For long-term goals, he’d like to also open a breakfast/lunch restaurant, and a chop house offering high quality steaks and seafood.
Shadowline is open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, and 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays with dine-in and take-out options.
Its name comes from a combination of Sequim’s Rain Shadow and the phrase “state line.”
For more information, call Shadowline Burgers and Brews at 360-683-8117, or visit Shadowlineburgers.com.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shadowline Burgers and Brews
What: Burgers, sandwiches, shakes and more (dine-in, take-out)
Where: 179 W. Washington St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
On the web: Shadowlineburgers.com