Hans Nowka, part owner of TapRoot, is ready to move on. The Spenard venue is closed and in its place is his newest venture, Route 33.
Rather than focus on music six days a week, Nowka wants his place to cater to a more diverse crowd. Food and drinks are the focus and they have a brand new menu of comfort food with a southern vibe.
“Our main thing is that we just didn’t want to be just burgers and pizza or whatever everybody else gets,” Nowka said.
Despite some blowback for shutting down TapRoot, Nowka said the venue driven model just wasn’t cutting it. He still wants to keep having live music, but he’s looking to do something different.
“TapRoot was TapRoot,” Nowka said.
General manager Audrey Williams hopes that by limiting live music to the weekends, they can provide a better all around experience.
“We still hope to draw that music community in as much as we can,” Williams said.
Nowka’s former partner, Martin Severin, told True North Magazine in 2016 that his goal for TapRoot was “To be the coolest music venue in the state.” While cool didn’t translate to cash, Nowka still has high hopes for Route 33 as a venue, albeit in a reduced sense.
With fresh paint and a remodel that helped open up the space, Nowka wants Route 33 to have more of a neighborhood restaurant feel. He hopes it’ll be the kind of place where anyone would stop in for lunch or dinner or grab a cold one and watch the game.
“I want to be a place that you could come and hang out,” Nowka said.
Long before the location was TapRoot, it was the Fly By Night Club, and for a few years, Player’s House of Rock. Nowka’s relationship with the building goes back well beyond TapRoot when it used to be an arcade.
“Literally, when I was 5 years old, I used to play arcade games in this building,” Nowka said.
The restaurant prominently features a few arcade games as a functional, and entertaining, homage to the building’s history.
Despite living on the south side of Anchorage as a kid, Nowka said he grew up in Spenard. His dad had a cabinet shop across the street from the building for 40 years.
Following in his father’s foot steps as a wood worker, Nowka acknowledges that he’s more of a businessman than restaurateur. That’s where general manager Williams comes in, who brings 20 years of restaurant experience — everything from tightly run ships to the sinking variety. Williams and Nowka hope to carve out their own niche in the Anchorage food and drink scene with Route 33.
“We don’t want to compete with the other people that have already established themselves,” Williams said. “I think what we want to do is we want this place to be fun.”
Like any new restaurant, there’s still plenty of work to be done even now that they’re open — things like final decorations, refining operations and dialing in the food and drink menu.
Nowka said he welcomes feedback. He wants Route 33 to feel like a mom and pop business which means maintaining a dialogue with customers.
“It’s all a work in progress,” Nowka said.
Route 33 is located at 3300 Spenard Road and is open Tuesday through Sunday.