Back to Archives

Meatless in Tacoma

Vegging out at quickie too and marlene’s

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Vegetarians and vegans looking to dine out in Tacoma have it rough. There are plenty of meatless options scattered among the city’s menus, but they are limited and inconsistent from spot to spot. For those looking for a meatless menagerie, Quickie Too and Marlene’s Market and Deli are Zion. Meat eaters, meanwhile, are strongly encouraged to visit both to see what they’ve been missing.

Quickie Too

At the junction of 13th Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Quickie Too offers burgers, sandwiches, sides and a mind-blowing Sunday brunch. The building is non-descript — look for the grayish box on the west side of MLK with a sweet Toyota van in the lot. Inside, the walls are plastered with tributes to Rasta greats, and you’re likely to hear Culture crooning “Natty Dread Taking Over” (R.I.P. Joseph Hill). Be prepared to turn off your deeply-ingrained sense of entitlement to three-minute meal delivery.

Quickies is worth the wait.

 “We’ve been doing this for a long time,” says Quickies matriarch Niombi Howell.

For those unaware, the Howell family is legendary in vegan circles. A blessed branch of 20-year-old Seattle institution Hillside Quickies, the Tacoma location offers most of the same homegrown recipes that have converted carnivores in Seattle for years.

“I think Tacoma is coming around,” Howell adds. “Young people especially are beginning to open their eyes and come to consciousness (about what they choose to eat). Now we have a lot of kids bringing in their parents.”

In the place of cholesterol- and saturated-fat-laden flesh, kids and their parents will find a bank of proprietary tempeh, seitan and tofu varieties that will make them wonder why they ever ate animals. Tofu and other meat substitutes adorning masterpieces such as the Crazy Jamaican Burger — a six-inch tower of jerk-spiced tofu, ripe plantains, grilled sweet onions, potato salad, vegan mayo and tomatoes — is the product of years of fine tuning and experimentation. The result, says Howell, is food that reminds us that meat represents a fairly narrow range of available flavors.

“If you think about cooking, people flavor their food with meats,” she says. “Our flavors are created with natural herbs and spices. Developing our tofus has taken years”

For carnivores, the novelty of spiced tofu and other elements of the Quickies experience is just that — novelty. But many first-time visitors become insta-fiends for the Howell’s concoctions (author included). The appeal, says Howell, results from the unveiling of foods’ natural flavors. A staunch proponent of the so-called slow food movement, Howell suggests that we miss out on nature’s beautiful, natural variety of flavors by eating at breakneck pace and drowning everything in butter, salt and ranch dressing.

“With all that butter and stuff, most people don’t really know what a carrot tastes like,” she says.

The slow food movement is about pleasure and taste, knowledge and choice, according to national boosters Slow Food USA. It’s about slowing down and getting hedonic about food. Its about using locally-produced goods whenever and wherever possible, and turning dining into a conscious process — conscious of where it comes from, how it’s grown, what it contains, how we prepare it, how we serve it, and being present during the devouring part. It’s time for food to be sensual again, say Slow Food fans.

Marlene’s Market and Deli

Speaking of sensual, Marlene’s Market and Deli serves a vast variety of soups, sandwiches, quiches, specialty entrees and desserts — all with your health in mind.

The Tacoma location is an outgrowth of Marlene Beadle’s Federal Way store, which began as Federal Way Health Foods in a strip mall on Pacific Highway South. Since then, Marlene’s has expanded its Federal Way store to more than 9,000 square feet and employs more than 50 people, according to the company’s Web site. In Tacoma, Marlene’s offers up fresh-squeezed juices alongside organic espresso, fresh-baked goods, homemade soups, and a splendid variety of desserts. Oh, and most of it tastes damn fine.

Gone are the days of bland, hard-to-swallow bricks of unfettered grain — this full-flavored and good for your body, folks. Highly recommended are: fresh quiche, which is now approved for real men; towering sandwiches made to order; fresh lasagna and a mean variety of soups made fresh daily. All of Marlene’s deli food is prepared fresh on site using organic ingredients when available. Marlene promises that you’ll encounter no hydrogenated oils, refined sugars, preservatives or human-made colors or flavors.

Don’t worry, it’s got plenty of flavor.

[Quickie Too, 1324 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.572.4549]

[Marlene’s Market and Deli, 2951 S. 38th St., Tacoma, 253.472.4080]


Both Quickie Too and Marlene’s offer a brilliant bottled beverage known as Kombucha —  a mystical beverage consisting of sweetened tea fermented with a special variety of yeast and living cultures. The result is a tangy, delicious liquid that tastes like, well, sweetened, fermented tea. Seriously, it’s good, and apparently made people live forever in second-century China. If you can get over the bits of mushroom-like matter lurking in the bottom of the average bottle, it will become an instant habit.

comments powered by Disqus