Published on April 23rd, 2014 | by Michael Fitzgerald0
Tacoma’s trailblazing vegans to rename Quickie Too
Taco Burgers, Smoky B.L.T. Wraps, and Buffalo Mac… things vegans eat, right? These are just some of the dozens of tasty offerings on the exclusively vegan menu at the Hilltop institution soon to be formerly known as Quickie Too.
The Hilltop restaurant is in the process of changing its name to something more aligned with its other partners in Plum Restaurants like Plum Bistro and Plum Pantry in Seattle.
The Tacoma location is the oldest of the restaurants. According to the menu, Quickie Too has been around since 1991, but the Howell family business originally started out as a wholesale sandwich company and has just kept growing.
Owners Niombi and James Howell became vegan in the 1970s after witnessing much illness in their family; as Niombi put it, “diseases of the system” associated with diet. She added that taking on a vegan diet, “did not start as animal activism… [but] as I became more conscious I realized you don’t kill to eat. Killing to eat is not something you think about, but once you expose it, you become conscious of it.”
Afi Howell, daughter and server at the restaurant, told me they “bought the building way back in the crack days,” speaking of a bleaker time in Hilltop’s past.
Things have been looking up, especially recently as Hilltop is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance with more businesses and nonprofits establishing themselves along Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and with the medical expansion in the area. Afi said the community bike shop around the corner, Second Cycle, has brought in “a lot of people who wouldn’t normally be here.”
Inside Quickie Too, the atmosphere is relaxed and very laid back. Usually the sounds of reggae fill the room and the lively floral accents give the diner a feeling of home. Along with other art, it seems like there are more pictures of Bob Marley on the wall than can be found on a page of Google image search results.
The six-page menu offers a wide variety of options to choose from, like the Really Big Burger ($12.99); the TLT, made of tofu or tempeh, lettuce, and tomato, ($11); the Fremont Philly ($12); and their specialty, Mac and Yease ($5.99). I was pleased to find out that they also cater and create customized vegan wedding cakes.
On my recent visit, I enjoyed the Jamaican TLT sandwich with fries and a glass of yerba mate. Everything hit the right notes, especially the Jamaican tofu and freshly-baked bread dabbed with oil. The restaurant’s offerings can be a little pricy, but fair due to the high quality.
The Howell family’s recipes have developed over the years. When they started, “there were no [vegan] recipes…no such thing as organic, vegan is just now catching on,” Niombi noted. They made their own types of familiar, yet vegan substitutes for mayo, and organic versions of ketchup, barbecue sauce, relish, and other sauces.
She shared that at times it’s “difficult to change what people eat when they’re used to blood mixed with salt and pepper. Let’s give them another taste. Let’s use the herb kingdom.” She said the idea is to give customers a familiar but different texture and taste, sometimes by using techniques like smoking the tofu.
Niombi and James have inspired a second vegan generation: Son Ayinde Howell is a chef, founder, and editor in chief of ieatgrass.com and author of the book, The Lusty Vegan. Daughter Makini Howell is a chef at Plum’s Seattle restaurants and recently appeared on the Queen Latifah Show for Earth Day. Plum recently released a cookbook titled, Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro.
It’s an exciting time for the Howell family and I can only hope for a name that embraces both the Plum moniker and references the wonderful home they’ve built on the Hilltop. Find Quickie Too (soon to be renamed) at 1324 Martin Luther King Jr Way.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11 am – 8 pm
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday 11 am – 5 pm
Brunch served Sunday 11 am to 3 pm
Quickie Too photos by Michael Fitzgerald.