Whole Food/Soul Food

The Truth shall set you (dairy-)free at Hillside Quickies.

IF YOU THINK vegan food means sprouts and wheatgrass, you have yet to face the Truth. Also known as "macaroni and yease," the Truth ($8.99/lb. or $3.79 per side serving)imitation mac 'n' cheese made with soy milk and various spices, creating a taste and texture similar to the real thing while adding a nutty flavor akin to wild mushroomsis served daily at the U District's Hillside Quickies. It's just one of several dozen menu items that good-naturedly ape traditional steak-and-potatoes fare while meeting meat-, dairy-, and pesticide-free standards. A full line of impishly named sandwiches (the Crazy Jamaican Burger, the Frijole Moly Burger, the Tofu Thingee, and the Evil One, all $6.60-$7.49) and sides like mashed potatoes with gravy ($1.99) and greens ($3.69) make HQ more soul food than health food. I first stopped into the sandwich shop on a mad fast-food craving. I gave up Jack in the Box and its ilk years ago, but something in me cried out for a greasy, no-good burger with equally bad-for-me fries, and HQ was there when I needed it. While I expected a vegan burger shack to serve up "light" fast food, there was absolutely nothing low-fat about it. The Truth was delicious but undeniably oily, and the Big Burger ($6.75) oozed mustard, grilled onions, HQ's vegan mayo (which tastes surprisingly non-vegan), and potato salad (also dairy-free). Potato salad or cole slaw ends up on many HQ sandwiches; burgers and subs with Jamaican flair also tend to include grilled sweet plantains, which add an unusual richness and transport HQ's tofu, tempeh, and seitan creations to the realm of guilty pleasure (light-years from the unpalatable soy alternatives that saturate the vegan market these days). HQ is a study in effective restaurant design: Pick one type of food and do it well, then keep things simplebare-bones decor, a menu filled with comfort-food favorites, and a small but steady operation. Then let the business come to you. "We sell the only thing [of its kind] on the Ave," manager Afi Howell says. "You can always get Chinese food, but if you want a vegan burger, you have to come here." Jack in the Box, eat your cholesterol-choked heart out. nschindler@seattleweekly.com

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