Serene Cuisine: The Antique Sandwich Company

By Sandra Sarr

On a wide bench outside the Antique Sandwich Company, a man--guitar propped at his elbow, dog at his feet--sips a hand-squeezed lemonade and nods at passersby. The atmosphere is easy at the Antique, a favorite of Puget Sound students and professors since 1973.

Inside, smells of a marionberry pie and other baked goods, all honey-sweetened, waft from the oven toward the front door, where a morning regular steps in for steamed eggs and espresso. (The Antique lays claim to Tacoma's first espresso machine.)

Fresh ingredients and a sense of community are served daily here, whose owners and sisters-in-law Tamie and Shirley Herridge started the business when they were only 22 and 25. They bought the 1918 former IGA store at the gateway to Point Defiance Park with Tamie's mother, Arlene, who sold antiques alongside the girls' soups and sandwiches.

"A lot of people have been coming in for 30 years, since the very beginning," says Shirley, her black hair now a shade of salt and petter. She says it's because the Herridges care about the people they work with and serve.

"And we have really good food," Tamie says with a smile, noting their most popular items are the avocado/cheese/sprouts/tomato sandwich and the turkey (roasted on-site) sandwich.

Their philosophy is to offer high-quality, nutritious food at reasonable prices. "We try to keep the prices down so students and others can afford to go out and eat," says Shirley, who lived in Berkeley, Calif., and was influenced by Food Conspiracy, a food-buying co-op featuring organic fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and dry goods.

An aqua dragonfly and rainbow-colored sailing ship float with other artful kites from the Antique's soaring ceiling. Masks, carvings, tiles, figurines, pictures, and clothing line the walls. The folk art, made by low-income artisans from cultures around the world, is for sale through Traditions Fair Trade, added in 1993 by Tamie's husband, Dick.

"We've always just done what we believe in," says Shirley.

"Growing up in the hippie era, we do things in an alternative way, especially in how we eat," says Tamie, noting longtime customers have said it's the first place they tasted sprouts on a sandwich.

Their menu is inspired by the ideas of '50s nutritionist Adelle Davis, (Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit), Frances Moore Lappe (Diet for a Small Planet), and the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook.

Customers order at a mammoth oak and mirrored bar salvaged from an Alaska saloon after the Gold Rush. Tamie and Shirley found the bar in Seattle, where it had graced a '30s watering hole. It was painted glossy black, and they spent the better part of a summer restoring it. At the center of the restaurant is a large marble statue of a female figure. Named Colombo, it was carved in Carrara, Italy, in 1893 by Augustus Bardi for the Columbian exposition in Chicago. "She's been here since the beginning. At 1,400 pounds she's hard to move," Shirley says.

The bar, status, and a grand piano survived a 1983 fire, which shut down the Antique for six weeks.

"We lost a lot, including all of our family pictures and things we stored here. We were devastated," says Shirley. "But the community wouldn't let us consider not reopening." Tamie recalls customers showing up to wipe and scrub for months. She says Carrie Washburn, assistant dean at Puget Sound, organized a donation drive to help get the Antique up and running again.

These days, UPS poetry students can get a taste of reading in front of a crowd at open mike night on first Thursdays of the month. Sundays feature live classical music. Yoga classes are taught upstairs in a space where the Image Theater screened art films in the '60s and early '70s.

For five years Tamie and Shirley catered the Puget Sound Faculty Lunch Club, but putting in 12- to 14-hour days at the Antique led them to give some things up to make time for family, textile weaving and dyeing, and Shirley's violin students and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

"It still feels like there's lots to do," says Tamie. "We've talked about writing a little cookbook, but when do you fit that in?"

The Antique's famous Lemon Tahini Dressing recipe, cut down to size for home use:

  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1/4 bunch of celery

Blend vegies until smooth.

  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tamari
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3/4 cup roasted sesame tahini (stir in at end)

Mix, chill, serve fresh.