By Melanie Kallas Ricklefs
Vegans and vegetarians rejoice! We can finally experience dining out like everyone else, with mouthwatering choices, and no need to grill the server about ingredients. Tofu Hut is an Asian fusion restaurant that caters to specialized diets like no other restaurant in Thurston County. They offer a multitude of appetizers and entrees that are vegan, or can be veganized (yes, that’s a word), all you have to do is ask. Many of their dishes can also be prepared gluten-free by request. If you’re a meat eater, you’re in luck. Tofu Hut has a section of the menu devoted to fish and meat dishes, and any one of their noodle and rice dishes can be made with beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp.
Despite their name and willingness to make vegan substitutions, Tofu Hut entrees are typically prepared in a traditional Asian style with meat-based ingredients, such as fish sauce, meat sauce, beef salt, and oyster salt. The fish sauce and meat salts are used to bring depth to sauces and broths, and are a critical ingredient for most Asian cuisine. However, they are happy to make their dishes vegan, and I can say first hand that the vegan sauces are flavorful and have a depth of their own that will please anyone’s palate. Their wide variety of dishes and desire to make everyone feel welcome makes Tofu Hut the perfect restaurant for families and friends with diverse dietary needs to gather for a meal together.
For years, Tofu Hut owner Soo Kim has dined out with a group of friends with varying diets including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. During these evenings out, she and her friends realized how hard it was to find a satisfying meal for everyone at the table. In most restaurants, the only vegan option was a garden salad. They often wondered why there were so few restaurants that could oblige a special request.
When Kim opened Tofu Hut in 2009, she aimed to accommodate as many dietary restrictions as possible to make sure that everyone could have more than just a salad. That being said, the salads at Tofu Hut are distinctive and delectable. In addition to their green salad, they offer a crispy tofu and vegetable salad, as well as salads created around crunchy noodles, or rice vermicelli. If you have a particular dietary need that is not listed on the menu, just ask one of the servers for their suggestions. They are very friendly, sensitive to individual needs, and will be happy to help find an option that works for you.
Tofu Hut has received many awards in their six years of business including “Best Restaurant in Olympia” in 2011 and 2013, and “Best Thing about Lacey” in 2012. It was a featured restaurant in “Where the Locals Eat” in 2013, and was listed by PETA in 2010 as one of the three restaurants that made Olympia the number one vegetarian-friendly small city in North America.
Their menu includes a vast array of appetizers, salads, rice and noodle dishes, and stews. Some of the customer favorites include the vegetarian potstickers (kid approved), V-8 Delight (my personal favorite), Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles, and Yakisoba. If you still have room for dessert after your meal, they offer vegan and gluten-free cupcakes from Abby’s Cookies and Cupcakes.
The next time you are asked to provide food for your office party, or other event, look no further. Tofu Hut provides buffet-style catering from their menu, while giving you vegan, or gluten-free options. If the majority of your members prefer the original meat-based versions of the dishes, they can provide these meals buffet-style and make individual meals for those members that have more restrictive diets.
Not only does Tofu Hut create outstanding meals for all to enjoy, they are also Green-Certified. They are doing their part to lessen their impact on the environment by offsetting their carbon footprint. They have worked with LeMay, Inc. to set up a comprehensive composting program in which all food waste, brown paper, cardboard, and chopsticks are composted. Kim says that their composting program not only helps reduce their impact on the environment, it saves them money as well. In addition to composting, they have worked with Puget Sound Energy to replace all of their lighting with energy efficient lighting.
Having been vegan for almost 30 years, I had never experienced variety when dining out. The first time I went to Tofu Hut, I was completely overwhelmed by all of the enticing options. After savoring many of their scrumptious offerings, I now relish the opportunity to choose whatever suits my mood.
4804 Pacific Ave. SE in Lacey
Monday – Thursday from 11:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Closed on Sunday