Meatball poutine? Homemade applesauce? Yes, please. New Manic Meatballs opens in Lakewood
We finally have a spot for Swedish meatballs (that don’t come from your grandma’s kitchen). Manic Meatballs in Lakewood opened three weeks ago with a menu built for Scandis, but with broader appeal to those looking for a slice of home cooking. And a menu big on meatballs and gravy.
As you can imagine from the name, meatballs are the foundation of the menu. Here’s a first-bite look with photos and a bit of guidance for a first-time visit.
BACKGROUND OF MANIC MEATBALLS
“We have a Swedish American menu anchored with the Swedish meatball,” explained owner Carrie Stalder back in November when I first wrote about the restaurant opening.
“My husband is of Swedish descent and has been making Swedish meatballs and a number of amazing side dishes for years. We always feed the masses for holidays, potlucks, parties. After a number of requests and ‘I wish we could buy this,’ it turned into ‘maybe we should sell this,’” explained Stalder.
This is the first restaurant for the family. Stalder relied upon her extensive background in operations to launch the restaurant. She also knows her client base. She worked on Joint Base Lewis McCord and soldiers and base workers comprise a big slice of her customers.
Plus there’s this: A military discount of 10 percent.
WHERE ELSE CAN I GET SWEDISH MEATBALLS?
Considering our deep Nordic roots here, it’s weird this area is short on Scandinavian food at restaurants (outside of driving all the way to IKEA). But did you know we have an annual Nordic Festival meatball dinner and bake sale every October? The 2020 event was canceled, of course, but I’ll be sure to tell you all about the 2021 festival, hosted by Edgewood by the Daughters of Norway Embla Lodge #2. There’s also the annual Scandinavian menu at 208 Garfield, the lovely cafe operated by Pacific Lutheran University. That holiday menu is an annual tradition.
THE DINING ROOM AT MANIC MEATBALLS
When the dining room opens for indoor seating after pandemic restrictions are lifted, you can find me hanging out at the cartoon-like giant Viking boat that anchors the dining room. Stalder commissioned a local carpenter to make the boat for the restaurant.
There will be two separate dining areas. For now, of course, the restaurant is take-out only.
Something else to note – the lobby adjacent to the take-out counter is stocked with all kinds of Nordic gift items. Need a viking stuffed doll, anybody?
TWO WAYS TO GET TAKEOUT AT MANIC MEATBALLS
The restaurant was built for quick take-out with easy service at the ordering counter.
Manic Meatballs also comes equipped with a drive-thru. I ordered online and the process was easy, seamless and my order was ready exactly when the restaurant said it would be. Diners also can look for the restaurant on third-party delivery apps (Uber Eats, Grub Hub, Door Dash).
Don’t want to get out of your car for a socially-distant experience? They have you covered. There’s a drive-thru at Manic Meatballs, but it might not be as fast as going into the store and ordering take-out. Said Stalder, “The drive-thru is working but is a little tricky for guests to find, as we don’t yet have lighting. If there is a line-up, we take the guest order and have them pull into the parking lot. We then run the order out in a few minutes. That allows us to serve more guests without a long wait. As the demand increases, we are prepared to staff up the drive-thru.”
THE MENU AT MANIC MEATBALLS
Enter Swedish meatballs, the heavenly, velvety porky-beefy meatballs suspended in a rich brown gravy. They’re a staple for comfort eating at home and I’m just glad to have a source for when I don’t want to make my own. But the menu goes beyond just Swedish meatballs. Here’s a rundown.
MEATBALL CHOICES: There’s the pork-and-beef Swedish meatballs in a beefy gravy. There’s also apple-sausage meatballs in a cream gravy. For vegan and gluten-free diners, and for those trying to increase their plant-based eating, the restaurant offers Impossible plant-based meatballs that are vegan and gluten-free, and are served with a vegan, gluten-free gravy.
SIZES: Individual meatball meals with traditional or chicken meatballs are served in portions of 6 ($8), 12 ($14) and 24 ($24) and come with their corresponding gravies, plus a choice of egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Sides are extra. There’s an upcharge for the Impossible meatballs.
SUPERSIZE EATERS: If you want something more substantial than the meatball with a starch, then look to the combination meals. Combo meals come with a drink, a starch choice of noodles or mashed potatoes, plus two more small sides and a choice of a six-pack of meatballs or meatball sandwich for $12. (And there’s an upcharge to substitute Impossible meatballs). Get the 16-meatball combo meal for $16. There’s also a family feast with 24 meatballs, a choice of starch and three large sides for $35, but I have to say that my party of three devoured 24 meatballs fast. The family meal is listed as feeding 5, but if you’ve got serious eaters, treat it like a meal for 2-3.
SIDES: Starch choices of egg noodles, mashed potatoes, fries, rice or shells and cheese. There’s also housemade applesauce, coleslaw and thick-cut cucumber-dill salad. Do it Nordic style and get lingonberries on the side.
OTHER MENU ITEMS: The menu also includes bacon-wrapped meatballs on a stick served a la carte in portions of 3 ($6), 6 ($10) or 9 ($14).
There’s also flooded fries, which is meatball-and-gravy poutine with cheese curds. Without meatballs, they’re $8 and with meatballs they’re $12. Get the meatballs.
FOR KIDS: Kids meals are $6 and comprised of a three-meatball meal with a side and apple juice or milk.
GLUTEN-FREE AND VEGAN DINERS: The gravy and meatballs on the Impossible meatballs are vegan and gluten-free, so that meal is safe for diners with those dietary needs. The applesauce, green beans and cucumber salad also are safe for vegan and gluten-free diners. Look for handy menu symbols to help guide you.
ON A FIRST VISIT AT MANIC MEATBALLS
SWEDISH MEATBALLS: Silky gravy draped the meatballs that seesawed between a porky-beefy flavor. The meatballs carried a satisfyingly springy texture. A drizzle of sour cream swirled into the gravy.
BACON-WRAPPED MEATBALLS: I ordered six of these magical things and was rewarded with two skewers of meatballs wrapped in thick-cut smoky bacon that carried fatty edges. Hey low carbers, this one is for you. You’re doing it wrong if you don’t order one of these meatball skewers.
CHICKEN-APPLE MEATBALLS: For those who avoid beef and pork, this is a go-to option. The gravy was lush and creamy with a dusting of paprika.
FLOODED FRIES: This one could be a little tricky for take-out diners who plan to eat in a car. I appreciated the restaurant packaged the individual components, but it does not make for easy assembly in a car. At home, however, these flooded fries were a fine experience. Just drizzle the gravy and meatballs over the fries, pop on some cheese curds and go at it. I can say with authority that this reheats well if you pop it into the toaster oven for 5 minutes.
APPLESAUCE: Hands down, the best homemade apple sauce I’ve ever had at a Pierce County restaurant. Served warm, the apple sauce is lightly tart with discernable apple chunks and carries mild sweetness. The restaurant serves the applesauce in take-out containers in their fridge case and I have to tell you that you’ll want to spoon it over yogurt, oatmeal, everything. It’s as tasty cold as it is warm.
CUCUMBER SALAD: A little dill, a little sweet, a tasty vinaigrette and a lot of thick-cut cucumbers. This salad held the right amount of tangy acidity to cut the richness of the meatballs and gravy.
IF YOU HAVE TO PICK ONE STARCH: Get the mashed potatoes over the egg noodles. The egg noodles were great, of course, with a nice bouncy texture, but the mashed potatoes were ultra creamy and velvety smooth. I’d eat just a plate of these for dinner.
A SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT ICE: Stalder is particularly proud of her ice choice for her fountain drinks. She calls it “chewable ice.” She described, “It’s a little less uniform than the pellet ice, I believe, but it is chewable and awesome.” She added, “We offer Pepsi fountain products but also have a vanilla and pineapple Stubborn craft soda. And, flavor shots. Guests can add strawberry, cherry, vanilla or lemon to any fountain drink.”
Where: 14815 Union Ave. SW, Lakewood; 253-584-9798