One of the first things I do when I hit Tacoma is make a dash for Hess Bakery in Lakewood. It’s nothing like the Italian shops in New York – what could be? – but they have the best pretzel rolls this side of Dusseldorf.
It’s easy to miss. It sits with German sensibility on a side road by the mall, flanked by a Goodwill and a couple of strip-mall buildings with different tenants each time I go to the store. The bakery itself has a no-nonsense brick facade with a no-nonsense sign. There is nothing on the outside that would draw the uninformed to the goodness inside.
Take care when you pull into the parking lot. The cars here are mostly old and mostly large, as are the people driving them. Whether or not the drivers can see you or hear you is moot – cars pull in and out of parking spots with no concern for any human or another car. Caveat emptor is the keyword here. Most folks hobbling to and from cars have strong accents and look like Brezhnev’s mother.
Inside, you are greeted with bakery goods and magazines. I’ve tasted most of their breads which tend to be heavier and more flavorful than those sold across the street at Safeway. This is fine with me since I’ve always considered bread a meal in and of itself. The black rye is my favorite. The magazine rack is full of German titles. My only experience with these was as a kid when my German friend and I would scan his parent’s Der Spiegel for boobs. The staff is happy and most speak German to their customers.
Be forewarned: there is no vegan or health food section here. Deutsche staples line the shelves. You’ll notice right away the space reserved for cabbage. It’s like grits in the South. Here in Tacoma, you might find one sack of grits at Safeway. And it’s been there since 1982. At our home in Florence, SC, every store reserves about ten feet of shelf for ground corn of every kind. It’s the same here with cabbage. Red, green, pickled, and processed. It’s all here. I bought some spaetzle and candy and a quarter-pound of bologna with olives. The real prizes are the pretzel rolls. They are made daily by the hundreds. It’s a rare customer who passes through the cash register without throwing a few rolls in their bag. I took home a dozen knowing that daughter Re would eat as many as me.
Tomorrow we are off the Pike Place Market to take the girls for prayer at the holy shrine that is the first Starbucks.
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