TNT Diner

New lunch spot offers fast food without the greasy regret

Find a marinated skewer of shrimp on top of the Aztec salad built with quinoa and avocados. Find the salad at the Garden Bar, newly opened in Tacoma.
Find a marinated skewer of shrimp on top of the Aztec salad built with quinoa and avocados. Find the salad at the Garden Bar, newly opened in Tacoma.

Tacoma’s newest Eastside restaurant, Garden Bar, grew out of a lunchbox quest.

Culinary-school graduate Nyesha Jones said her partner-in-business-and-life Dion Cooper complained about his dine-out options for lunch.

“He was eating quick food from fast-food places, and he’d be unsatisfied with the flavor and price,” Jones said. “He wanted to make salads to take to work. Not a little salad, either, something good and filling with fruits and veggies.”

The lunchtime salads they began concocting kept the hungry electrician fueled, and it got them thinking about other hungry salad seekers.

Jones, a 2010 Le Cordon Bleu graduate, worked for seven years at downtown Pacific Grill as a pastry chef before she and Cooper decided to take the plunge into a meal-delivery service.

They started Garden Bar working part-time out of a commissary kitchen on South Tacoma Way. Meanwhile, they looked for neighborhood spaces that were small enough to be affordable but had the requisite traffic they desired.

They found a space in an Eastside neighborhood strip mall bordering Midland. It had everything they needed, including a setup similar to a Subway. In fact, it formerly was a Quizno’s.

They opened June 17. The Garden Bar is fast-casual with an emphasis on fast assembly and nutritious ingredients. Here’s a first-bite look at the restaurant. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.

Dining room: The 16-seat restaurant comes with well-spaced tables. The salad theme carries to the decor. An accent wall is painted vibrant green and rose.

Order style: Like a Quizno’s or Subway, order at the counter. Customizations are invited. Self-service soda machine (with low-sugar options). Vegans and vegetarians can be accommodated and gluten-free items are noted on the menu.

The food mantra: Lean protein, high fiber, low sugar. Menu items feature healthy grains and lots of colorful, snappy vegetables.

The menu: Those lunchbox salads comprise most of the short menu. Six salads are listed, most built with lean protein. Entree-sized salads are all priced $10.49. Smaller half portions are $5.95.

Any salad can be turned into a wrap with a flour, whole wheat or spinach tortilla ($5.95). There’s a build-your-own-salad option that includes a long list of ingredients ($5.49-$6.49 half size/$9.95-$11.95 full size).

All salads are built with what Jones calls the power-green mix, a combination of fresh baby spinach, frisee, chard and kale.

Salads: The Temple combines edamame, chicken breast, almonds and broccoli with sesame dressing. Another pairs apples with roasted beets, walnuts, celery, bacon, blue cheese and turkey breast with greens and an apple cider vinaigrette. The Sebi mixes hard boiled eggs, bacon, avocado and cheddar with greens and ranch dressing.

Also: Three no-sugar-added smoothies with protein powder, non-fat milk and chia seeds, with add-ins ranging from avocados to beets to fresh fruit ($4.25). Yogurt-fruit-granola bowl and fruit salad ($3.49-$3.75).

Salads for a first visit: Don’t miss the southwestern-style Aztec salad with a scoop of quinoa salad with black beans, tomatoes, roasted corn and diced red bell peppers along with halved cherry tomatoes, a half avocado sliced on top of a generous bed of salad greens and a skewer of marinated, chilled shrimp. The salad was drizzled with a smooth-and-silky avocado cream dressing flavored with lime. The Infinite salad was another big meal in a bowl with an entree-sized portion of fresh greens topped with roasted sweet potatoes, roasted pumpkin seeds and a chilled salmon fillet. That one was drizzled with a champagne vinaigrette.

Save room: Get the tart cranberry-yogurt oatmeal bar with minimal sugar (brown) added ($3.49). There’s also a medjool date and cocoa powder dessert called a chocolate energy truffle ($3.49).

Garden Bar

Where: 1623 E. 72nd St., Tacoma

Contact: 253-433-3736;

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m Sundays.