When you eat vegan tacos at Tim’s Tavern, you may not know it, but you’re sitting at the end of a long chain of events that shows just how tumultuous Seattle’s post-pandemic restaurant scene is.
If you’re at Tim’s, you probably know something of that history. As recounted recently by Vanishing Seattle, Tim’s Tavern used to be located in Greenwood, where it was a punk-centric venue in the early 2010s before current co-owners Mason Reed and Matthew O’Toole bought it and booked a more eclectic array of acts including burlesque shows and movies. Though forced to close due to COVID-19 restrictions, Reed says that the club kept paying rent throughout the pandemic and reopened in 2021 — only to be told that the landlord didn’t want to have a live music venue in the space anymore, and that the lease would not be renewed.
Forced to look for new digs, Reed told his real estate agent that he wanted something like what White Center barbecue joint Drunky Two Shoes had — not just indoor square footage, but an outdoor area as well. But the search was frustrating. Reed says that they ran into a common problem in Seattle, which was that spaces left vacant by longtime tenants often hadn’t stayed up to code, meaning that to rent them to Tim’s, landlords would have to make costly renovations; in many cases it was easier for them to simply flip these properties to developers who would build something new.
Then serendipity struck: Drunky Two Shoes closed as the owners left town, and the Tim’s owners took over in February, ditching most of the funky roadhouse kitsch and taking over a venue several times the size of their Greenwood spot. The doors have been open since late March.
Importantly, this new incarnation of Tim’s also has a kitchen, and Reed designed a menu from scratch. It features the tacos that constituted the “menu” of the old Tim’s but also a whole host of sandwiches and soft pretzels — standard bar fare, but the twist is that nearly everything on the menu can be made vegan and/or gluten-free.
During the pandemic, Reed worked as a caterer for a company that served a lot of music acts as they came through Climate Pledge Arena, and lots of these musicians are vegetarian or vegan. (Reed served OG veggie head Paul McCartney and vocal vegan Billie Eilish.) Building on that experience, he serves things loaded tater tots with plant-based cheese sauce, cauliflower rather than chicken wings, and plant-based ceviche that includes palm hearts. Reed tells Eater Seattle that they have a separate frier and freezer for gluten-free items so as to not risk contamination, and they don’t fry vegan fare in oil that has been used to cook meat. The goal is to be as welcoming to as many people as possible.
“The whole idea of Tim’s is that it’s inclusive,” says Reed. “It’s all about love and music.”
Forget Tim’s Tavern even does music, for a second — which is hard, because they have shows every night — how many places in Seattle serve vegan food seven nights a week? At a time when an increasing number of restaurants are closed on Mondays and even Tuesdays, you can stop in at Tim’s from noon to midnight for satisfying burgers, sandwiches, and fries. Reed has plans to extend the hours even further, to gospel or bluegrass brunches; he also wants to tweak the menu and add even more plant-based options, like a beet substitute for pastrami. Now that he has this space, he’s determined to use it.