Tucked away in Tillicum, Manic Meatballs is still something of a well-kept secret. For example, did you know that they offer ready-to-go, home-cooked food, including classic and vegan meatballs, with all the accouterment, for a solo diner or a crowd? The establishment has an uncharacteristically cozy atmosphere in a military chain-food area, complete with Viking ships and long wooden tables. Those in the know stop by to eat and enjoy the atmosphere. Featured items include a kids’ menu, a la carte meatballs with sides (egg noodles, green beans and more), and to-go items. They cater public events and often support those in the military and other worthy causes locally.

Tillicum Manic Meatballs
Hearty and tasty, Manic Meatballs in Tillicum is a must-try restaurant. Photo courtesy: Manic Meatballs

What makes Manic Meatballs stand out, for many, is the home cooking. Walking in, everything is clearly cooked from scratch. The staff is friendly, and you can chat them up or take your order to go in the drive-thru. The positive and upbeat atmosphere almost matches the delicious food.

Creating a quality experience was essential to the owner, Carrie Stalder. She is especially interested in creating value and a family experience and strives to come up with ideas such as children’s sing-along nights. With a business degree and a Tillicum native, Stalder was determined to create a restaurant that gave back to the community. But the food speaks for itself. Prices are reasonable for home-cooked food. Get fountain drinks, a charming to-go box, Viking stickers, and all the lovely touches, plus a warm and hearty invite to come back.

Tillicum Manic Meatballs
Try a Manic Meal for a fill-you-up plate. Photo courtesy: Manic Meatballs

The menu mainstay features classic pork and beef Swedish meatball in a house-made brown gravy, ground chicken, chicken sausage, and apples in a creamy homemade gravy. You can also kick it up a notch and get your meatballs wrapped in bacon! For those with dietary restrictions or preferences, find Impossible meatballs spiced with nutmeg, served in a vegan, gluten-free brown gravy.

When it comes to the sides, it’s hard to pick a favorite — green beans, hard-boiled eggs and egg noodles all warm the belly and spirit. The cole slaw and other veggies offer a welcome dose of home-style, healthier fare that is otherwise unavailable in the area. There are lots of little “extras” at the Manic counter, too, like cookies and even Swedish fish for the kids!

Save room for dessert because the balls aren’t just for meat at Manic Meatballs. Yummy treats in a round shape include brownie balls and chocolate coconut balls, both vegetarian.

Tillicum Manic Meatballs
Bacon-wrapped meatballs are a step above the rest! Photo courtesy: Manic Meatballs

Stalder is a businesswoman from family experience and necessity. She and her husband developed the recipe to keep busy kids well-fed. What started with Saturdays of cooking meatballs turned into a business idea. The kids’ friends loved their meatballs, and they soon had a full house (and a full day’s work to match). The recipe comes from an old family one, adding to the charming story of this family-owned restaurant. She and her financial planner spouse agreed to start the business, finally, and have consistently provided service to happy diners. Converting a former bank in Tililicum and building on the military population’s desire for home-cooked food, Manic Meatballs quickly became a quiet hit.

Reminding us of what Lakewood used to be and still can be, come by and enjoy Manic Meatballs, run a couple of errands, or hit the park while in Tillicum. They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Manic Meatballs
14815 Union Avenue SW, Lakewood