Wednesday, July 28, 2021
July 28, 2021

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Food & Drink: A perfect picnic starts at Pick-Me-Up in Camas

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Picnic goodies from Pick-Me-Up Modern Take-Away in Camas.
Picnic goodies from Pick-Me-Up Modern Take-Away in Camas. Rachel Pinsky Photo Gallery

On a sunny day, the light dances along the surface of Lacamas Lake. It’s the ideal place to watch people with boats, parents blowing up floating devices and dog owners with their panting fur babies on leashes. Sweetwater SUP Rentals rents out kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. It’s also the perfect spot for a picnic.

Fortunately, Tish and Craig Lester opened their deli nearby on the corner of Northeast Everett Street and 35th Avenue. The original idea was to open a pizza-by-the-slice business — a good fit for a restaurant by a high school and a lake — but there were delays getting permits for the pizza oven hood. So, Tish Lester made sandwiches. Wholesale sandwiches (sold to local places such as Hidden River Roasters, Squeeze and Grind, and Washougal Coffee Company) make up a large percentage of the business. Lester told me she has made at least 30,000 sandwiches since the place opened in April 2017. As I talked to her, a young woman was assembling a large order of breakfast sandwiches for Squeeze and Grind. They ordered extra for Camas Days, which began the following day.

The menu doesn’t change much because the chalk marker Lester used to write the menu won’t erase … and because certain groups of regulars would revolt if she took favorite items off the menu. “The Waste Management folks need their Greek pasta salad. They don’t care that the tzatziki is vegan. They just like it,” she told me while I stared at the glass case of fresh salads and pies. “The peanut butter pie is a favorite with everyone. We’ll always have to have it,” she added.

Until you look closer, Pick-Me-Up Modern Take-Away looks like a regular corner deli: cold drinks, pre-made sandwiches and candy bars. Unlike the typical corner deli, however, everything on the menu can be made vegan (using tofu, smoked tofu or tofurky) except the egg salad. Salads, soups and desserts are always vegan. Desserts are also gluten free. “You don’t need animal products in anything to make it delicious,” Lester explained. She also shared that the secret to her gluten-free vegan brownies is to add extra chocolate to compensate for the lack of dairy and gluten. She wouldn’t divulge the secret to her extremely popular peanut butter pie.

The Vegeterranean sandwich, made with fresh garbanzo falafel, tomatoes and cucumbers in a tomato wrap, caught my eye. So did the barbacue jackfruit with mango salsa and avocado — but I chose the Chickpea of the Sea, a tuna-style salad with powdered nori and lemon aioli. Lester knows that veganism hasn’t taken over Clark County. She serves several deli sandwiches with real meat. Turkey sandwiches are the best-selling item on the menu.

I also ordered a Pick-Me-Up smoothie with pineapple, cucumber, mint and coconut water. I couldn’t resist the luscious brownies and peanut butter pie that stared at me from behind the glass counter. I grabbed all my picnic goodies and headed around the corner to Heritage Park. It was a bright, sunny day and the park was teeming with people.

I ate the peanut butter pie first because I didn’t want it to melt. (At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.) The pie had a crumbly chocolate cookie crust, covered with rich, creamy peanut butter and a checkerboard of chocolate drizzled on top. The Chickpea of the Sea sandwich had a velvety filling of slightly crushed chickpeas flavored with a bright lemon aioli and the salty umami flavor of nori with some lettuce and slices of tomato on thick, tender wheat bread. I followed the sandwich with a fresh, bright kale and quinoa salad with chimichurri and lime, washed down with an invigorating pineapple and cucumber smoothie cooled with a bit of fresh mint. My belly filled, I assessed my options.: Should I hike, rent a kayak, sit around and enjoy the sun, or go back for one more slice of peanut butter pie?

If You Go

What: Pick-Me-Up Modern Take-Away.

Where: 3510 N.E. Everett St., Camas.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Contact: 360-844-6528 or CamasPickMeUp.com

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