In King County, we’re currently in Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to reopen the state, which keeps restaurant dining rooms at 50% indoor capacity for the moment. However, when I spent some time in Renton over these past few weeks, many of the places I visited were still closed to indoor dining. In fact, two of my favorite spots are food trucks, with no dine-in option at all. All this to say, regardless of the phase we’re in, it’s possible (easy even?) to support your local restaurants in whatever way you feel comfortable.
I found myself waiting outside Clyde’s Southern for nearly 45 minutes one sunny afternoon, a constant stream of prop planes circling overhead; and as the wood smoke wafted over me and a few other people in line, I found myself grateful to have the time to put my phone down and watch the flames in the sunshine. The fact that there was excellent barbecue at the end of that wait didn’t hurt. Also worth waiting for in Renton are crispy potato cakes, chicken schnitzel sandwiches, huli huli chicken bowls and empanadas.
Clyde’s Southern Wood Fired Barbeque
1-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 201 S. Fourth Place, Renton; 206-446-8885
The hulking black smoker is affixed to the back of a large white trailer, parked at the edge of the parking lot of a window tinting business. You can smell the wood smoke a few blocks away, and there’s almost always a small line of people waiting for barbecue. You’ll see proprietor Clyde Collins in the back, patiently rearranging wood and checking the temp of all the meats. His wife, April, makes all the sides: There’s baked beans, fried okra, collard greens, potato salad and the like. The couple (and a small staff) have been running the truck since 2004 — but took a break from 2013-16 after Clyde suffered a stroke that permanently stole his ability to speak. The truck has been at its current location since 2017, serving up ribs, brisket, pork, chicken and hot links.
I got the special ($20), which included two meats, potato salad, baked beans and cornbread. There’s a rich, smoky flavor that permeates the tender ribs, wonderful on their own or slathered with a sweet/spicy barbecue sauce. The brisket is tender but not overly fatty, while the cornbread is the fluffiest I have had in a long time. Wait times might be long — it’s hard to rush good barbecue — but you can call ahead to order.
10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 1 S. Grady Way, Renton; 253-981-4637; maspika.com
You’ll often find this bright yellow, blue and orange food truck parked in the lot of the now closed Yankee Grill & Bar at the Red Lion Hotel. The owners got their start in catering (and also own the Yankee Grill); the truck was a pandemic pivot. The website describes the truck’s menu as a “representation of our partnership and cultural/ethnic background,” and blends the flavors of the Yucatán with those from Guam and the Northern Marianas. There are rice bowls with chicken, bulgogi or Spam, empanadas, lumpia, tacos and a burger.
I grabbed citrusy chicken kelaguen and rich pork belly carnitas taconadas ($3 each), two chicken empanadas ($5) and a huli huli chicken rice bowl ($13). The tacos are served on a slightly crisp empanada shell; the chicken kelaguen is a traditional Chamorro dish featuring moist, chopped chicken studded with hot peppers and green onion. The huli huli chicken rice bowl came with a mound of grilled chicken thighs shellacked with a sweet and tangy huli huli sauce, a generous scoop of rice, kimchi, pickled papaya and cucumbers. While everything was incredibly tasty, the best were the chicken empanadas. They were the color of the interior of a Butterfinger, and the candy bar’s tagline of “crispity crunchity” instantly sprang to mind after one bite. The crunchy, flaky shells are stuffed with chicken kelaguen and red rice and served with a slightly smoky dipping sauce.
11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 601 S. Third St., Suite D, Renton; 425-264-5592; saltyblueseattle.com
Although the décor at this bright space in Renton features posters of some of Australia’s most well-known locales, it was the chicken schnitzel sandwich that brought me right back to my nights in Brisbane. A staple of nearly every bar, hostel or hotel, chicken schnitties were a cheap, delicious dinner option. Here at Salty Blue, the chicken schnitzel sandwich ($11) is a crunchy, panko-breaded piece of pounded chicken, served on a soft brioche bun with pickles, a slice of melted cheddar and a dollop of sweet, yet peppery mayo. It’s a terrific twist on a craggy, batter-heavy fried chicken sandwich. Also good is the fish burger ($12), featuring a fillet of firm, New Zealand-sourced hoki with a dill-heavy tartar and pile of slaw.
Sandwiches are served a la carte, and I recommend skipping the fries for an order of potato cakes ($4). These medium-thick slabs of potato are coated in a tempura batter and fried until light and crunchy. The juxtaposition between the creamy potato and the crackly batter is heavenly, and the crispness held up overnight in my fridge only to be revived in my toaster oven the next day.