Meat your maker

Two reasons to eat barbecue this summer.

JONES BARBEQUE

3216 S. Hudson, 725-2728 noon-8 p.m. Tues.-Thurs.; noon-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 3 p.m.-8 p.m. Sun. AE, MC, V / no alcohol KING'S BARBECUE HOUSE

2710 Beacon S., 720-4715 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. daily cash only / no alcohol THE QUINTESSENTIAL summer food is barbecue, and frankly, this has always puzzled me. It's hot to cook and heavy to eat. Its flavors are large and sugary, its side players robust and creamy, its aftereffects enervating as a day under a hot sun—none of which sounds particularly appealing to me after a day under a hot sun. To my mind, barbecue sounds better as an antidote to the frigid gales of winter, but I'm clearly in the minority on this—the entire planet disagrees with me. Everyone knows the closer one gets to the equator, the bolder and hotter and more vivid the cuisines become. Mexican chiles, Indian masalas, and every fiery flavor in between pretty much tell the story. They're just not slathering a lot of hot sauce over smoky ribs in Norway. Which is all I have to say: I come from Norwegian people. Sorry. But make no mistake, I love barbecue. And given that summer in Seattle is like a good, solid half-a-spring in more southerly climes, barbecue goes down pretty easy here. So, for the benefit of those for whom summer isn't summer without some good 'cue, we revisited a couple of longtime barbecue standbys—one Texas-Arkansas, one Chinese—down south. That's south of downtown, which, along with the Central District, has traditionally been the locus for barbecue in this region. Just past the Rainier Vista projects on MLK you'll find Jones Barbeque, with its oversized homemade sign and undersized parking lot (the Vietnamese billiard hall next door really packs 'em in). It's a small but amply breezy little joint, with numerous fans working overtime (not to mention TVs—what this place saves on rent, it surely spends on juice). Most patrons order up front for takeout, but eating in is also an option: The linoleum and dinette sets are clean and comfortable but look like they could take a splatter or two of sauce. William Jones has been at it here for about 13 years, but it's only in the last year that his place has really taken off, with lunchtime lines out the door not uncommon. This may be due to the recent marketing of Jones' barbecue sauces or his winning last year's Juneteenth sweet potato pie competition, but I suspect it may also have to do with Columbia City's recent rearrival on the city's map. (Now, just try finding a parking place.) The service, uncommonly accommodating, is as friendly as the setting. And about that sauce: It's thick and sweet and dark as molasses and comes in three octanes. To our palates, the mild and medium were virtually indistinguishable and slightly too sweet; the hot was pretty kapow but better modulated. And the meat! Slices of brisket, slow smoked, were thinly sliced and swathed in sauce. Chicken, slightly dry, was golden and crackly, its skin rubbed with subtle spices. The pork ribs were best: moist and tasty and smoky, like all the meat. Jones' also does hot links, which we didn't have room to try. All the meat comes in sandwiches ($5.50-$6.75, with potato salad or coleslaw) or as a dinner ($8.95-$9.95, with potato salad or coleslaw, baked beans, and a couple of slices of marshmallowy white bread), and there are all manner of family combos. As for the sides, the potato salad ruled, with its mustardy backbone and lush texture. The beans were sweet and soupy, deep and dark. Corn bread (75 cents a chunk), thick and cakey, was perhaps too sweet to be a good foil for the sauces, but this sure didn't stop me from eating it. Weekends feature mac and cheese and candied yams, in case you haven't yet carb'd out. Even if you have, you'd be ill-advised to forgo dessert: Jones' sweet potato pie ($2.50 a slice, $12 for a whole), lusciously creamy and heavily spiked with nutmeg, is how it's done. NOW FOR SOMETHING only a little bit completely different: Chinese barbecue, up the street and up the hill. The original King's Barbecue House is in the International District, but the newer outpost on Beacon Hill serves a more residential clientele and is strictly takeout. There is honestly nothing of note about the place itself—a room with a counter on Beacon Avenue—except for its sidewalk window, through which passersby can admire the array of glistening, golden chickens and ducks dangling from hooks. Order, say, duck to go, and the man behind the counter will grab one off its hook and hack it to bits with a cleaver the size of an axe. Into the Styrofoam container he'll pile it, over a thick carpet of fragrant rice drizzled with a light, subtly flavored hoisinlike sauce. The duck we sampled was glorious, moist within and sticky-sweet on the skin with the garlicky, gingery, plummy red coating that makes finger-licking Chinese barbecue. This you can do with chicken (we found it dry, but exceptionally flavored), sausage (sensationally moist), pork, and pork ribs; the latter two were so flavorful and juicy and perfectly suited to their sauce that I'm still dreaming about them. And, at $4 a plate, I can do more than just dream. That's it: At King's, there are just a couple of soft drinks, no sides, no distracting vegetables—and you can go get your own damn dessert. There's something essential about this approach to barbecue, something right. It narrows the focus to the meat—and meat, after all, is what barbecue's all about. I could probably even eat it in summer. krobinson@seattleweekly.com

 
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