Pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac & cheese from Lil Red Takeout & Catering. (Photo: Intentionalist)

Intentionalist: Enjoy a Summer BBQ at These Seattle BIPOC-Owned Businesses

by Jax Kiel

Intentionalist is built on one simple idea: where we spend our money matters. We make it easy to find, learn about, and support small businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop. #SpendLikeItMatters

This summer has been hot, but the grills at your favorite local barbecue joints are even hotter. 

Barbecue can mean many different types of foods, but one thing all barbecue has in common is being associated with summer. Grills and umbrellas. Cold drinks and tender meat. Good meals with family and friends. 

As businesses open back up from the COVID-19 lockdown, show your support for the local businesses-owners barbecuing up a storm. 

This summer treat yourself to barbecue from your local businesses, whether it’s Hawai‘ian, Jamaican, Southern, Korean, or any other type of barbeque. Spend like it matters as you check out these three Seattle-area barbecue spots.

Leianna and David Landon inside their restaurant holding a sign that reads “Welcome to our Ohana.” (Photo: Pac Island Grill)

Pac Island Grill

Leianna Landon said her husband David Landon worked in the restaurant industry nearly all of his life before the couple opened their Hawai‘ian restaurant in Federal Way 15 years ago. The food at Pac Island Grill reminds people of home and the friendly atmosphere makes it obvious that the restaurant is family-owned and run. 

The number one seller at Pac Island Grill is their Loli-Loli Chicken, a barbecued chicken with a sweet sauce. Leianna said this dish is traditionally called Huli-Huli Chicken, but David wanted to name it after their daughter, who always made the sauce for the chicken dish when the Landon family made Huli-Huli chicken at home and continued the tradition at the restaurant. Their daughter is nicknamed Loli.

“The people that come in, we consider a family, too. Our regular customers, we call them ohana. Then the people that work for us, generally in the kitchen, have been with us for a long time and we just consider everybody family, and it’s a nice atmosphere for people to come in and recognize that.”

— Leianna Landon

Erasto “Red” Jackson at the Lil Red Takeout & Catering counter. (Photo: Intentionalist)

Lil Red Takeout & Catering

When Erasto “Red” Jackson opened his restaurant, he wanted it to be a little hole in the wall for locals. He imagined it like an old speakeasy, with oldies or laid-back music playing and delicious smells of ribs, jerk chicken, and more wafting out the door. Those smells lure customers and the community of Columbia City into Lil Red Takeout & Catering, and the flavors keep them coming back for more. Red opened Lil Red Takeout & Catering because he enjoys feeding people and he wants them to have a good experience at his restaurant, but the business means more to him than that. Community support is imperative to Red because the restaurant is how he makes a living and takes care of his family, which he said has been hard to do in Seattle during COVID-19.

Red can’t pick one favorite item at Lil Red Takeout & Catering. He said everything on the menu is up there because he likes it. If he doesn’t personally enjoy something, it’s not sold at his restaurant. Every once in a while Red will cook up a special with extra ingredients, trying to create something. To Red, that’s the beauty of cooking — to be able to create something he thinks his customers may like. Red said his customers are great in the Rainier Valley and Columbia City area and are always supportive.

“Everybody always comes in with a smile on their face and they just really support and gravitate to what we’re doing. I tell most of my customers that I don’t want your support if you don’t like what we’re doing. If you don’t appreciate what we’re doing, if you don’t like the food we’re cooking, give me feedback on how I can make it better.”

— Erasto “Red” Jackson

Sylvia Hu sitting in front of a plate of food. (Photo: Sumi Korean Grill)

Sumi Korean Grill

Sylvia Hu saw a lack of Korean barbecue in the Tukwila area, so she decided to provide it herself. When she opened Sumi Korean Grill in 2020, she wanted to serve her customers high-quality meat in a great environment. Despite COVID-19, she has succeeded in creating a beautiful restaurant with delicious food. That said, the pandemic has significantly affected her restaurant. There have been fewer customers dining in and fewer new customers trying out the restaurant, and they still have rent to pay. Additionally, Sylvia’s business has struggled to get grants and other financial support as a new restaurant. This struggle is one of the many reasons why it’s important to Sylvia that people in her community show up to support Sumi Korean Grill and other small businesses. 

Sylvia describes Sumi Korean Grill as Korean cuisine with a contemporary twist. Her restaurant also serves non-barbecue options that are light, refreshing, and good for daily dining, which she recommends ordering for lunch. Everything is delicious, but the pork and beef barbecue feasts are the stars of the show and are perfect for gatherings with family and friends. The beef feast consists of different cuts of wagyu beef and the pork plate features kurobuta. For Sylvia, the extra effort and extra expense on high quality ingredients is worth it when she sees her guests are satisfied.

“When I was in high school, I was thinking about [having] my own restaurant. After graduating, I was truly planning to open my own restaurant. Sumi Korean Grill is my dream that came true in Tukwila.”

— Sylvia Hu

Editors’ Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly listed the last name of Erasto “Red” (owner of Lil Red Takeout & Catering) as “Johnson.” This article was updated on 08/04/2021 with the correct last name of “Jackson.”

Jax Kiel is a student journalist at Western Washington University and an intern at Intentionalist.

📸 Featured Image: Pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac & cheese from Lil Red Takeout & Catering. (Photo: Intentionalist)

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