The best way to enter Stan’s Bar-B-Q is from the back, directly from the narrow parking lot that always seems crammed with vehicles, wedged in by Front Street to the west and railroad tracks to the east. En route to the front of the diner, you’ll pass walls plastered with sports photos and award plaques extolling the food within. On the right, you’ll catch a glimpse of the kitchen—or, I should say, “smoking” area—where the various meats on the menu are prepared. Then, you’ll enter the dining room/bar area that looks as much like a sports bar as any in Seattle around Qwest Field, complete with large overhead LCD TVs broadcasting all manner of sporting events. And the interior is dark even during the day, exacerbated by the dark decor.
This ambience is a cover for what some believe serves the best barbecue in the greater Seattle area. That it is located in the burbs means that eager Seattleites must cross a Lake Washington bridge and wend their way along “small town” Front Street which has long ago become an inadequate traffic thoroughfare. Issaquah is where proprietor Stan Phillips wound up by way of Texas, Kansas and South Carolina. Despite the fact that he offers smoked meats of all kinds, including chicken, turkey, ham, hot links, brats, meatballs (weekends only), pulled pork and baby back ribs, his trademark offering is the Kansas City Sliced Beef Brisket (sold by the pound), a recipe that he brought with him from hometown Kansas City, Missouri, one of the meccas of American barbecue.
From the menu, I’ve tasted several things over a period of many years. The smoked chicken wings, which are listed under appetizers, are quite good, while the hot links are made better elsewhere (my all-time favorite made by Leo’s Bar B Q in Los Angeles, now closed). You also can’t go wrong with Stan’s pulled pork, especially in sandwich form, even if the sloppy ones served at Pecos Pit in Seattle is a sight better. Once I discovered the beef brisket though, there was no turning back. Sliced along the grain in thick cuts, the brisket is very beefy, moist, lightly smoky, perfectly seasoned and mostly tender except the bark, outer portions exposed to slow heat, which are chewier and (in parts) nicely charred. The meat needs no sauce, a testament to its quality. Nevertheless, you have a choice of mild, medium or hot sauce, served in small plastic lidded tubs, all of them thick and based on the classic KC barbecue sauce ingredients of tomato sauce, vinegar and sweetener (probably molasses). Spices that I detected included cumin and celery salt. This is truly a wonderful brisket (☆☆☆½), which the first bite will confirm.
Sides include baked beans, cole slaw, creamed corn, and potato salad. Happy hour offers markdowns each day on a brewski (on tap) and menu item.
58 Front St
Issaquah, WA 98027
I recall from my beef loving days that Stan’s brisket was very good, but if you’ve ever had the brisket at Memphis Blues in Vancouver, it will establish a standard that you will compare all bbq brisket that come after.