- Thin, crunchy pizza, a mile-high hot pastrami and swiss, jerk chicken, deep-fried mac and cheese bites and warm firepits await food cart junkies in Redmond.
"Nut Crusher Peanut Butter Porter."
This I'm reading off the chalkboard beer menu at Downtown Redmond's popular garage-themed Wild Ride Brew. It's a phrase I've never actually considered before.
"One Nut Crusher, please," I say to the 6-foot-tall bartender who could pass for Uma Thurman's little sister. She begins pouring while I try to pretend the whole peanut butter beer thing's no big deal. As if I'm an expert. With any luck, she'll not realize I wouldn't know porter from pilsner if I were snorkeling in it.
But instead, she takes that moment to politely ask: "Nitro or CO2?" I quickly specify Nitro due to the fact that it's so much more fun to say. The beer comes out a lot darker than any jar of Skippy or Jif that I've ever seen, but its glorious peanut butter taste is authentic to the point where I instinctively start yearning for white bread, strawberry jam and my third-grade Scooby-Doo lunchbox.
Who knew beer could do that?
Honestly, beer's not even why I'm here. I didn't come all the way up to Wild Ride –with its hip metal, glass and cement decor – simply for a lunchtime drink. No. A quick stroll out the front door, through the patio and past the fire pit, reveals the main purpose of my visit: Food carts.
Four of them, shimmering out in the parking lot, arranged in a tight square. Here's your guide:
1. Jerk Kings
Standing next to this cart, more than 3,000 miles due northwest of Jamaica, I'm in jerk heaven. I order the Caribbean rice bowl and plant myself at one of the seven wood patio tables. Jerk Kings bills its menu items as "Authentic Caribbean Street Food." Those are some tasty streets.
Five or six plump pieces of jerk shrimp arrive, sitting atop a bowl of rice and vegetables bathed in what reminded me of a Thai-infused curry sauce with a touch of coconut milk. Jerk can get ultra-spicy and hot, but the shrimp here turns out enjoyable for all tastes. Underneath the shrimp, it's a medley of chunky vegetables: potatoes, yams, okra, black beans, peppers, tomatoes and avocado, adding a fresh touch. A perfect dish in both flavor and texture.
2. Wubba's BBQ Shack
Everyone has a ribs story. Mine starts with a side of deep-fried mac & cheese bites. The mathematical equation behind this dish is simple: decadence times two equals delight. A bite-sized spoonful of bright orange mac and cheese stuffed into batter and fried. It all works together wonderfully for a crispy, creamy pleasure.
My main order of four meaty baby back ribs, slathered in the most exquisite sweet sauce, tender and very easy to navigate, normally comes with beans and slaw. Already the mac & cheese ($1 extra) has set a high standard. The coleslaw comes mildly spicy. I might have preferred a slightly more traditional slaw to pave the way for those incredibly flavorful ribs.
3. Food Fellas
You can hear the whispers throughout Wild Ride Brew. By the time you reach the Fellas' cart, there's an almost hypnotic chant: Hot pastrami & Swiss. Hot pastrami & Swiss. The cart owner confirms it's the heavy favorite. This fantasy sandwich arrives nearly as tall as the bartender – stacked way high with a giant heaping of tender and juicy hot pastrami, gooey melted cheese, two onion rings, a big amazing pub bun and yes, a thick pickle slice on top.
It's best attempted with a knife and fork. Trying to negotiate this monster by mouth alone will amuse your kids, but won't accomplish much else. Once you do get all the accessories together, you'll understand why its reputation seems to permeate the entire patio. Added bonus: Herb-seasoned fries come alongside.
4. Red Road Pizza Co.
You'll find more than a dozen of your pizza favorites here — including pepperoni, Hawaiian, The Mt. Bachelor (pulled pork, sausage, olives, mushrooms), BBQ chicken and The Gardener (vegetarian). I followed the owner's recommendation and went for the chicken choke pie – a potent combination of chicken, artichoke hearts, pesto and spinach.
This is a thin pizza with fresh vegetables and a crust with just the right crunch. A perfect companion for any beer (with or without peanut butter). Red Road has 14 pizza varieties and all pies are 12 inches. Very friendly service here, and that goes for all the carts as well.
As for dessert – I made a simple PB&J sandwich once I got home. Obviously.
Wild Ride Brew Food Carts
332 SW 5th Street, Redmond
11am – 10pm (Days vary)