Opening day for Uncle Mike’s BBQ in White Center – with vegetarian options, too!

Story and photos by Deanie Schwarz
Reporting for White Center Now

“Just forget Texas or Kansas City-style barbecue. This is original,” says Mike Gordon, the new co-owner, with wife Elizabeth Gordon, of Uncle Mike’s BBQ, located at 9640A 16th SW (across the street and down two doors from Full Tilt Ice Cream). Today is the official grand-opening day, after a while in “soft open” mode.

Bright orange painted flames and chubby pigs adorn the windows; on the door under the glass-block transom is the store logo — an iconic, orange backyard-barbecue scene.

Mike is a Northwest native. His barbecue roots go back through decades of Seattle history – with family members cooking barbecue at their home in the Central District, just down the street from Garfield High School, for African-American entertainers on the circuit during the segregation era of Seattle between the 1940s through the 1960s. “When they couldn’t get health permits to serve food, they’d have to do it out of their homes.”

That experience and family reunion traditions was the training ground for each of them to learn how to cook barbecue, as well as how to get along with other family members. Mike, an electrician by training, learned to love cooking for large groups as a consequence, because it brought the family together and built community. So now, with the help of his wife and some of those same family members, he has turned passion into vocation, launching his “original barbecue” joint.

It’s a place where he intends to serve quality food so that people feel the value of their dollar, but also where a warm welcome and at-home comfort can be found, where you’re welcome no matter what your color, gender, nationality, ability/disability, sexual orientation might be, or anything else that might seem to set you apart otherwise. “I think recent restaurant owners here in White Center have a definite sense of social responsibility, as well as a [desire] to make a profit, “ Elizabeth says. “It’s an opportunity to appreciate different life experiences, rather than be threatened by them or marginalized by them. Then, we get to participate in the richness that all of that life experience can bring to our places here in the White Center commercial district. It changes the character of the community. It’s transformative.”

Elizabeth continues, “That’s one of the reasons we wanted to be open late at night … to be a [positive] factor in the nightlife. Not only does it provide us with an opportunity to have more customers coming late at night, but it also states the case that not every place here in White Center is involved in questionable activity. [It means] that yes, you can come to WC at night and find [another] welcoming family atmosphere.” Elizabeth is the former legal director of Disability Rights of Washington and also has a Masters in Divinity, as well as being a certified candidate in the Seattle Presbytery. Before beginning this new life as a restaurateur, she was working on her theology Ph.D., but then the recession led to long periods of unemployment for electrician Michael and, as she says, “But for the economy, we are being called to the restaurant business.”

One more note of direct relevance to Uncle Mike’s: Elizabeth is a vegetarian, so this barbecue joint offers a number of vegetarian options. Working with the kitchen staff to develop quality menu choices led to BBQ tofu that’s smoked, rubbed, marinated and grilled. Family veggie recipes include Portobello salad and Bobbi’s Special, as well as the Queen’s Delight, an eggplant and smoked mushroom sandwich using rolls made by Seattle Roll Bakery, located down the block. The baked beans are vegetarian as well. A Suggestion Box is available, so that if there is enough interest, the greens (made with ham hocks) and the red beans and rice will be also made without meat additives.

Entrees (see the menu here) are classic barbeque with Kesha’s Coleslaw ready as a side order or add it on to a sandwich to make a Southern Slinger out of Poppa’s Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket or Hot Links. A special Sunday Dinner of 1/4 Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes & gravy, corn or black-eyed peas, salad and corn muffin will ring up at $9. Sunday Specials include a Smoked Turkey dinner for $7.50.

Weekly specials are also offered. The dessert lineup includes sweet potato pie, Auntie’s Lemon Bars, peach cobbler, and ice cream (for the grand opening, they’re serving Full Tilt’s special Uncle Mike’s BBQ Sauce flavor).

Helping tweak the menu, and creatively deriving vegetarian recipes and all other kitchen management matters is former West Seattle Corner Inn (which used to be where Zeeks Pizza is now) kitchen manager Jimi Mitchell. Jimi lists 30-plus years of kitchen credentials, including West Seattle’s Corner Pocket, Martini Mike’s, Fx McRory’s, the Contour, Salty’s, and the Mayflower Hotel. “Nothing goes out until it is perfect in taste,” says Jimi.

Takeout is available, as well as call-in orders. The crew does catering for large groups, of course, and there is a Monthly Special Discount offered to those who buy their t-shirts made by Seattle Silk Screen across the street. If anyone who buys a shirt wears it into the store at the end of the month and they buy one entrée, they can get a 50% discount on a second entrée.

For more information, the Uncle Mike’s website is here, and they’re on Facebook too.


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13 Responses to “Opening day for Uncle Mike’s BBQ in White Center – with vegetarian options, too!”

  1. Welcome to the ‘hood! I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see so many exciting businesses make a go of it on this street. It really feels like we’re reaching a critical mass now.

  2. This is fantastic! We can’t wait to try it. I feel spoiled living in White Center!

  3. yum! Yum! Vegetarians options in a soulful ‘que joint! I will be here this week!

  4. It was great! went there for lunch on Saturday and the pull pork, was excellent! I had it with there Mac and Cheese.

  5. Wow! The food and the company looks great. Can’t wait to walk over and give it a try. So many choices and so little time. Welcome to White Center under perfect summer skies.

  6. Karen & Robert Says:

    We ate there last night it was AWESOME. This is one new place that is definitely here to stay.

    Thank you for coming to our neighborhood!

  7. I love that you’re opened at night! Another dinner spot to go to, and I can’t wait to try the fried chicken on Sunday.

  8. I admit its great that we have new businesses in White center. With the glut of pawn, hair and nail salons, porn shops and Asian food, its great to see something new. I was excited when Proletariat pizza opened, great pizza, and was equally excited when Mikes opened.
    I ate at Mikes today and doubt I will ever go back. When I entered, I was the only person there. After I placed my order, two more customers entered and placed their orders. After waiting 20 minutes (The others that entered after me received their orders with in 5 min) for a pulled pork sandwich I went home to eat. Talk about a disappointment, this was the worst BBQ I have ever had. It tasted like pasta sauce and catsup. The pork you can tell is smoked, however, it’s not pulled pork it is more like sliced ham. With the poor service the worst BBQ sauce I have ever eaten, and sliced ham instead of pulled pork. I do not see Mikes staying around long.

  9. We regret that anyone has a negative experience at Uncle Mike’s Barbecue. We encourage customers to let us know as soon as possible if there’s a problem with service, food quality, or anything else, so that we can address the issue. Thanks, Uncle Mike.

  10. I sent my friend to Uncle Mike’s to get me some brisket last night. It was the best I have ever eaten, so tender and smokey…I turned my back for a couple of minutes and like magic most of my sauce was gone as well as a substantial portion of my meat…she said it was now her favorite bbq joint now as well. next time I will make sure I guard my dinner a little more carefully.

  11. Russell Hodgkinson Says:

    Welcome to the neighborhood Uncle Mike! We really enjoyed meeting you. I thought your service was excellent. Being from the south however, I was a bit disappointed with the cornbread. Just like BBQ, everyone has a different idea about what it should taste like. I thought was was too dry and sweet. If you’ve ever eaten at a “Cracker Barrel” that’s my kind of cornbread. The pulled pork was sliced in chunks and chewy instead of being so tender you can “pull” it apart. Hopefully that’s been corrected. I liked the sauce and enjoyed the sides, but I would have loved some pick-a-pepper sauce for the greens. It’s a staple in the south, but then this is not the south. I hope you guys stay around for a long time. I will definitely be back.

  12. My family had Uncle Mikes to go tonight, the staff, the presentation was great my family walked away saying “What a nice family oriented business with bbg.” The flavor was great, and we all enjoyed it. Spread the word on great food like this, I am tired of the traditional places trying to cook something they can’t. Keep it up get a sign for night time to show what you got.

  13. We ate at Mike’s with a large group Friday. They were very accomodating of our large, unannounced party. It’s great to have barbeque for both carnivores & vegetarians. We will be back!
    Welcome to the ‘hood.