Everyone in the Northwest knows, summer doesn't happen here until at least July 5, but there's nothing more All-American than fried chicken, potato salad, and baked beans on the 4th. Why not let this Texan all-star do the work for you? Bring a picnic basket, a blanket, and head over to the banks of the or to for a southern-style feast.
Owner Ezell Stephens has a name that might ring a bell, as in . A divorce and a law suit prevented Stephens from putting his own name on his new solo venture. He knows what it means to overcome adversity, start over, and keep the faith.
The name Heaven Sent says more about the man himself, sporting a t-shirt that reads, "God is Good All the Time." Stephens is a natural community organizer who speaks at schools, "...showing children that hard work and determination pays off and that the only person who can stop you from achieving your goals is yourself; if you keep trying, you will never fail!"
While on my visit, Ezell was back in Texas... Framed pictures of Ezell and Oprah and family portraits of happy-go-lucky chickens strutting in the country side fill the small dining room in downtown Renton where used to be. This is Ezell's third location, and the first to be born originally as Heaven Sent. There's only a few tables in the dining room, but hungry church-goers stream in after Sunday service, dressed to the nines for take-out.
A small order of Strips ($5.10) fill a paper boat filled to the brim, and it's quite the snack. You get a choice of one side sauce — ranch, tarter, honey mustard, hot sauce, or BBQ — or add more for 35 cents. If you've ever seen the horror of how mechanically separated, ammonia-washed chicken becomes a Nugget, you will appreciate Heaven Sent's chicken strips all the more. This is real chicken breast, cut into strips, battered and fried, served spicy or not. Smaller Snack Packs come with a signature fluffy popover roll, but no sides, so I added fried okra for $2.50. The okra and the strips seem to be fried to order which is a bonus, not ready to go under the kitchen window's heat lamps.
My husband ordered Heaven Sent's "Favorite" — a Four Piece Mix Dinner for $10.45 — Leg, Thigh, Wing, and Breast in your choice of spicy breading or original. The spicy batter is slightly peppery, but not too sassy to dip into a little hot sauce. As for rating the fried chicken, H.S. gets big points for juicy meat. The downer, was that the overall temperature of the chicken felt like it had been sitting under the heat lamps a spell, rather than beamed down from heaven. However, a quick trip into our home toaster oven ratcheted it up to a rave review.
Dinners come with your choice of two sides, which include: mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad and corn. The coleslaw cup was tasty, and not partially-frozen as I've experienced at the Ezell's in Skyway. The beans are B & M brand, which I saw in large food service cans outside the kitchen. They were sweet for my taste, but are largely regarded as America's classic canned baked bean.
I regret not saving room for a slice of Sweet Potato Pie ($1.95) or some Peach Cobbler ($3.65). There's no sweet tea to wash your food down with, but plenty of cans of classic Detroit Faygo sodas in flavors such as Peach, Strawberry, Grape, and Cream. Faygo's cream flavor is regarded as one of the best in the U.S., despite its reputation as "the poor man's pop." Speaking of bargains, a 24-piece Family Order with rolls and two large sides, serves 12-15 people for $48.45.
While is gone, Heaven Sent has done well to preserve the soul of this downtown Renton 'hole-in-the-wall.' Since the transition, there's an adjacent free parking lot that makes it mighty convenient to order up a picnic lunch or cater a party.
Heaven Sent Chicken
509B S 3rd St.
Renton, WA 98057
10 a.m.-9 p.m. Everyday