I'm always looking for my next off-the-beaten path discovery in Renton--and Jay Berry's Cafe on Coalfield Corner has my heart on a plate.
Are you a hiker? Do you seek out quaint country cafes on bucolic back roads? Then I have a Northwest excursion for you. Plot a hike on nearby Squak Mountain off Renton-Issaquah Road, and plan to stop at Jay Berry's for a fuel-you-up breakfast, or a soothing pint after traversing the Issaquah Alps. There's a $2.50 Blood Mary on special Sundays, but knowing we were off for a hike, I stuck with water. Hub got a drip coffee cup for $1.75. About three hours into our Squak Mountain hike, I knew what I wanted my reward to be: a booth in Jay Berry's Lounge, with a pint or a cocktail.
Jay Berry's serves brunch until 2 p.m. on Sundays, a boon for the after-church crowd as well as late-risers like myself. Warmly painted, with blonde oak tables and chairs beside historic black and white photos of the area, this is a well-loved institution for good reason.
My husband ordered from a plate from the Traditional menu, the enormous Sausage Sandwich ($9.75), a breakfast bonanza of a giant sausage patty and scrambled eggs layered on two buttermilk biscuits, generously doused with creamy sausage gravy. It's more of a platter than a sandwich, and comes with hash browns. I went for The Lighter Side menu, and was delighted with my Light Eggs Benedict ($7.49), a half English muffin topped with a perfectly poached egg, rounds of Canadian bacon, and their 'famous formaggi sauce', a creamy four-cheese recipe akin to Alfredo. I'm sure it had plenty of worthy calories, but was the perfect size for a taste of Sunday breakfast decadence with a little less guilt.
Coalfield Corner is a bucolic junction in Renton, with horse stables and farms dotting the countryside. A few miles away lies Squak Mountain, one of the least traveled of the Issaquah Alps. Take Southeast May Valley Road to the well-maintained Squak Mountain State Park trail head--be advised there is a $10 day-use fee, payable with cash or check to Washington State Parks.
Squak Mountain has a fascinating history, as Stimson Bullitt of Seattle had architect Paul Thiry build a country retreat for his family near the top. Stim (as he was known) was a passionate mountain climber and outdoorsman who "helped transform Seattle's rundown 1st Avenue, served a decade as King Broadcasting Co. president, was a skilled appellate lawyer, championed civil liberties and environmental cause, was awarded a Purple Heart" according to HistoryLink.org. Now knowing the full story, the abandoned stone chimney seems an almost eerie reminder of a man whose pedigree and passions didn't meet up. Sadly, the retreat was only used several times, as his wife Carolyn refused to stay there, and the cabin "was destroyed by vandals because it remained unoccupied after my then wife said, after a visit during construction, that it made her want to cut her throat" (HistoryLink.org.) Stimson gave the 590 acres to his children, who in turn gifted it to the state.
Tucked between Tiger and Cougar Mountain, Squak offers less-traveled trails popular with horseback riders, and families. Ferns and Douglas firs abound on this trail, with trillium poking up from the edges. It's a 900 foot forested climb of approximately three miles to the Bullitt Chimney, where you can give your legs a rest and picnic at a lone table or bench. We were confused as to how to find the Central Peak summit at 1,700 feet, so we turned around at the chimney.
Having completed our mission, we stopped back at Jay Berry's for a couple of pints in the tavern portion. Among the regulars and cheeky sayings posted on the walls, we sipped our cold pints of Blue Moon and Manny's Pale Ale ($4.25), toasting to our first hike of the season.
Jay Berry's Cafe
16341 Renton Issaquah Road Renton, WA 98059
Sunday 7 am to 9 pmMonday-Thursday 11 am to 9 pmFriday 11 am to 10 pmSaturday 7 am to 10 pm
Sunday 9 am to 11 pmMonday-Thursday 11 am to 11 pmFriday 11 am to 12 amSaturday 7 am to 10 pm