TNT Diner

Brank’s will bring its barbecue to the Washington State Fair

Luis Morales of Tacoma carries away a tray of spare ribs as co-owner Preston Brank pulls the finished product from the smoker at Brank’s BBQ in Sumner.
Luis Morales of Tacoma carries away a tray of spare ribs as co-owner Preston Brank pulls the finished product from the smoker at Brank’s BBQ in Sumner.

Knowing the Washington State Fair attracts thousands of visitors a day, Sarah Williams doesn’t know if she and her siblings should be excited or scared about their first time serving ribs, chicken and pulled pork during the event.

But her family, of Brank’s BBQ and Catering, is as ready as it can be with a giant new smoker ready to shoulder the brunt of the work.

“It’s a bigger smoker, a bigger version of what we currently have at the restaurant. It’s got about 150 square feet of cooking space. What’s funny is that I accidentally ordered the wrong one and it was too big, but maybe that’s a good problem,” said Williams.

They’ll serve the entire stretch of the 21-day event, a daunting task because it’s impossible to anticipate just how many hungry people will show up asking for ribs.

Williams and her brother Preston Brank and sister Jessica Hughes are the second-generation operators of Brank’s, which their parents, Charlie and Lori Brank, founded more than 20 years ago. They started the restaurant in downtown Sumner in 1995 after learning barbecue techniques from barbecue legend Paul Kirk, known as the Kansas City Baron of Barbecue.

In 2005, the family moved the restaurant to its current location, which has expanded a few times. They still have a friendship with Kirk, who has returned to the restaurant to teach barbecue classes.

Charlie and Lori are retired now, and their three children handle the daily operations of the restaurant known for its ribs, brisket and pulled pork.

They’ll set up at the fair near the merry-go-round in a booth formerly occupied by Longhorn Barbecue.

The space has a walk-up counter with an adjacent covered seating area filled with communal picnic tables.

The restaurant’s St. Louis spare ribs will be smoked over cherry wood at the fair. (That big smoker will be easy to spot — and smell — from afar.)

“We’ll have pulled pork sandwiches and chicken — half and quarter pieces,” Williams said. Both also will be smoked over cherry wood.

Also on the menu will be “a bowl of barbecue beans topped with slaw, jalapenos and pulled pork, with pickles and diced onions.”

For meals, a three-rib meal will be $13.95 and a half-chicken meal at $12.95, both served with coleslaw. A rib-and-chicken combo meal with slaw will be $15.49. Expect the pulled pork sandwich to be $9.95 and the bowl of beans at $8. They’ll also serve a la carte orders of fries, macaroni and cheese, beans and coleslaw.

Williams said it felt surreal to her that she’d be joining the lineup of iconic fair foods she always orders: an Earthquake Burger, elephant ear, a Krusty Pup and a scone.

“I can’t quite wrap my head around it even though I’ve been planning this for a few months now. We’re very excited to get our brand out there a little more. I hope they let us come back every year.”

Brank’s BBQ and Catering

Where: Near the merry-go-round at the Gold Gate.

Operating: Every day of the fair, Friday (Sept. 2)-Sept. 25. The fair will be closed Tuesdays.