Pacific Northwest-style BBQ joint puts down roots in downtown Kennewick

Swampy’s BBQ Sauce & Catering began as an offshoot of a church group.

Now, it’s a permanent fixture in downtown Kennewick, where it is anchoring the Port of Kennewick’s food truck plaza at Columbia Gardens Urban Wine & Artisan Village, on East Columbia Drive near the cable bridge.

Swampy’s is the brainchild of Ron and Christina Swanby, who got their start bringing homemade barbecue to their weekly church group gathering. It was so popular they spied a business opportunity.

The couple began catering events, then bought a food truck from Portland.

They converted it into a mobile barbecue kitchen, with financial support from friends, their personal savings and a line of credit from Walla Walla-based Baker Boyer Bank.

Swampy’s debuted at Pasco’s Osprey Point in late 2017.

Port Pointe Food Truck
Swampy’s BBQ Sauce & Eatery is now a permanent fixture at the Port of Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Urban Wine & Artisan Village on East Columbia Drive, near the cable bridge. The truck made its original debut in 2017 at the Port of Pasco Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

It spent much of the past year in eastern Kennewick, where Swanby said he’s focused on developing a fan base downtown and in its surrounding neighborhoods.

Now, Swampy’s and its massive grill and smoker is an outdoor restaurant at Columbia Gardens.

Wine visitor destination

Swanby said he’s thrilled to be part of the urban economic development initiative, which aims to create a wine-oriented visitor destination beside Duffy’s Pond, in the shadow of the cable bridge.

The food truck plaza is just the start for the second phase of Columbia Gardens. Two more wine tasting rooms are planned and Columbia Basin College hopes to build a culinary school nearby.

“I’ve bought into their vision,” he said.

Courtesy Swampy's BBQ

The port selected Swampy’s, along with Richland-based Frost Me Sweet, to occupy two of the six food truck spots at the plaza. Frost Me Sweet’s distinctive cupcake truck is due later this spring.

BBQ launch

After a soft opening last week, Swampy’s makes its official launch Wednesday. Business hours are 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday.

Swampy’s flank steak sandwich with sautéed peppers and onions with guacamole on a toasted bun. Courtesy of Swampy's BBQ

The menu features a rotating lineup of barbecue offerings and a long list of sides — smoked mac and cheese, potato casserole, coleslaw and BBQ baked beans.

The only fixed item will be Thursday night brisket.

Swanby recommends following the business on Facebook to find out the specials of the day.

Faith-based beginnings

Swampy’s began with a church group associated with The Garden Christian Assembly.

Faith plays a big role in the business. The Swanbys will dedicate profits to support charities, specifically, Third World orphanages.

“I believe in giving back. I believe in helping others,” he said.

Swanby is a long-time Kennewick hairdresser, but he originally hails from Missouri.

His barbecue style borrows from the Midwest, though not entirely. Swanby calls himself a pioneer of Pacific Northwest-style BBQ.

He substitutes fruitwoods for alder and mesquite to infuse a distinctive flavor to smoked beef, pork, chicken, turkey and more. Peach, apricot and cherry woods, his favorites, are in abundant supply in the orchard-rich Mid-Columbia..

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.

Follow Swampy’s @Swampysbbqsauce

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.