Ron Rico's BBQ to Go is realization of a dream for Warren resident

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Ron Washington, owner of Ron Rico's BBQ To Go, flips ribs in his steel-drum grill Wednesday, March 26.Ron Washington started cooking when he was 7 years old and today credits his mother, Joyce Washington, for instilling in him a passion for grilling. She also passed on her secret recipe for barbecue chicken and ribs.

Washington, a resident of Warren for the past two and a half years, in late 2013 quit his job at a photography shop in St. Helens to open a barbecue take-out restaurant.

Ron Rico’s BBQ To Go opened in south Scappoose last December, a realization of his long-time dream of serving up succulent, grilled meats to appreciative customers.

“I marinate my ribs for five days, that’s all I’m going to say,” Ron said with a secretive smile when asked about his approach to barbecue.

Since the early days of cooking with his mother, Ron said he has wanted to open a barbecue restaurant. He started down that track in California after his son, Ronald Washington Jr., was murdered in Portland in the early 1990s. Ron said his mother insisted he get out of Portland and move to Petaluma, Calif., after the tragedy.

Ron said he was able to find two jobs once in Petaluma, but his major hobby always involved being stationed over a grill. Ron mastered his skill in California, grilling whenever he could find the time.

Before long, Ron became well known for his cooking, and his mother gave him her recipe for barbecue ribs and chicken before he left California — on the condition he keep it secret.

Ron later moved back to Portland, where he would manage Restaurant 21, formerly located in the First National Bank Tower, now known as Wells Fargo Center.

As he built a culinary career, Ron was again pulled back to California to visit his mother after she experienced a stroke while driving. The incident eventually claimed her life, but not before Ron was able to visit. Now, Ron honors his mother through the lessons she taught him in front of the SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Ron Washington, owner of Ron Rico's BBQ To Go, says one of his goals is to make his customers crack a smile upon tasting his grilled goods.

“I like to make people happy and see them smile and appreciate my food,” Ron said.

For now, Ron said he’ll keep the business small, but he would like to expand to a bigger building when possible. He says his 23-year-old son, Marcus Washington, will likely move from California to help run the business. Ron said he also has a daughter, LaTonia Washington, 45, and another son, Terrill Washington, 38.

Asked what drew him to Warren, Ron said it was his fiancé, Sandra Foster. “I’ve been pursuing her for a while,” he said.

As for the food, Ron said he strives for consistency. For him, it’s all about enjoying the flavors, he said, noting he likes to keep his ribs tender, but not to the point where they fall off the bone.

The ribs and chicken, priced at $11, provide a good sample of Ron’s work. The tender meat is cooked to retain its juices, slides easily off the bone and is lathered in a tangy barbecue sauce. Served on a heavily buttered roll and dressed with a vinegary, yet refreshing, coleslaw, the pulled pork sandwich — new to the menu at $9 — has a character distinct from his other meat dishes. Though drier than Ron’s other barbecue options, the flavor of the meat — served in a thick, tender slab — is rich and savory.

A number of side dishes are also available, including mac ’n’ cheese, corn on the cob, baked beans, greens and potato salad. Regular and jalapeño cornbread is also on the menu.

A small, hand-written sign in Ron’s shop says that full rack-of-rib orders have to be placed two days in advance.

For now, Ron barbecues in two steel drums, fashioned into a grill by a friend. He’s currently working with another friend who will put together a smoker for him.

“It’s just a life dream,” Ron said.

Ron Rico’s is located at 50178 Columbia River Highway in Scappoose and is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Ron’s menu can be viewed at

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine