Eatside: Renton's Righteous Red House

Sipping wine on a patio, on the right side of the tracks.

They say every house has a story, be it old, charmed, sordid, or scary. Whatever the story, it always reads kind of like a personal ad: "Tiny cottage with bad wiring, cracked foundation, and asbestos needs TLC, nuclear family, and station wagon to restore former glory." Just the same, no burger joint, steak house, sushi train, or truck stop is immune to a colorful past. If a restaurant has years of experience, chances are they've made some mistakes and taken some risks over the years. But gather too much baggage in a restaurant, and the doors will close quicker than you can say "hold the mayo." The story of Red House in Renton would read something like this: "Charming old-time, turn-of-the-century house-turned-wine shop beckons you to come raise a glass. Icicle lights and "RED HOUSE" roof sign lure you to stick around for a meal and vino." The restaurant itself sits inside a small shopping plaza made up of numerous houses (now shops) and random one-story, mid-century buildings situated next to a set of railroad tracks. Inside the four walls, Red House's rooms all serve multiple functions, with literally hundreds of beer and wine varietals climbing the walls and cozy green tables tucked into every nook and corner. Here's where the story gets a little Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Rather than focusing on a certain genre of cuisine, Red House offers family-style and single-serving dishes and tapas on a global scale. Choose Ending A, and there's a selection of caliente and frío tapas like baked goat cheese ($9), shrimp-risotto croquettes ($9), and chipotle deviled eggs for a wine-tasting. Choose Ending B and get the triple grilled cheese on crusty artisan bread with smoked gouda, white cheddar, and mozzarella, with tomato, basil, and spinach soup ($8) for the less adventurous. Whatever adventure you choose (and there are at least 30), make sure it includes the sweet pepper-and-scallions polenta fries with marinara and garlic-caper aioli ($7). Bigger and crunchier than expected, this is one plate that can actually feed the whole table. As for beverages, Red House is all about carrying the best labels (in every price range) of beer and wine from around the world. But rather than charging the crap out of you as most restaurants would, they let you buy the bottle from their retail side and simply charge a $5 corking fee. In the summer, on Red House's patio, few things are better than chasing down some steamed clams and crab cakes with your vino, and waiting for the train.

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