A little taste of England in the Renton Highlands

Sean Erskine, owner of the Pickled Onion Pub, poses with a photo of England
Sean Erskine, owner of the Pickled Onion Pub, poses with a photo of England's 1966 World Cup Champions team.
— image credit: Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter

Some Rentonites may not know that the city has its very own British pub, situated in the Renton Highlands. It’s called the Pickled Onion and it saw a lot of activity this World Cup season.

“I actually remember when this whole area here was an apple orchard,” said Sean Erskine, the pub’s owner, of what is now Sunset Plaza. “And then when they originally built the strip mall part that’s now the Pickled Onion, it was the Galaxy 2 Arcade, where I dropped a lot of quarters as a kid.”

Erskine grew up in Renton attending Honey Dew Elementary, McKnight Middle School and eventually Hazen High School. His claim to England is his mother, who is from Deptford, London. She came over to the U.S. to marry his father.

Erskine spent a year running a pub called the Station Hotel in South Nutfield, England, where he got the idea to open his own pub. He got the idea for the name - the Pickled Onion - back in high school.

“I ended up in this really small village and it was a blast, it was great,” he said.

Erskine talks of these two customers, one a prominent businessman and the other a farmer, who were best friends and spoke over pints every day after work.

The Station Hotel was built in the 1400’s and used mostly by travelers on their way to London.

“He would come in from work in a suit and tie and the farmer would come in with Welly boots, muddy,” said Erskine. “They’d buy each other a couple drinks, talk about their day and go home. And I thought that was so cool because they went in such different directions financially, but they still were best friends.”

It still gives Erskine goosebumps to talk about it now, he said.

“And I thought that’s what I want,” he said. “I want that the people aren’t economically equal, but feel comfortable enough to chat.”

And for 10-and-a-half years that’s exactly what he’s had: the Pickled Onion, a neighborhood pub that serves up bangers, mash and cottage pie as well as American food. There are some British beers on tap, but mostly craft American beers styled after British brews, Erskine said.

Attendance at the Pickled Onion during this year’s World Cup was “awesome” he said, adding “especially for the U.S. games because I remember four years ago not a lot of people were into it.”

Erskine had to pull in all his staff to serve on the big U.S. game days this year. He wouldn’t call his pub a soccer pub as much as a sports bar, where he does host Sounders and European Premier League matches on TV, but the Seahawks trump all other viewing once they are in season.

“We’re really proud of the fact that we cleaned out all of the drug dealers and all the knuckleheads,” he said. “And a lot of people come here specifically because they know they’re not going to get hassled.

“It’s friendly,” he said, harkening back to the English farmer and businessman. “A lot of the friendships you see here today were formed because people met here.”

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