Need dinner recs - Ballard, Queen Anne, Fremont area
Living in the south end of Seattle, Ballard and its environs sometime feel like a world away. Especially when you have a kid and "an evening out" needs to end by 9pm. So imagine my glee at having an offer for a playdate that happens to coincide with our anniversary. The "date" will happen just south of the Ballard Bridge this Saturday night and I need some recs. Only place we've been up that way recently is Revel. Ages ago been to Volterra and La Carta. So what is new/good and workable on a Saturday night. We'll be free from around 4:30-9pm.
Also good drinks are a plus as I love me some mixology.
Thanks in advance!
It is hard to tell from your prior meals in the area what kind of price and experience you are looking for. Revel, La Carta de Oaxaca and Volterra are all very different with the common thread being that all are excellent for what they do.
Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard comes immediately to mind. http://thewalrusbar.com/ It is a great space and lively crowd. The food is excellent and not incredibly expensive as they are dealing with small plates and oysters ... although it can add depending on how much you order and whether you have cocktails. It has had tons of well deserved press. Anna Wallace and Joe Sundberg their primary bartenders are both excellent.
The one downside is that they do not take reservations and they are regularly packed. They open at 4pm and there is usually a crowd filling the place by 4:30pm. However if you arrived around then you could certainly put your name in and they will call or text you when your name is up. It could be a half hour. I would doubt at 4:30pm you would be looking at much longer than that. This would give you a chance to walk up Ballard Avenue a little. I would advise not getting too far away though as you will want to hustle back down when they call.
Renee Erickson (who also owns Boat Street and The Whales Wins) just made the semifinalist cut for Best Chef NW for Whale Wins. I have been to Walrus a few dozen times since they opened, most recently just last week. In fact I guess I have been three times since the beginning of the year.
Bon Appetit just called W&TC one of the most influential restaurants in the country (for changing the way people eat). They are also on the Eater Seattle Essential 38 list.
Another option would be to have one or two dishes at Walrus and then have dinner at Staple and Fancy, which is in the same building. It is not inexpensive but I have very much enjoyed my meals there. It is currently getting a 29/30 on Zagat and Ethan Stowell (Tavolata, Anchovies and Olives, How to Cook a Wolf, Rione XIII, Bar Cotto) has been nominated for a James Beard award in the Best Chef NW category.
I have only been to S&F a couple of times for whatever reason but I have really enjoyed my visits.
If you want something simpler but fun I really enjoy Bitterroot BBQ. Owners Grant and Hannah have surprised a lot of people with their excellent food. The space has a great design, they play roots music and they have a massive whiskey list with some great cocktails. Bartender Trevor O'Dell used to work at Frank's Oysterhouse and Champagne Parlor in Ravenna/Bryant.
They were a Seattle Magazine Best New Restaurant of 2012 in the category "Best of the New Barbecue Boom"
They are also on the Eater Seattle Essential 38 list.
I have probably been 10 times or more in the last year since they opened.
Cafe Munir is another option. It is a hole in the wall Lebanese place at the top of 24th Avenue in Ballard (at 80th Street) but it is charming. Good people. Excellent Lebanese food. The owner has family in the UK and is a Scotch and American whiskey fan. He doesn't have the biggest collection in town but it is a very nice list. On Eater's panel talking about best restaurants of 2012, Allecia Vermillion, food and drink editor at Seattle Met magazine short listed Cafe Munir. They were also nominated for a Seattle Eater Award for 2012 for "So Hot Right Now" and remain on Eater's Heat Map as of February 2013. I used to eat a fair bit of Lebanese in the DC area and I think what they are doing is excellent. It is not tremendously expensive but they do serve small plates so they can add up -- particularly with drinks. I probably have been 8 times or so since they have opened a little more than a year ago. http://cafemunir.com/
One last Ballard recommendation would be Bastille. They don't get the same kind of overwhelming love as the other places I have mentioned but I really don't get it. I have eaten at Bastille more than any other place (except for Cafe Besalu). It is traditional French. A few things. Jason Stoneburner came to Bastille from How to Cook a Wolf and Union. He also worked at Cafe Campagne. He is an outstanding talent and his eponymous restaurant will be opening on Ballard Avenue this Spring. The pates and sausages at Bastille are all housemade and outstanding. Their gratins are generally amazing. I have never had an overcooked or undercooked piece of meat at Bastille (in 50+ visits). They have live music some nights from the Djangomatics in the back bar and are regularly having special events like Bastille Day celebrations, producer events, oyster specials and the like. They also take local and seasonal particularly to heart. They have large gardens and bee hives on the roof of the restaurant. Erik Carlson, their bar manager is part of the Seattle cocktail elite and used to run the bar at Moshi Moshi sushi. Front of the house GM and Wine Director James Lechner is one of Seattle's top sommelier's and 2011 Sommelier of the Year Kristen Young has come over to Bastille from RN74. http://bastilleseattle.com/
One last thing. Take a look at the pictures. The owners have a great eye for finish. It is a beautiful spot. They have a main dining room minimally separated from the always busy bar. There is outdoor seating which is enclosed and heated in the off season and there is a back bar which has additional seating.
In Fremont, I would join the prior vote for Whale Wins and Joule. They are side by side in the new hot Fremont Collective Space at the bottom of Stone Way. Whales Wins is a James Beard nominee for Best New Restaurant and as mentioned Erickson has been nominated for Best Chef NW for Whale Wins. They are on the Eater Seattle Heat Map and were the So Hot Right Now winner of their 2012 Eater Awards. I have been to Whale Wins a couple of times but only for a drink or two and a small bite. http://www.thewhalewins.com/index.html
Joule was previously in Wallingford and was the more upscale primary restaurant of Revel owners Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi. With the move though Joule has changed things up a bit, they told me, to make it a bit more like Revel. It is still pretty different but is basically Korean/NW fusion. I really enjoyed my recent meal there.
Thank you SO much for your thorough recs. We don't have any price limitations for our evening but appreciate your attention to including a variety of options. I think we'll try for walrus and staple or whale wins. I LOVED the old joule but am less impressed by their current steakhouse menu. Bastille intrigues me though esp given the HTCAW and Campagne cred. Will take a good look. Thanks again for all your time and consideration.
It is very under the radar that they do it, but Book Bindery has a wonderful brunch as well, with nice options that are unusual. The room works really well in daylight.
One of my best meals of 2012 was had at Brunch here just before Christmas. A smoked sturgeon and purple potato starter, with horseradish panna cota, followed by crispy fried spatzle, roasted pork belly, and a maple-red wine reduction.