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May 23, 2013 08:30 AM

drinking in ballard

Meeting up with old friends in Ballard midweek for food and drinks. Looking for comfortable and casual...not averse to taverns. Suggestions?

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  1. I mean, in Ballard, you could walk down the street until you found something that looked appealing and be totally fine, but here are a couple of suggestions.

    People's Pub for more tavern/beer-y, Noble Fir for a beer snob (in the good way) experience, the back room at Bastille for more cocktail-y (Hazelwood would be good too, but maybe a little small, although mitigated if on a week day night),

    My pick would be La Isla, but I really like rum and rum cocktails...

    7 Replies
    1. re: GreenYoshi

      Hi, GY:

      I was pleased that you rec'd People's Pub. +1

      I hesitated responding to the OP because of the food aspect. As you say, *not* drinking casually in Ballard is harder than finding a place to drink. But finding a tav-y atmo with good food is a bit more difficult. Old Town Alehouse once fit the bill, but it's toast, as is the Viking. King's is OK, as is Ballard Pizza (but the latter's reserved seating policy drives me batshit crazy). I'd suggest the Kicking Boot, but I can't say anything good about their food.

      I say drinks at MacLeod's and then a stumble elsewhere for food, maybe La Carta Oaxaca?


      1. re: kaleokahu

        "tav-y atmo with good food"

        Come on, Kaleo, you know your fingers were telling you it would be far easier to give in and just type "gastropub."


        1. re: eight_inch_pestle

          Hi, 8IP:

          A well-deserved tweak, thanks.

          Even if I understood and acknowledged such a thing as a "gastropub" (which I don't), TPP doesn't seem to have the gloss of other places (e.g., Quinn's) that get the moniker.

          My 2 cents.


          1. re: kaleokahu

            How do you feel about Copper Gate? That's definitely tav atmosphere (if you're offended by pictures of nude women, don't go) and good food. It can get expensive though, as the plates are small...when we went there with another couple we ended up ordering just about everything on the menu, a few things twice!

            1. re: Jeri L

              Hi, Jeri:

              I've only been there once since it was un-dived, and the only thing I remember as being remarkable was the Aquavit. What do you recommend there?


              1. re: kaleokahu

                I've had an aquavit & cucumber cocktail there I REALLY liked...uh...the "Stor Agurk" ("Big Cucumber"). Very refreshing, a little sweet without being overwhelmingly so. I'd go back just for that (and have, as a matter of fact).

                Food-wise the only thing I've eaten are the Swedish meatballs and they're pretty decent, tho' a fairly small portion (enough for me, but probably not for most people).

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  It has been a while, but as I recall, the short ribs were one of the things we ordered twice. Aquavit and cocktails may have clouded my memory a bit...

      2. Renee Erickson's nationally lauded Walrus and the Carpenter is a good option for oysters, small plates and cocktails, wine or beer.

        I have been loving the cocktails at the Sexton. The southern influenced menu is good.

        Bitterroot (bbq) has a small but quality tap list and huge bourbon list in the back bar (as well as some good whiskey based cocktails). They have received quite a bit of critical acclaim for their food in the last year.

        I am a regular at Bastille and have been since they opened. Solid and satisfying French cuisine from Jason Stoneburner (whose eponymous restaurant will be opening across the street hopefully in the next month) with excellent cocktail program from Eric Carlson. Bastille also brought top sommelier Kristen Young in the last year.

        One of my new favorites for cocktails is mid-century The Gerald. They also have a very decent comfort food menu.

        For beer the two top places on Ballard Avenue are The Noble Fir (which has a limited food menu) and Ballard Urban Family Public House and Brewery. BUFB is a small production operation but I like their beers and they have a high quality Belgian-focused list of guest beers on tap as well. The menu is largely burger centered.

        I am glad to see someone mention The People's Pub. The have a really decent Swabian menu and good tap list divided between NW/domestic beers and German selections. Go to the back bar.

        I used to get sushi primarily at Moshi Moshi and even though Erik Carlson moved to Bastille they have a sizable list of his prior creations that he developed for them and last time I went Keenan Ahlo was bartending there. He is a talented bartender that used to work at Hotel 1000 downtown.

        Nowadays though I have been really enjoying the newly opened Billy Beach sushi. It is just off Ballard Avenue at the top of Leary. Solid solid cocktails and food.

        The prior poster mentioned Hazlewood and they do good cocktails (and the atmosphere is great) but they don't serve food to the best of my recollection.

        Next door though at popular Ocho you can do go Spanish tapas, wine, beer and cocktails. They used to do a house hora verde (absinthe) but I am not sure if that is always available.

        If you are in the mood for Latin American there are several options mostly clustered at the top of Ballard Avenue and the intersection portion of Market Street including La Carta de Oaxaca (Mexican), La Isla (Puerto Rican), Azteca (Mexican) and Matador (Tex-Mex).

        La Carta de Oaxaca has been the place everyone flocks to in Ballard for years now. For Oaxacan food and tequila or mezcal it is a solid choice.

        I like La Isla too.

        But I would pass on those and go over to Leary and hit Senor Moose. No really. Disregard the silly name. They put out, without a doubt, some of the best (if not the best) Mexican cuisine in Seattle. The menu has some very interesting regional options and their execution is fantastic. I have eaten breakfast and dinner there in the last month and will be eating there again most likely on Saturday. They also have one of the biggest tequila, mezcal and sotol lists in town. I can't remember the exact number but it was over 100 total. It is really a charming space with friendly service and a characteristic back bar.

        4 Replies
        1. re: klsalas

          Hi, klsalas:

          You know, I like Senor Moose, too--the food is great. The problem I have with that place is I always have sticker shock when it comes time to pay the bill. It's not that the food isn't *worth* the price, it's just that the place is SO casual, inexpensively outfitted (OK, it's a dump), etc. that the check is cognitively dissonant. Oh, and the bar is a joke.

          Gotta disagree about Azteca, though. Totally unremarkable steam table food, IMO.


          1. re: kaleokahu

            I didn't mean to recommend Azteca.

            1. re: kaleokahu

              Don't know when you last visited Senor Moose but they just finished with a renovation in the last few months and I think it looks good. It's not at all a dump.

              I have no idea what you are talking about on price. Appetizers and small plates run $3.25-$11.95. Entrees run from $8.95 to $16.95. Zagat's (which rates Senor Moose a 25) lists them as $$. Urbanspoon also lists them as $$ (the same price category rating as for La Carta de Oaxaca, Agua Verde, Peso's, Poquitos, Cactus, Mama's, Barrio, the Saint, Little Water and the Matador and honestly I think S-M blows most of those places out of the water.

              I have to say that I also disagree strongly with your characterization of the bar as a joke. I consider myself a moderate cocktail afficionado. I have been to most of the top cocktail places around town (though it is hard to keep up) as well as top bars in other cities like LA, NYC, London etc. I probably have 10-15 modern and classic cocktail guides and a bar of about 140 bottles.

              Having said that S-M doesn't do classic pre-prohibition cocktails but they serve a range of mexican beers, very good margaritas (named best Margarita 2012 by Seattle Weekly) and several other enjoyable cocktails appropriate to the cuisine. And they have one of the best tequila, mezcal and Sotol lists in town (comparable with top lists like those at Poquitos, Barrio and Matador).

              Here is the S-W writeup for the 2012 Best Margarita award:

              Señor Moose mixes an array of margaritas in its cozy back bar, including versions goosed with mango and pomegranate, but it's the cocktail's base ingredients which matter most. The Ballard restaurant squeezes fresh lime and orange juice for its margaritas, which means they're pricier and slower to arrive than the premixed cocktails that lesser cantinas pour directly from the bottle. But if you have a buck and a minute to spare, the strong drinks deliver a fantastic blast of flavor: For a dash of palate-prepping spice, try the jalapeño-cucumber variation.

              1. re: klsalas

                Hi, klsalas:

                No, haven't been there recently, but the building's a dump to start with, so maybe it's better now. Unless they enlarged the bar, and changed the seating from high stools facing the windowless walls, it's still a joke.

                But I like the food. I just think its pricing is not commensurate with the front of the house.

                Glad you have lots of cocktail books and bottles...