Location: 5327 Ballard Ave NW
The Sexton opened in Madame K’s old space last weekend. For months I’ve walked by the space wondering when they were going to open and curious to see what had been done to the place. Gone are the dark red walls and bordello chic, replaced with a white washed walls and Southern rustic décor. The silverware doesn’t match. Some of the drinks come in tall jam jars. There’s even a trio of Mason jar chandeliers in the back seating area. The layout is still similar. Small bar in the front, open kitchen in the middle and a patio out back. The whole place is very airy with high ceilings. The Sexton has a certain style that is becoming more common in Ballard. The best way I can think of to describe it is … The Sexton is the type of restaurant I would expect to find on Capitol Hill. Simple. Stylish. A bit pretentious but not in a bad way.
The Sexton specializes in small-plates of Southern style food. Pork ribs. Hush puppies. Collard greens. Served along with their homestyle food is an extensive bourbon list and some creative cocktails.
We showed up at 5 on a Sunday night a couple of days after they opened with our friend, AJ. By the time we left an hour or so later, the place was nearing capacity. Considering The Sexton is, as J puts it, “the new hotness”, don’t be surprised if it’s crowded.
Our server was really nice and friendly. Attentive without being intrusive. She was really apologetic when the first two bourbons AJ ordered off the list were not available. As we left, AJ stopped to compliment the chef and received a fist bump in return.
I think the only issue we had were the flimsy paper napkins. Considering a lot of the food on their menu is finger food, the napkins fell apart pretty quickly and there were not near enough of them. Yeah, nitpicky I know. Ask for extra napkins right off the bat.
Since we were hanging out with AJ, J and I ended up each ordering a drink from their specialty cocktail menu both before and after our meal.
I started with Daisy’s Last Stand, Serrano-infused tequila, lime, grenadine, ginger, and soda. A very crisp, summery drink with a nice tequila burn. The heat from the Serrano was very subtle and combined unexpectedly well with the ginger.
My after dinner drink was The Phoenix Stakes, bourbon, plum syrup, lemon, and cardamom bitters. The opposite of my first drink. Rich, thick, and sweet with just a hint of autmny spice. It was almost like drinking dessert.
J’s first drink was Widsith’s Revenge, aged rum, lime, falernum, Aquavit, and Italian vermouth. Another summer drink. Light but not, as he put it, “foofy”. Not super sweet. He was impressed that he could taste each of the components yet it was still mixed quite well.
His second cocktail was the Lash and Steel, rye, dubonnet, amaro nonino, and absinthe. It wasn’t so much a cocktail as a mixed shot. An old-fashioned style cocktail with liquor and not much else. Mixed well with no one element overpowering the others.
We each ordered a side dish and a main entrée style small plate.
I chose Hush Puppies with red pepper aioli as my side. So light and fluffy on the inside and delightfully crispy on the outside. The corn meal flavor was strong and there were chunks of corn kernels in the batter. Not greasy or heavy. The red pepper aioli could’ve been a bit stronger but it was tasty none the less.
J started with the Sexton Mac, bacon roux, five cheeses, arugula, and balsamic redux. A rich, perfectly cooked mac and cheese. He commented on how well seasoned it was, when other mac and cheese he’s had invariably need a little salt and pepper. The bacon roux gave it a faint hint of porky flavor. The addition of the arugula surprised J and really added a nice, peppery note to the dish. One of the best mac and cheese he’s had for quite a while.
My entrée was the Herb and Honey Twice Roasted Chicken with cider jus. Moist and tender with crispy edges. It was nearly half a chicken with a wing, thigh, and part of a breast. The au jus was honey sweet with an underlying herb flavor. It was so good that I took to dipping the hush puppies in the jus.
For his entrée, J ordered the Sage and Cider Braised Ribs with coleslaw. So good. The chef wasn’t afraid to give the edges of the pork a bit of char. The meat was so tender that it could be cut with the handle end of his fork. Moist all the way through. The au jus was delicious. He liked how nothing like flour or cornstarch has been added to the jus as a thickener. His only complaint was the plating of the coleslaw under the pork. The au jus made it soggy and the flavors didn’t mix that well. J wished they’d just served it on the side.
Daisy’s Last Stand: 8.00/6.00 Happy Hour Price
The Phoenix Stakes: 9.00/7.00 Happy Hour Price
Widsith’s Revenge: 10.00/8.00 Happy Hour Price
Lash and Steel: 10.00/8.00 Happy Hour Price
Hush Puppies: 6.00/5.00 Happy Hour Price
Herb and Honey Twice Roasted Chicken: 11.00/10.00 Happy Hour Price
Sexton Mac: 8.00/7.00 Happy Hour Price
Sage and Cider Braised Ribs: 13.00/12.00 Happy Hour Price
The Sexton was very good for a place that had, literally, opened two days before. The service was great. The cocktails interesting and tasty. The food was delicious and full of flavor. The braised rib was crazy good. Yes, it’s a bit pricy but worth it. Honestly, one of our favorite meals of the project. We will go back no doubt about it.
Location: 5463 Leary Ave NW
Sunday: All Day
Paratii Craft Bar is a Brazilian themed restaurant located on Leary in what used to be Mr. Spot’s Chai House. It’s a wide-open space with large windows, space for a band in one corner, a relatively small selection of tables and chairs and a tall bar lining the far wall. Décor tends toward a nautical theme with miniature and life-sized boats hanging from the ceiling.
Paratii boasts a large selection of alcohol with an array of creative cocktails. The food, naturally, has a Brazilian bent, leaning heavily toward peppers, coconut, and seafood. The night we were there, around 7pm on a Saturday night, it was rather empty.
Our server was friendly and the food came out quickly but once we had finished our meal, it took a long time to get our check. Way too long, since we were the only ones in the restaurant by that time.
J was in a piratical mood so he ordered the Captain’s Blood, bourbon, cherry brandy, and lemon. He liked it, saying it tasted like a Jolly Rancher.
I chose the London Sunrise, cumari pepper infused gin, lime juice, and tonic water. The cumari pepper flavor overwhelmed the entire drink and added an intense spiciness that prevented me from finishing it.
We ordered two appetizers. First, Mango and Gorgonzola Crostini, slices of mango and melted gorgonzola on a goat-buttered baked crostini. We found these little bites very interesting, with a lovely contrast between the sweetness of the mango and the sharp, stinky cheese flavor of the gorgonzola. I would have never thought of putting these elements together and plan on attempting my own version at home.
Our other appetizer was the Scheherazade Steak, seared bites of urfa biber pepper marinated beef with onion and served with crostini. The steak was tender with an odd, pleasing peppery spice. The only problem was the presentation. The bites of steak were far too big for the too few pieces of crostini provided.
J ordered the Crab and Shrimp Sandwich, crab meat, bay shrimp, green onion, cilantro, and parsley mixed with coconut mayo, topped with napa cabbage on a French baguette. He felt the crab and shrimp flavors were lost in the coconut mayo. The filling was too light and too sparse for the heavy baguette. It would have been better served in a pita. Overall, he thought the portions were too small for the price.
I chose the Misto Quente, a Chicago ham and Dubliner cheese sandwich on a Macrina brioche roll with herb tomato relish and served with sweet potato fries. The roll was quite good, giving a sweetness that complimented the salty, prosciutto flavored ham. The flavor of Dubliner cheese, which I usually enjoy, was lost in the overly large roll. The tomato relish did add a nice punch of vinegar. The sweet potato fries were really good. Crisp, sweet, and salty. I’d say these were some of the best sweet potato fries in Ballard.
Captain’s Blood: 8.00
London Sunrise: 9.00
Mango & Gorgonzola Crostini: 4.00
Scheherazade Steak: 5.00
Crab and Shrimp Sandwich: 12.00
Misto Quente: 11.00
Paratii Craft Bar was disappointing. It’s a neat space, in what should be a good spot but other than the mango/gorgonzola crostini and the sweet potato fries, everything was not that great. The admittedly interesting flavors overwhelmed my drink and J’s sandwich. The portions were rather small for the price, feeling more like lunch rather than dinner items. The service was uneven and, at times, unreasonably slow.
Neither of us expects to return to Paratii, which is too bad. The space is great and there was such potential for something unexpected and interesting being added to Ballard’s array of restaurants. To be honest, considering there was hardly anyone in there on a Saturday night, I don’t expect Paratii to last long.
Location: 4910 Leary Ave NW
Sunday: All Day
Shelter Lounge is located on the south end of Leary, near the Ballard Bridge, in a building that once housed a garage before being converted into a small bar called The Station, for a short time. When The Station went under, the building went through an extensive renovation, adding a large, glass enclosed seating area to the previously small building. The wood and stone lined interior features a cozy row of booths at one side, the bright enclosed patio on the other side with a huge circular bar separating the two. They serve beer, wine, and a full bar with a creative specialty cocktail menu. The food menu is rather small, with a few interesting appetizers, sandwiches, and just three entrees.
J and I had never gotten around to visiting Shelter Lounge. It’s in a weird spot, off the main drag of Ballard’s food scene with only the 2 Bit Saloon, across the street, to keep it company. It always seemed the sort of place where douche bags and frat-boys would hang out, which added to the reasons we avoided going there. According to one of the servers we spoke to, our assessment is correct at least on Friday and Saturday nights when the place becomes something akin to a club.
We decided to go early on Friday night, expecting it to be crowded. Instead, we found a comfortable, friendly place that, much like the Bal-Mar and Ballard Loft, turned out to be a huge surprise. So surprising, in fact, that we took a couple of friends back to Shelter Lounge on Sunday afternoon to try the food and watch the end of the Seahawk game. For the first time in this project, we’ll be reviewing two visits to the same place in one post.
On Friday, we arrived just before a second server came on shift, so service was a little erratic but friendly. On Sunday the place was nearly empty so service was quick and the server was friendly and chatty.
On both visits J, as usual, ordered a Long Island Iced Tea. In his opinion, Shelter’s is now tied with Shiku’s WMD for the best Long Island in Ballard. Both times it was mixed perfectly.
There were a number of interesting selections on their specialty cocktail menu, so I tried a different drink each time. On Friday, I chose the Ballard 75, Aviation gin, fresh lemon, agave nectar, shaken, and topped with champagne. It was cool and refreshing with a nice contrast between the piney gin and the crisp, dry champagne.
On Sunday, I decided to try the Jalapeno and Cucumber Margarita, Hornitos tequila, lime, chopped jalapeno peppers and cucumbers topped with Sprite. The spiciness of the jalapeno and the coolness of the cucumber played off each other quite well. Unlike some pepper infused drinks, the jalapeno did not overwhelm the other flavors.
On Friday night, out of sheer “WTF???” curiosity, we ordered the Avocado Fries appetizer, slices of avocado breaded with panko, deep fried, and served with chipotle aioli. Surprisingly delicious. The texture contrast between the crunchy panko and the creamy avocado floored us. The spicy aioli gave the fries a flavor punch that melded well. I will admit that I’m a fan of People’s Pub’s deep fried pickles but I would choose these avocado fries over them any day of the week. These were so good, we ordered them again on Sunday in order to share the wonder with our friends.
On Sunday, J ordered the PB&J Jalapeno Poppers, panko breaded jalapeno peppers, deep fried, stuffed with cream cheese and peanut butter and served with a sweet, spicy jelly. J loved these, especially the above-average peanut butter used. I’m not usually a fan of peanut butter but I soon found the flavor combination oddly addictive, especially the sweet jelly that gave them a spicy, fruity kick.
Entrees & Sandwiches:
On Friday, J ordered the Carne Asada entrée, marinated steak with pico de gallo, corn on the cob, and mashers. When it arrived, he said the loaded plated looked like something you’d get at someone’s home. The carne asada was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, tender and flavorful. The marinade gave just a hint of spiciness while the well cooked side of corn on the cob, dusted with cayenne pepper, added another note of spice. J loved the mashers. Perfectly mashed potatoes that were neither lumpy nor pasty. The huge portion tasted extremely creamy from either the addition of tons of butter or, perhaps, a cheese or some sort. Even though he was full, he forced himself to finish the mashers because they were so good.
I chose the Rum Marinated Chicken entrée, chicken breast rubbed with cumin then marinated in Sailor Jerry’s rum, served with pico de gallo, corn on the cob, and mashers. The chicken was moist, its flavor a lovely mix between spicy cumin and caramel sweet rum. I took half home since the portion was so big. My corn was just a touch tough but that was barely noticeable through the spicy cayenne pepper and cilantro flavor. The delicious mashers went surprisingly well with the spoonful of fresh pico de gallo included on the plate.
On Sunday, J and I shared a Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwich, pepper jack cheese, avocado, red onions, and chipotle aioli on grilled sourdough bread and served with shoestring French fries. The sourdough was perfectly toasted, retaining just a bit of softness. The avocado added a cooling note to the creamy, peppery cheese and the spicy aioli. The fries were awesome as well, staying crispy and hot the entire time.
Long Island Iced Tea: 8.00
Ballard 75: 8.00
Avocado Fries: 6.00
Carne Asada: 15.00
Rum Marinated Chicken: 14.00
Long Island Iced Tea: 8.00
Jalapeno & Cucumber Margarita: 9.00
Avocado Fries: 4.00 (Happy Hour price)
PB&J Jalapeno Poppers: 3.00 (Happy Hour price)
Spicy Grilled Cheese: 5.00 (Happy Hour price)
Considering J and I went back on Sunday, with friends in tow, our opinion of Shelter Lounge is overwhelmingly positive. Over the course of this project, we have had few meals that were, across the board, as good as both of the meals we had here. The drinks are great and well priced, including a Long Island Ice Tea that is one of the best in Ballard. The menu may be small but the quality and portion size is worth every reasonably priced penny. Creative touches, like the avocado fries, are deliciously well executed. Though it sounds like weekend evenings are hopping, the atmosphere during the day and early evening is genial and relaxed.
Shelter Lounge has been added to the list of our Ballard haunts. No question. We have been singing its praises to everyone who asks how the project is going. I will not be surprised if it ends up on the project’s top ten list at the end of the year.
Location: 2305 NW Market St
Fri-Sat: 11am – 3am
Within the boundaries and rules of this project, there are really only two pizza joints in Ballard, Flying Squirrel and Snoose Junction. Sure, places like Palermo and Zayda Buddy’s offer pizza on their menus but it isn’t the main thing. So when J and I decided we felt like pizza for dinner, we chose Snoose Junction so we could declare our favorite pizza in Ballard … kind of a foregone conclusion.
Snoose Junction is located on Market Street right next door to India Bistro. The non-nonsense interior includes a few wooden booths and a couple long picnic tables in the front seating area. There are a few more tables and chairs in the back area along with a couple of pinball machines and a wall of gig posters from Seattle’s heyday in the music world.
Snoose, especially in the back seating area, is not a quiet restaurant. Something about the acoustics magnifies everything. Music. Pinball machines. Any sort of noise above normal speaking level. If you want a quiet dinner, I’d suggest going elsewhere.
Along with a large menu of specialty and build-your-own pizzas, Snoose offers appetizers beyond the usual breadsticks, salads, calzones and Panini. They have a couple of good lunch specials as well. Soda, wine and beer, both on tap and bottled, are available.
Honestly, possibly the best thing about Snoose Junction are their weekend hours. On Friday and Saturday nights, they are one of the few … if not only … places in Ballard open until 3am. It’s a perfect place to grab a late night slice after Ballard’s many bars have closed.
Our server was very friendly and helpful. She turned down the music when we started to move because it was so loud. After I ordered wine, she noticed the cork was askew and came back to make sure it tasted okay. Also, the pizza came out very quickly.
J chose a bottle of Wyder’s Pear Cider, which he said was okay, and very “Peary”.
I ordered a glass of Naked Grape Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine turned out to be very mild with a slightly sweet flavor. Not bad.
In order to bring some variety to the review, we opted for a specialty pizza with each half being different.
The half I chose was the Aglio di Capra, mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves, goat cheese, and fresh tomatoes on a garlic oil base. I liked this half quite a bit. The garlic oil base gave the crust a salty, garlicky flavor that was subtle. The huge roasted garlic cloves were a neat addition but they were just too big and completely overwhelmed the other flavors. I set the bigger of the cloves aside most of the time. The goat cheese was a nice alternative to the usual pizza cheeses but I wish it had been a bit stronger. Both J and I were impressed, though, by the fresh and not at all mushy tomatoes.
J chose the Porcellino, prosciutto, provolone and red onions on a tomato base, for his half. He felt it was a “serviceable” pizza but I wasn’t all that thrilled. The red onions could have been distributed better. Instead they were clumped together in overly sweet piles. The prosciutto was bland and, oddly enough, too fatty for my taste.
Wyder’s Pear Cider: 4.00
Naked Grape Cabernet Sauvignon: 7.00
½ Aglio di Capra: 12.00
½ Porcellino: 12.00
Snoose Junction does have a number of things to recommend it. Their specialty pizzas, with fresh ingredients and a good crust, are certainly better than Domino’s or Papa Johns. They do bike deliveries in Ballard, which is nice when you’re too lazy to leave the house. And being open until 3am on weekends is not only a good move financially, but a slice is a good option for after hour’s munchies. It’s not bad pizza …
But it’s just not as good as Flying Squirrel Pizza at the Sunset Tavern. Their pizza is sublime and a far better deal. For the price of our pizza and drinks at Snoose, we could have easily ordered either an appetizer or a couple extra drinks at Flying Squirrel.
Yes, we’ll order pizza from Snoose again. Their hours are far better than Flying Squirrel and the fact that they deliver mean we will be repeat customers but we both agree that we feel a bit of relief having finally reviewed Snoose Junction if only so we can go back to Flying Squirrel for our pizza fix without feeling guilty.
Location: 5522 20th Ave NW
Mon-Thurs: 11:30am-8:30pm (closed from 4-5)
Fri: 11:30am-2:30am (closed from 4-5)
J and I were in the mood for something fast and cheap on Saturday afternoon so we chose one of the newer restaurants in Ballard, Mr. Gyros. Located just off Market Street in a storefront that used to house a print shop, Mr. Gyros is a quick service, Mediterranean/Middle Eastern place with a no-nonsense décor of faded travel posters, wonky bar stools and an open kitchen. Honestly, this place looks like it was put together via garage sales and Goodwill. Luckily the sad décor isn’t reflected in the food. Mr. Gyros serves a fine mix of well made Mediterranean food and fast, friendly service.
When you walk in, you find a chalkboard menu and a friendly guy who will take your order before you walk around the corner of the counter to pay the equally friendly cashier. They brought our order to us very quickly and a man I’m assuming was the owner came by a few minutes later to ask how our meal was. All in all very nice service.
J grabbed a Coke from the cooler and I had a glass of water. Normally I would have tried their hot Arabic Mint Tea but Saturday was one of the few hot days we’ve had this spring.
I ordered the Lamb Plate, which came with rice, tzatziki, a Greek salad and hummus. Covered in the incredibly fresh tzatziki, the tender lamb had a lovely, almost spicy seasoning, which was probably more Middle Eastern influenced. Although there were a few hunks of inedible gristle, I still finished off all the meat. For “fast food” the hummus, served with a little pool of olive oil and a couple of olives, was obviously homemade and delicious. The Greek salad, made from fresh lettuce, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes, was tasty as well.
J chose the Gyro Plate with rice, tzatziki, Greek salad and hummus. He thought it was “Awesome”, especially the tzatziki and hummus. He felt that, for the money, it was a great, tasty value.
Lamb Plate: 9.95
Gyro Plate: 8.95
All in all, Mr. Gyros offers very good, “fast” Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food for great prices. If you’re craving a quick gyro made with fresh produce and homemade ingredients, there isn’t a better place to go in Ballard. Plus it’s open until 2:30am on Fridays to cut that late, late night food craving. I know we’ll go back to Mr. Gyros once this project is done, if not before.
Granted if you have the time for a sit down lunch, I would suggest going to Plaka Estiatorio instead since their amazing gyro plate is only a buck more but Mr. Gyros is a perfectly acceptable, alternate choice.