Archive

Archive for January, 2011

Louie’s Cuisine of China – 1/30/2001

Website

Location: 5100 15th Ave NW

Hours: Mon-Thurs: 11:30-11

Fri: 11:30-12

Sat: 4-12

Sun: 3-10

According to my mom, when my family visited Seattle in 1978 from Texas, my great-aunt, Stella, took us to Louie’s Cuisine of China for what was, as far as I remember, my first taste of Chinese food. I doubt it has changed very much in the intervening 33 years.

Louie’s is what I would call “American” Chinese food. No odd ingredients. I doubt anyone comes out and chops the head off a goose a la “A Christmas Story”. It’s the type of place you take a 7 year old and her meat and potatoes dad and brother to introduce them to Chinese food. If you want authentic Chinese, go to the International District. If you’re in the mood for perfectly good but tame Chinese food, Louie’s is your place.

Our trip to Louie’s was the brainchild of a couple of friends visiting Seattle from Portland with their new baby, Theo. Louie’s is probably one of the few places in Ballard that was able to accommodate our party of 11 adults and one baby. They have at least one private room with a table that was large enough to comfortably seat our party.  I think the only couple of issues with the room were an air conditioning pipe that kept dripping on J and the temperature fluctuation. Neither of these were a big deal.

The Service:

I was told that the person who took the reservation for our large party was really friendly. We did have to wait a few minutes while the room was prepared. I would not be surprised if the one waitress, of the two who were assigned to the room, served my family when we visited back in 1978. Both were helpful.

It did take a couple of requests to get water for the entire table but after we received our glasses, the servers were quick to refill them as needed. I think the only issue I saw was that our main dishes didn’t come out all at once. The first batch of food came out and it was nearly 5 minutes until the next batch arrived then the remainder of the dishes arrived a few minutes later. This left half the table trying to be polite and wait for everyone’s entrees to arrive before eating, all the while the air conditioning in the room caused those first dishes to start getting cold.

The Drinks:

J had rum and coke and I drank a glass of merlot. Both were perfectly fine.

The Food:

Appetizers: J and I ordered the Crab Rangoon served with a tangy, plum sauce. The won ton wrap wasn’t too greasy, which is a problem I’ve found with other versions of this appetizer. The dipping sauce was sweet with a bit of tang that complimented the cream cheese and crab mix inside. I’ve had better crab Rangoon but this was good, especially for the number of pieces per order.

Others at the table ordered pot stickers and egg rolls. I tried both. The pot sticker had a nice crust on the bottom and the flavor of the pork was good. The egg roll was serviceable as well.

Entrees: J ordered Chow Fun with beef, a dish with wide egg noodles, Chinese broccoli and brown soy sauce. He really liked the Chow Fun. I took a taste or two and found it very good. Nice soy flavor without being overwhelming.

I ordered the Mandarin Beef with peppers, onion and Szechwan peppers on a bed of crispy rice noodles. Mine was one of the dishes that came out first so it was a little cold by the time I started eating. The beef was just spicy enough for my taste. I’m a sucker for onions and peppers sautéed in brown soy sauce and these did not disappoint me. The peppers were still a bit crispy and the onions hovered in that great area between not quite done and caramelized. The only thing I could have done without was the bed of crispy rice noodles. They had the consistency of little pieces of styrofoam and quickly became limp in the sauce. I think I would’ve liked the dish better if it had been served on the wide egg noodles.

The Price:

Rum & coke: $4.50

Merlot: $7.00

Crab Rangoon: $7.00

Chow Fun: $8.75

Mandarin Beef: $10.50

The Verdict:

The most appropriate adjective for Louie’s Cuisine of China is good. The atmosphere is good. The service is good. The food is good. If you have a large party, Louie’s is the place to go in Ballard. If you want to introduce someone who’s never had Chinese food to the cuisine, Louie’s probably is the best place to do so. It’s non-frightening, American Chinese food.

Is it the best, most authentic Chinese food in Seattle? No. If you want that, go the International District. Is it the best Chinese food in Ballard? Possibly. We still have two Ballard Chinese restaurants to review. I’ll give our verdict on that question when the time comes.

We will most likely go back to Louie’s for our immediate Chinese food needs. We’ve gotten take-out from them before. But if we want something special or authentic, we’ll hop a bus down to the ID.

The Blue Dog Kitchen – 1/29/2011

Website

Location: 5905 15th Ave NW

Hours: Mon-Fri: 8-6

Sat-Sun: 8-3

Breakfast this morning was at the Blue Dog Kitchen, a couple of blocks away from our apartment. The Blue Dog specializes in breakfasts and sandwiches. It’s a tiny restaurant with few tables that can accommodate more than two people. It tends to get noisy so it’s not a place to go if you want a quiet breakfast.

The husband calls it a “Hippy restaurant” both in regard to atmosphere and menu. They have a full range of espresso beverages and teas available.

The Service:

Attentive and pretty quick. Although someone might have mentioned that you needed to go up to the counter to pay rather than paying at the table.

I would include in the service category that the Blue Dog has one of the most comprehensive menus I’ve ever seen. A note at the top warns that their French toast selections can take up to 20 minutes to cook. The wheat free pancake section gives the ingredient list. They make a request that if you don’t wish the fruit cup or butter that you tell them so food isn’t wasted.

The Drink:

J had coffee and I had a decaf latte. J said his coffee was strong but good. My latte was really good.

The Food:

J: The House Special, fried eggs over home fries and melted cheddar cheese with bacon. Very homemade tasting. Came layered in a bowl with the potatoes on the bottom with the bacon and eggs on top. J said that the two good things about this dish were the fact that the heat from the potatoes cooked the eggs on top and since it was served in a bowl, everything stayed nice and hot. He did feel that there was an over abundance of home fries, although he did like the taste of them.

H: Open Faced Omelet of spinach, bacon, and feta, with home fries and bread. The eggs and spinach were cooked perfectly. Neither was too watery and both had good flavor. It looked as if they added fresh herbs to the egg mixture. The amount of feta was more than I have had in similar dishes and tasted fresh and salty. The bacon pieces could’ve been smaller because much of it seemed under cooked to me. This gave some of the bites a slimy texture. The home fries were okay and plentiful. I prefer them a bit more crispy but they at least had some seasoning on them.

The Price:

Coffee: $1.95

Decaf Latte: $3.15

House Special: $7.65

Open Faced Omelet: $8.95

The Verdict:

It was a pretty good, homemade tasting breakfast. Granted, I could probably make a comparable breakfast at home and to my specifications … which in retrospect isn’t saying much for the Blue Dog. It wouldn’t be my first choice for breakfast in Ballard (*cough* Bad Albert’s) but if we’re feeling lazy and want to walk somewhere for breakfast on a weekend morning, we’d go there again.

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Jolly Roger Taproom – 1/28/2011

Website

Location: 1111 NW Ballard Way

Hours: Mon-Wed: 11:30-10

Thurs: 11:30-11

Fri – Sat: 11:30-12

Sun: 12-9

Happy Hour: Mon-Fri: 3-6

A co-worker of J’s suggested we visit Maritime Brewery’s Jolly Roger Taproom as our next Ballard restaurant. He knew that J would be tempted by something that I think only this one restaurant in Ballard has, deep fried bacon. J loves bacon so he was sold immediately.

Since neither of us was particularly hungry for entrees, we decided to order a few items from the happy hour menu, all appetizers. The Jolly Roger is kind of known more for their beer, appetizers and sliders than for their entrees.

Supposedly the Jolly Roger is a pirate themed bar but other than a couple of flags and one customer who was wearing a pirate hat, it wasn’t overwhelming. The painted sea map that covers the entire floor of the restaurant is very cool.

The Service:

Pretty good. The waitress suggested a pilsner when I asked for a lighter flavored beer and her suggestion was right on the money. She was fairly attentive even though by the time we left the place was almost full.

The Drinks:

J got a Blackthorn cider since he doesn’t drink beer and I had the Portage Bay Pilsner. I really liked the pilsner and will probably see if any of the local supermarkets have it for sale. The Jolly Roger only offers beer, cider and wine. No hard liquor. J takes issue with no rum being sold at a pirate themed bar.

The Food:

We ordered 4 appetizers.

Beer Batter Bacon: Bacon deep fried in your typical beer batter. Puffy batter that was good but a little greasy, at least in my opinion. That may have been from the bacon as much as the fry grease. The bacon they use is pepper crusted, which definitely helped the flavor. I would have preferred it be cooked a little longer but J loved it. The menu said it was a smaller number than their regular appetizer at 3 pieces. I could not imagine trying to eat more than the one and a half pieces I had.

Buffalo Clam Strips: We ordered this off the happy hour menu because it sounded interesting. Basically fried clam strips in a buffalo chicken wing batter. It was okay. Slightly spicy with good flavor and texture. The clams weren’t rubbery. The only issue was that they got cold rather quickly. We decided it was good to try but we wouldn’t order it again.

Smokers: Onion rings smoked over apple wood and hops then breaded and fried. In my opinion the best thing of the night. The smoked flavor wasn’t overwhelming but added a flavor dimension I’ve never found in an onion ring. The onions kept a snap to them and wasn’t slimy as we’ve found in other rings. It came with a tasty roasted jalapeno tartar sauce.

Lil’ Jolly Royal: Three beef sliders with cheese. I’m not usually a fan of sliders. To me they usually lack flavor and tend to seem thrown together. If I want a hamburger, I’ll order a normal sized hamburger. These were actually good. A nice flavor to the meat. Good portion of cheese with a bit of sautéed onion on top. The buns had a pretzel bread flavor to them that was very good. The stone-ground mustard that came as a condiment was okay. I like my mustard with a bit more bite.

The Price:

Blackthorn Cider: $4.00

Portage Bay Pilsner: $4.50

Beer Batter Bacon: $3.50 (Happy Hour price)

Buffalo Clam Strips: $3.95 (Happy Hour price)

Smokers: $3.95 small order

Lil’ Jolly Royal: $5.75 for three

The Verdict:

Good bar food. The Smokers are the best onion rings I’ve had in Seattle. I might try their lunch menu someday in the future but their dinner entrees seemed a bit pricey for a taproom. We will most likely go back for happy hour since the prices and food were good and even at smaller orders it was more than filling. Although next time I will order a salad to counteract all the fried food.

Flying Squirrel Pizza in The Sunset Tavern– 1/23/2011

Website

Location: 5433 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

5-9:30 everyday

Happy Hour:

5-7 everyday

This time we visited the newest pizza place in Ballard. The Flying Squirrel Pizza Company opened up in the Sunset Tavern a few months ago bringing with it what is the best pizza in Ballard. Period.

J and I visited Flying Squirrel for the first time at the beginning of December and were very impressed. Tonight was the fourth time since then and we will return many more times in the future.

The Service:

Pretty good for a place in which the bartender is your server. There are no other servers. The dude who helped us was quite nice and relatively attentive considering there were 4 or 5 other parties there.

The Drinks:

J got rum & coke and I had a glass of tempranillo. Both were totally serviceable.

The Food:

Ah, the pizza. This time around we went with a ½ & ½ pizza. Full pizzas consist of 8 slices.

First half: Homemade sausage, chopped fresh garlic, mozzarella and sauce. Delicious, slightly sweet tomato based sauce. Spicy sausage that was not greasy. A light coating of mozzarella. And oh, so garlicy without being overwhelming. A little sweet and a little burn. It was nice to eat a pizza in which every element was identifiable rather than becoming a mass of tomato and cheese.

Second half: Zoe’s bacon, organic arugula, fresh tomato, mozzarella and sauce. The bacon was in quarter slices rather than bits which let the bacon flavor seep into the cheese and sauce. The arugula gave a nice, fresh but bitter accent to the rest of the pizza. Sure, the fresh tomato was a little pale but that’s to be expected during the winter.

One of the best things overall about Flying Squirrel’s pizza is the crust. Flavorful. Stays crispy on the edges and holds up in the center. So good that we ate the pizza, crusts and all.

About the only con about these pizzas is that, as is indicative of thin crust pizzas, it tends to get cold quickly. But even cold, these pizzas are delicious.

The Price:

Rum & coke: $5.00 normally, $3.00 during happy hour.

Tempranillo: $7.00

First half: $8.25 ($16.50 full)

Second half: $9.25 ($18.50 full)

$3.00 off of pizzas during happy hour.

The Verdict:

Run, don’t walk, to try this pizza. Fresh ingredients. Local meats (Zoe’s, Salumi, homemade sausage). Interesting choices (we’ve had their roasted potato, blue cheese, chive oil, spinach pizza as well). There’s a rotating selection of specialty toppings/pizzas. J, as an East coast native, says it is as close to eastern style pizza as you can find in Seattle. This is our choice of pizza places in Ballard from now on.

And if you do go, drop us a line and we’ll be glad to join you.

Senor Moose – 01/21/2011

Website

Location: 5242 NW Leary Ave

Hours:

Breakfast: 8-3 7 days a week

Dinner: 5-9 Sun – Thurs   5-10 Fri – Sat

The husband (hereafter known as “J”) and I have had breakfast at Senor Moose a couple of times but never dinner. We decided in keeping with our idea of trying new things at restaurants where we’ve eaten before, we would try their dinner menu.

Senor Moose specializes in Mexican food rather than the Tex-Mex stuff you get at Azteca. Their breakfasts are cut above the usual breakfast fare. Their dinners go along the same theme of food that is relatively unfamiliar to the average gringo.

Senor Moose is a very popular Ballard breakfast joint … if you don’t get there right when they open, expect a good wait … I figured this might also go for their dinners so we arrived about 20 minutes after they opened at 5pm. When we left about an hour later, the dining room was nearly full.

Service:

The waiter was relatively helpful if a bit slow. It seemed like the time between taking our drink order and when we actually ordered food was a bit longer than normal. J, being the nice guy he is, suggested the guy was giving us extra time with the menu filled with unfamiliar items. I felt his timing left a bit to be desired.

Drinks:

We each ordered the Reposado Margaritas. Hands down the best margarita I’ve had in a long time. The mix of tequila to lime to agave was perfect. J agreed with me. It was hard not to drink it fast because the temptation to order another one was strong.

Appetizers:

Since I am a fan of guacamole, we decided to try theirs. The waiter also offered a selection of home-made salsas with the guacamole and chips so we said yes to that as well. The guacamole, which was the freshest I’ve ever had at a restaurant, was both chunky and creamy with a great mix of spices and tomatoes. The chips were lovely as well, light, warm and nicely salty. The salsas came in small cups (a peanut based salsa, salsa fresca, chipotle salsa, and two salsa verde, one cooked and one fresh). They were good and the presentation was cute but in the end … as in when the check came … they weren’t worth the amount we were charged. I’ve had better, fresh salsas at La Carte de Oaxaca for free.

Entrees:

J got the Alambres, a mix of shredded beef, chorizo, bacon, green bell pepper and poblano chile topped with cheese and fresh salsa verde. He loved it. The flavor of the meats melded together yet he could pick out the flavors of each type. It was all seasoned well and was not too spicy. He also felt that the green bell peppers were cooked exactly right as they didn’t overwhelm the dish. He would, given the chance, order it again.

I went with the Mole de Papantla, braised beef covered in mole served with mashed sweet potatoes and a salad of romain lettuce, cabbage and tomatoes. The mashed sweet potatoes were lovely, smooth, slightly buttery and salty. The little bit of salad was crisp and fresh. The beef mole though … The beef was tender enough but something about the flavor of the mole just didn’t sit well with me. There was almost a sweet metallic taste to it that put me off. Being that I’m no expert on the flavor of mole, that sweet aftertaste might have been expected for the type of mole I chose. I can’t really fault the chef for my disliking this dish. It just wasn’t to my taste.

Prices:

Reposado Margaritas – $9.50 each

Guacamole, Salsas and Chips – $9.50

Alambres – $15.95

Mole de Papantla – $14.95

The Verdict:

While both J and I felt the margaritas were worth every cent of the $9.50, the rest of the meal seemed a little over priced for what we received. The salsa sampler, in particular, was way over what I would’ve been willing to pay. J’s felt his entrée, while really good, wasn’t any better than one he could’ve gotten cheaper. The local taco truck down the street has food just as fresh for far cheaper.

Granted, we will go back to Senor Moose for their breakfast, which is creative and more reasonably priced, but I doubt we’ll go back for dinner. Or at least a full dinner. We may occasionally go in for their fabulous margaritas and a side of guacamole. Boy, those margaritas were good.

5 Corner Market Bar & Kitchen – 1/7/2011- Closed

Location: 2200 NW Market Street

Website

Hours:

Brunch: 10:30-3 Sun

Lunch: 11:30-3 Mon – Sat

Dinner: 5-11 Mon-Thurs

5-12 Fri-Sat

5-10 Sun

Happy Hour:

4-6 Daily

10-Close Mon-Thurs

We decided that the first restaurant in this project would be the newest one in Ballard. The 5 Corner Market Bar & Kitchen opened recently in the space formerly taken by Lombari’s on the corner of Market and 22nd.  It’s one of those places that have “small plates” (appetizers and salads) and “plates” (entree).

Upon entering and being greeted by the staff, we were led to the second floor dining area. Very nice but not too formal. Our server was very helpful and friendly. We had a question or two about the drink and food menu and she answered as best she could and if she didn’t know the answer, she was willing to find out.

We both ordered house cocktails. Me: the Ballard Blue, which was basically a vodka martini with blue cheese stuffed olives and the husband got the 22nd Ave, a rum, lemon and ginger drink. Both were pretty good. I’ve never had vodka soaked blue cheese olives before … Tasty.

We each ordered a small plate and an entrée, along with a quarter of a baguette with butter and sea salt. Really good bread.

Small Plates:

Beef fat chips & aerated onion dip – The chips were light and crispy and the dip was surprisingly fluffy. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a bit of spice to counter-act the slightly sweet nature of the chips.

Bbq veal with roasted marrow beans – Delicious. A sophisticated take on bbq baked beans. The veal was fork tender and mighty tasty. We both agree that this was the best dish of the night.

Plates:

Me – Roasted Mad Hatcher garlic chicken, roasted potatoes, greens and vanilla bean jus – The chicken was good, done in kind of roulettes. One piece was a bit dry on the top but the chicken itself was flavorful if needing a little salt. The potatoes were delicious, not too creamy but with bits of skin, potato chunks and garlic. I’m not usually a fan of greens, they have a tendency to taste a little too bitter to me, but these were good for greens J

The Husband – Short Ribs with wide egg noodles in mushroom ragout- Husband says delicious but there could’ve been a few more short ribs. The noodles were excellent, obviously home-made, and the mushroom ragout reminded him of Swedish meatball sauce.

Price:

Drinks were $8 a piece

Small plates: between $7-9, bread was $3

Plates: Mine was $16 and the husband’s was $19.

The Verdict:

I’d have to say it was a good start to the project. The service was great, the ambience is nice and the food was pretty good overall. At some point we’re planning on returning to try out their happy hour menu (jalapeño deviled eggs) and their desserts.

One down already ….

One place has already been taken off the list without us even visiting it.

According to the My Ballard blog, the Totem Seafood House closed it’s doors on December 31, 2010. It had been open for 62 years.

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