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Archive for February, 2011

People’s Pub – 2/23/2011

Website

Location: 5429 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 3-2

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sun: 3-7

Due to a roast that failed to defrost entirely, J and I decided to head out for a mid-week meal to one of our go-to restaurants, The People’s Pub.

The People’s Pub is Ballard’s one German restaurant, with a great selection of German beers and interesting regional entrees. Serving everything from delicious, deep fried pickles to doner kebab to enough schnitzels to get one over the Alps, this place gives you a hearty, European alternative to the bar food found along Ballard Ave.

I’m not sure I would call the People’s Pub’s dark, cave like interior “inviting” but it is comfortable. The front dining area is family and group friendly while the back bar is a little darker with a large selection of draft beers and a weird, reverse J shaped bar tucked in the corner. The TVs in both the front and back will be playing, 8 times out of 10, movies or cartoons rather than the usual sports found in other bars. Last night they were playing “The Godfather”.

Their happy hour is great. Most drafts and wells are $3.25. The special happy hour menu is plentiful with appetizers, salads and burgers. And they have daily specials. Wednesday nights, the night we went, is German night with German drafts at $3.25 and $1.00 off German bottled beers and German entrees. Since we usually get the sausage plate, with its selection of tasty Bavarian Meats sausages, we decided to try something different and ordered off the entrée list. Their entrees run towards the $15-$19 range, which might be considered a bit expensive but they’re worth it for their flavor and heartiness.

I should admit that J and I are a bit biased about the People’s Pub. We’ve been to and had birthday gatherings here. It’s one of our favorite restaurants in Ballard and has emotional meaning as well. We ended our first date with dinner there.

The Service:

Our server was friendly and polite. He was easily able to answer J’s question about their draft cider selection and even described the taste of it from first hand knowledge.

The Drinks:

I ordered a pint of Reisdorf Kolsch, which is a light, clean tasting German beer. J ordered a pint of Ace Apple Cider, a new cider for him. He found it almost beery in taste with a sparkling finish.

The Food:

My German entrée was the Rinderrouladen, braised beef rolls stuffed with bacon, onions, mustard and pickles served with a red wine onion demi reduction, mashed potatoes and rotkohl. I’ve seen this on their menu forever. The construction of the beef rolls was akin to sausages with a crust on the outside. Each roll was cut in half to make 4 huge halfs. The meat was moist, taking on the flavor of the stuffing. The mashed potatoes were chunky with skins mixed throughout, which is the way I like them. Creamy without feeling heavy or fatty. The rotkohl, red cabbage side, was kind of flavorless though. The description claims it’s cooked with apples, onions and red wine but it seemed like all the flavor those items should have imparted had been cooked out.

The winner of the dish was the red wine, onion demi reduction. It had all the flavor that the rotkohl should have had. A sharp almost tangy red wine flavor with an undercurrent of pepper and onions. The sauce complimented the beef rolls and the potatoes perfectly.

J had the Goulash, a slow-simmered beef stew with onions, tomatoes and garlic served with a dollop of sour cream and his favorite, spatzle. The meat was tender. The sauce was tasty with special mention of the tomatoes and the dollop of sour cream. Their spatzle was great as always. A winner all around.

J and I also ordered their Crème Brulee to share. We are fans of this pariticular dessert, having tried many different styles of Crème Brulee throughout Seattle. The People’s Pub is our favorite. It arrives in a small ramekin that is a bit taller than any other Crème Brulee we’ve had. The top was perfectly melted to a glassy, slightly burnt golden brown that cracked in big chunks. The vanilla crème part was cold and creamy without being heavy. Even though it’s a custard it felt light. A great, relatively inexpensive crème brulee.

The Price:

Reisdorf Kolsch: $3.25, Happy Hour/German Night ($5.00 normally)

Ace Apple Cider: $3/25, Happy Hour ($4.50 normally)

Rinderrouladen: $18.00, German Night ($19.00 normally)

Goulash: $15.00, German Night ($16.00 normally)

Crème Brulee: $6.00

The Verdict:

The People’s Pub remains one of our favorite restaurants in Ballard. The comfortable atmosphere, the great beers and the interesting food all keep it at the top our list. With the great happy hour selections and a crème brulee to die for, we have no problem recommending anyone … except maybe vegans … go out of their way to try some unique German fare. Die Volkskneipe ist sehr gut.

Shiku – 2/20/2011

Website

Location: 5310 Ballard Ave. NW

Hours:

Mon-Thurs: 4:30-10

Fri: 4:30-12

Sat: 12-12

Sun: 12-10

Happy Hour:

Mon-Fri: 4:30-4:30

Sat-Sun: 12-6

Fri-Sat: 11pm-12

We decided on sushi for Sunday’s dinner because it seemed like we had been eating a lot of bar food lately. Of the four sushi places in Ballard, we went the easy route and chose what has become our favorite, Shiku.

Shiku is sophisticated yet unassuming restaurant. On the small side with bench seating along the wall, a full bar and a small sushi bar. Other than pretty good sushi, I would say its claim to fame is a fancy, Japanese style toilet in the women’s restroom. One of those that’s a bidet and toilet in one with a heated seat. An entertaining thrill ride for a western ass.

Usually Shiku is fairly quiet but since it was the President’s Day holiday, lots of people were apparently craving sushi. The bench seating and sushi bar were full so J and I ate at the bar.

The Service:

Since we were sitting by one of the order terminals, we got fairly quick service. Everyone was polite and friendly. It did seem to take longer than usual for our sushi order to come but that was more likely due to the packed restaurant than the servers.

The Drinks:

We ordered the Hakutusuru House Sake (cold) to share. It comes in a carafe that has an ice pocket to keep the sake nice and cold. The Hakutusuru is very nice for a house sake. Smooth with a clear, fresh taste.

I also ordered a Cherry Saketini (3Olives Cherry Vodka and Hakutsuru Sake) out of curiosity since I’ve never before had a sake cocktail. Luckily the cherry vodka had a real cherry taste rather than that artificial, cough syrupy flavor that some flavored alcohols can have. Very nice, smooth end to the meal.

A note: Since this review was published J has tried Shiku’s WMD, their version of a Long Island Iced Tea. He has unequivocally declared it to be not only the best Long Island in Ballard but the best he’s ever had.

The Food:

We hadn’t eaten much, so we ordered more than usual.

Appetizers:

Pork Gyoza which were nothing special. Crispy outside with pork centers. I found them kind of flavorless to be honest.

The Bacon Wrapped Scallops were far better. Each skewer had two bacon wrapped scallops on it with a cherry tomato separating them. Very good. The scallops were cooked over a fire just to the point of firmness with a nice char on the edges. The bacon was cooked well rather than being slightly rare as I’ve had on other such dishes.

Sushi:

The four Unagi (eel) Nigiri were done quite well. The rice actually held together nicely for each bite of the huge, sweet, almost bbq flavored unagi. Nice, simple and tasty.

We also ordered a couple of their specialty rolls. First was the Zig Zag Roll, spicy snow crab, soft shell crab, avocado and cream cheese wrapped in soy paper with half a fried soft shell crab on the side. This was a mouthful. I liked how the coolness of the cream cheese counteracted the hot, fried crab pieces within the roll. The crab was really good and crabby with a nice crunch. And the extra hunks of crab were a nice addition.

The other roll we got was the Ninja Roll, a simple spicy tuna roll, double wrapped, breaded in panko and lightly fried. This one was a little spicy for me but J loved it. To be honest, when eating sushi rolls I’d much rather have the wasabi sinus burn than a hot sauce. The fried panko crumbs did give an unusual texture pop though.

The Price:

Hakutsuru Cold Sake: $7.00

Cherry Saketini: $7.00

Pork Gyoza: $.6.00

Bacon Wrapped Scallops: $7.00

Unagi: $12.00 for 4 pieces

Zig Zag Roll: $12.50

Ninja Roll: $9.50

The Verdict:

Due to the freshness of the fish, the good service and the comfortable ambiance, of course we’ll go back to Shiku. It’s an unpretentious restaurant with really good food. Unless the one sushi place in Ballard (we’ve been to three of the four) that we haven’t been to completely amazes us, I fully expect to continue to make Shiku our go to place for sushi. In fact, we’ll probably try to get through the other sushi places as quickly as possible so we can return to Shiku the next time a sushi craving hits.

Hattie’s Hat-2/18/2011

No Website

Location: 5231 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Fri: 3-2

Sat-Sun: 9-2

Happy Hour:

Daily: 3-7

If you’ve ever seen a show in Ballard or gone bar hopping or been in Ballard late night, you’ve probably gone to Hattie’s Hat. Hattie’s is a 100 year old institution in Ballard. Small. Dark. A bit seedy around the edges. It was the place to go before Ballard Ave began overflowing with restaurants. Now it’s just one bar/diner that is really only special for its history, not the food so much.

We wanted to get burgers at King’s Hardware but, alas, it was full of hipsters so we decided to go next door to Hattie’s Hat instead. We walked in to find the front part taking up the overflow from King’s so we headed to the back room, which was completely empty.

I have to admit, I miss the fish tank that used to be back there. It gave me a reason to go to Hattie’s as well as giving some extra lighting in the back room that tends to be a little dark.

The Service:

It took the server a little while to realize we were in the back room. As seems to be our habit lately, we showed up just before a shift change and when there was only one server for the entire place. Once she did see us, her service was polite, friendly and very quick.

The Drinks:

I ordered a Manny’s Pale Ale, which was … well, Manny’s. Perfectly acceptable beer and at a happy hour price of $2.00. J ordered what he deemed a “really good” Long Island Iced Tea.

The Food:

Appetizer:

I ordered the Happy Hour Sweet Potato Fries, hoping they would be a smaller version of their regular sweet potato fry appetizer, which has the sweet potatoes tossed with crumbled blue cheese and Serrano chilies. Alas, it was merely a plate of plain sweet potatoes sliced in medallions. The potatoes were crispy on the outside with just a bit of salt but were in sore need of a dipping sauce of some sort. It felt like it was a half finished concept.

Entrees:

J chose the Beer Batter Dipped Fish & Chips with tartar sauce, fries and spicy coleslaw. The fish was the star of this plate. Wasn’t too greasy, the batter covering stayed crispy and kept the flavorful cod hot the entire time. The fries were … fries. Not amazing but not horrible.

The spicy coleslaw was the misstep of the plate. J likes coleslaw so he was interested in trying something different than the usual. J’s problem with this version was it didn’t taste like coleslaw. It tasted like spicy cabbage that had been drenched in vinegar. He took two bites and set it aside.

My choice was the Blue Cheese & Bacon Burger with a mixed green salad with blue cheese dressing. I usually order the green salad at Hattie’s because it’s pretty good. A large pile of mixed greens with a good handful of shredded carrots and bean sprouts thrown on top. Their blue cheese dressing is one of the better examples I’ve had in Seattle. Not too heavy with a good helping of blue cheese.

My burger was okay. The toppings were amazing. The thick peppery bacon was cooked to crispy perfection. I kind of want to go back for breakfast just so I can order the bacon. The blue cheese was a complete surprise. Most places seem to use bland, mass market blue cheese chunks that don’t seem to related to the sharp, stinky stuff I love. I would not have been surprised to find this blue cheese on a cheese plate at a high-end restaurant. It tasted like Spanish Valdeon, a cheese with a great, blue cheese flavor with a nice creamy finish. It melted on the burger perfectly.

However, the burger patty was a major disappointment. First off, it was very small and thin. The bun, which was actually quite good, completely overwhelmed it. The texture was dry without any of the juiciness I expect from a good burger. Its uniform size made me sure it was a premade, if not frozen, patty. This could’ve been an amazing burger with those toppings but instead it was merely okay.

The Price:

Long Island Iced Tea: $7.00

Manny’s Pale Ale: $4.00 (Happy Hour price, $2.00)

Sweet Potato Fries: $3.00 (Happy Hour price)

Blue Cheese & Bacon Burger: $9.00 ($11.00 with a side salad)

Beer Battered Fish & Chips: $10.25

The Verdict:

Hattie’s Hat sits on the edge of being really good. Some ingredients are surprisingly good for what is essentially a diner. But those are overshadowed by the mediocre … either mediocre ingredients or a failure to take offerings beyond just okay. If they could get some consistency to the menu, I think Hattie’s would be one of our go to places but as it is, we’ll probably only go back if someone else invites us to go there.

Staple and Fancy-2/14/2011

Website

Location: 4739 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 5-11

For Valentine’s Day we decided to try out the newest, high end restaurant in Ballard, Staple and Fancy.

Located at the industrial end of Ballard Ave in the refurbished Kolstrand building, Staple & Fancy is the fourth restaurant to be opened by local celebrity chef, Ethan Stowell. His other restaurants (Anchovies & Olives, How to Cook a Wolf and Tavolata) have been highlighted in Bon Appétit and Food & Wine magazines. He’s got a new cookbook, Ethan Stowell’s New Italian Kitchen (available at his restaurants and through the Seattle Public Library). Staple & Fancy highlights “Italian-inspired” food in a menu that has a little bit of everything and has the option to put your taste buds in the hands of the chef with a Chef’s Choice menu, created specially for that day’s diners.

I had read about Staple & Fancy before and a friend of J’s highly recommended it so we decided to visit it for the first special occasion of the year, Valentine’s Day. J made reservations nearly a month ago for a special 3 course plus appetizers, Valentine’s Day dinner, created for that day by Chef Stowell, who would also be at the restaurant overseeing things.

Due to torrential rains and high winds, we decided to drive down to the restaurant rather than walk as we usually do. The neighborhood around Staple & Fancy is a bit sketchy for Ballard Ave can be a bit sketchy, with most of the businesses being closed in the evening. Although with the coming of this restaurant, a neat little bar called The Walrus & the Carpenter and the bike store next door, the area is beginning to be a little gentrified.

The restaurant itself is small with an open kitchen, a short bar with seating for 35. Our reservations were for 5:30 and when we arrived it was already about a quarter full. We were seated at a small table along the wall, bench seat for me, chair for J. I will admit the seating was not the most comfortable thing in the world. I woke up the next morning with a backache. I have no idea why bench seating seems to be a trend lately among upscale restaurants. When I eat, I would like to be comfortable.

The Service:

Our server was friendly and helpful if a little erratic. Compared to the other diners around us, who had one server helping them the entire meal, at some points during the meal we ended up with two other people serving us. Maybe he was new or maybe he was too busy serving the table of VIPs next to us (Chef Stowell came out to chat with them a couple of times during the meal) or maybe we threw him off by being ready to order right after he brought our drinks, thanks to the magic of a menu posted on their website. I don’t know. It just seemed a little weird to me. I will give credit though to our being given plenty of time between courses and a comfortable atmosphere.

The Drinks:

Since J drove, we ordered a half bottle of Bertagna Pinot Noir which was nice and fruity. For the dessert course, we each ordered a glass of dessert wine. J had the Porto Kopke 1988 and I Andrew Rich’s Late Harvest sweet wine. The dessert wines paired beautifully with the desserts.

The Food:

The meal consisted of four courses. An appetizer course which was chosen by the chef then pasta, a main and a dessert course each with 2 choices a piece. We decided on an egalitarian way of choosing who got what. J had first choice for the pasta course and I got my choice of the main course.

Appetizers:

There were six small plates for the appetizer course. Each plate included just enough for two people.

Soft Boiled Eggs with White Anchovy: I liked this one. The egg yolk wasn’t too under done which is usually my fear with soft boiled eggs. The taste of the egg melded nicely with the almost vinegary flavor of the white anchovy and the garlic of the aioli upon which the eggs sat.

Marinated Beets with Oranges, Pistachio and Pecorino Toscano: Because of a sensitivity to oranges, I couldn’t taste this dish. J, who does not normally like beets, was quite surprised with the flavor. He mentioned that the beety taste was nicely toned down and wondered if it was due to the acidity of the orange mixed with the nuts.

Prosciutto di Parma with Parmigiano-Reggiano: Slices of melt in your mouth prosciutto with fresh flakes of parmigiano. Nothing better than this simple dish.

Crostini with Smoked Mackerel: The fish had a nice texture and fishy-smokiness without being overwhelming. The crostini was perfectly toasted. Other times I’ve had crostini it’s been so dry and hard that it rips up the roof of your mouth like Captn’ Crunch did when I was a kid..

Salmon Crudo with Red Radish and Watercress: Tasted like really good sushi. The only detractor was that the radishes were kind of tasteless.

Burrata with Marinated Peppers: Burrata, for those that don’t know, is a soft cheese made with mozzarella and cream (thank you Wikipedia). This plate was really good. It was basically a nest of julienned red peppers and sultanas with a dollop of Burrata on top. It was almost a dessert with the mix of the very sweet peppers and the creaminess of the cheese. Delicious.

Pasta Course:

I ordered the Conchiglie with Swordfish Puttanesca, Tomato, Capers and Olives. I was pleasantly surprised at the size of this course. Much more than I had expected. The little shell-shaped pasta was perfectly al dente. The puttanesca sauce had a bit of spiciness but did not take over the taste of the dish. In fact the weighty flavor of the swordfish shone through the sauce unlike other fish pastas I’ve had where the only time you taste the fish is when you actually bite into a piece. The dish was just a perfect melding of flavors.

J ordered the Potato Gnocchi with Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib, Tomato, Horseradish and Oregano. His take on his pasta was that the sauce was excellent in the sense that it didn’t overwhelm the gnocchi or the short rib. There was a lot more meat than he had expected and it was nice and tender. I tasted the short rib and it had a very nice, if strongly oregano, flavor.

Main Course:

For my main course, I chose the Duck Breast with Almond and Salsify Puree with Thumbelina Carrots, Pearl Onions and Aged Balsamic. When the duck got to the table, I honestly thought it was a piece of beef. I have never had duck breast served sliced crosswise and rare. It was a little chewy with a couple of almost gristly bits to the point where I had a little trouble cutting it but the skin crust was lovely. Basically there was a layer of skin then delicious fat and finally the duck breast. It was good but not excellent. I guess my problem was that it didn’t really taste like duck. It tasted more like beef and if I’d wanted beef, I would’ve ordered beef.

J chose the Daurade (fish) with Artichokes, Meyer Lemon and Controne Beans. He felt that the fish was cooked perfectly. It was probably the best fish he’d ever had. The lemon reduction gave a fresh taste to the dish and bean sauce mixed well with the flavor of the fish.

Dessert:

My choice was the Ricotta Cheesecake with Vanilla Bean and Wild Huckleberry Sauce. The server brought a huge piece of cheesecake with a generous amount of huckleberries. It was delicious. Creamy with a graham cracker crust that soaked up the huckleberry juice. This was the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. Amazing.

J’s choice for dessert was the Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Ice Cream and Bourbon Caramel. He went crazy for the caramel. Said it was the best caramel he had ever had. That it had ruined all other caramels for him. I quote him “Un-fucking-believable. The cake was awesome. The ice cream was delicious. Just amazing.” The port he ordered to go with it was a perfect match.

The Price:

I will say, we have a blow-out meal like this maybe once a year. This will look expensive but considering what we received and upon looking at their regular menu, it was probably cheaper than if we had ordered each item separately.

Half-bottle Pinot Noir: $38.00

Valentine’s Day Menu: 2 @ $75.00

Porto Kopke: $12.00

Andrew Rich Late Harvest Dessert Wine: $9.00

The Verdict:

The winners of the menu were the soft boiled eggs, the buratta with marinated peppers, the two pasta dishes and the two desserts. All of these items were memorable for their taste, execution and creativity and made the meal worth the price.

One of the criteria I’ve begun to judge these Ballard restaurants by is whether we will go back once the year is over. I would say, at some point in the future, I’d be willing to go back to either try the chef’s choice menu or to have the cheesecake again. Holy crap, that cheesecake was amazing ….

Mae Ploy Thai Cuisine-2/11/2011

Website

Location: 6421 15th Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Thurs: 11-9:30

Fri: 11-10

Sat: 3-10

Sun: 12-9:30

Time to visit the first of four Thai restaurants in Ballard.

Mae Ploy Thai is tucked in an odd little building on the corner of 15th and 65th, across the street from Zesto’s. If you don’t know Ballard well, you’d probably miss it. The décor is typical of most family run, hole-in-the-wall Thai/Teriyaki/Pho places. Colorful cloth on the windows. Wooden masks on the wall. A fish tank in the corner. Tiny, tiny kitchen.

It seems to be the nearby neighborhood, quickie take-out restaurant. There seemed to be a lot of traffic for their delivery service since the phone kept ringing while we were there. Otherwise, we were the only customers in the place.

The Service:

Very friendly. We had two different people helping us a nice, young guy and an older woman. Both were helpful and polite. When my first choice for a drink wasn’t available, the woman was able to tell me the alternates quickly. Our food came out in fine amount of time. It did take a little longer than usual for them to bring us our check but we chalked that up to the kitchen dealing with a consistently ringing phone.

The Drinks:

J had a glass of Riesling and I a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Both wines were nice but nothing special.

The Food:

Appetizer:

One order of Pot Stickers done Thai style, deep fried with pork and vegetable with black bean sauce. Both of us really liked these. The filling was savory with just a touch of saltiness and the sauce was very tasty. I have no idea what they put in the “black bean sauce” considering the name doesn’t do it justice. It was thicker than the pot sticker sauce you find in Chinese restaurants and much less vinegary. It had a sweet, almost plumy taste that mixed well with the pork.

Entrees:

I had the Pad Khee-Mao, wide rice noodles pan-fried with egg, broccoli, bell pepper, onion, carrot, tomatoes, mushroom, bamboo shoots, chili sauce, Thai basil and chicken. I requested 2.5 stars for spiciness, which was executed well. There was slight spiciness with each bite then an after burn that kind of caught up. The sauce was well flavored, the vegetables were not over cooked and the chicken pieces were well cooked. Overall it was a good Pad Khee-Mao.

J ordered the Massaman Curry, curry paste, coconut milk, potatoes, carrot, pineapple, peanut, onion and fried tofu. As I did, he requested a 2.5 star spiciness. Upon tasting it, he felt that it was way too mild. He judged it to be barely a 1 star, especially compared to my dish. This may have been a mis-communication with the server but he was disappointed in the lack of spice.

Otherwise, as a Massaman Curry fan, he liked the flavor of the dish. He enjoyed difference the fried tofu gave to the texture of the curry. The vegetables were well cooked. All in all, it was good except for the lack of spiciness.

The Price:

2 glasses of wine: $4.75 ea.

Pot Stickers: $5.95

Pad Khee-Mao: $8.50

Massaman Curry: $8.95

Side of Rice: $1.75

The Verdict:

In the realm of hole-in-the-wall Thai places it would be placed right in the middle. Neither horrible nor amazing. If we were really lazy and didn’t want to schlep into Ballard proper for Thai, we might go to Mae Ploy again. Maybe … but probably not. It just wasn’t anything special.

The Old Pequliar – 2/6/2011

No website.

Location: 1722 NW Market St.

Hours:

Mon-Fri: 12-2

Sat-Sun: 10-2

The main thing to remember about The Old Pequliar is that it’s primarily a bar. On any given night, it will be filled with people, usually regulars, there to drink and watch whatever happens to be on the multiple TVs, so the clientele can sometimes get a bit douchey, as J would say. That being said, it’s an okay place to grab some bar food on an off night. They also serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The Old Pequliar is supposed to be an Irish pub, but other than a few Irish themed posters, it’s a regular, sometimes sports bar. It can get crowded during sports events and on Tuesday nights when they have what others claim is a really good trivia night. There’s also a separate room with a pool table, darts and a pinball machine. I’d say the uncommon thing about the atmosphere of the Old Pequliar is that nearly every time I have walked past at least one of their TVs is showing something other than sports. Usually it’s one of those horrible SyFy made movies but sometimes it’ll be one of the Lord of the Rings films or Spike TV. It’s just an oddity that I find kind of endearing.

The Service:

The night we went it was great. The waitress was prompt and friendly. When J couldn’t decide what to get, she suggested the Shepherd’s Pie, which turned out great.

Having been to the Old P a number of times before, I’d have to say this was the best service we’ve ever had there. The consistently bad service one of the reasons I tend to avoid the place. It always seems like we sit there for ten minutes before someone acknowledges our presence. If their service has improved, as it seemed to be on the night we went, we’ll probably go a bit more often.

The Drinks:

I had a Strongbow cider, which was good as always. J, as an aficionado of Long Island Iced Teas, ordered one. J’s opinion was it was tasty and strong.

The Food:

J ordered the Shepherd’s Pie, a stew/pot pie made with beef, lamb and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes covered in cheddar cheese. He said the flavor was great and the covering of potatoes kept everything warm. It wasn’t as heavy as he thought it was going to be. He ate the whole thing and didn’t feel like a lead balloon was lodged in his stomach afterwards. All in all, a resounding positive review.

I ordered the Black & Bleu burger, a peppercorn encrusted burger topped with bleu cheese, caramelized onions and HP sauce, served with French fries. The French fries were hot, crispy and topped with just a hint of sea salt. Really good fries. The burger … eh, not so much.

The burger itself was good. I like peppercorn-crusted burgers and the burger alone was a good example. Not overwhelmingly peppery, for me (it may be for others) and the meat was tender. The misstep for this burger was the HP sauce.

For those who’ve never tasted this concoction, it’s the British “brown sauce”. It tastes like a mix of bbq and steak sauce. It’s okay as a condiment but the burger was drenched with the sauce. I could barely taste the onions and bleu cheese through this cloying, vinegary mess. I think the only reason I could taste the burger was because of the peppercorn crust. If they’d only lightly smeared the sauce on the bun, this would have been a pretty good burger but instead it was hard to get through. I did finally end up taking the burger apart and just eating the meat. This is definitely not something I would order again.

The Price:

Long Island Iced Tea: $8.75

Strongbow Cider in a can: $5.00

Shepherd’s Pie: $9.50

Black & Bleu Burger: $9.50

The Verdict:

The Old Pequliar serves serviceable bar food, with special mention going to the French fries and the Shepherd’s Pie. The place is nice when it’s not too crowded and it is novel to go to a bar where you might be able to watch Mega-Cobra vs Gatoroid.

Old Town Alehouse – 2/4/2011 – Closed

Website

Location: 5233 Ballard Ave NW

Hours: Sun-Mon: 11:30-10

Tue-Thurs: 11:30-11

Fri-Sat: 11:30-12

Old Town Alehouse is tucked between Hattie’s Hat and an engraving/rubber stamp shop that seems to have been there since the Jurassic period. Their website says that the building has operated as a bar of some sort for 113 years. The interior is fairly bright and open with lovely hardwood floors.

It’s a nice, comfortable place for lunch or dinner. There are a couple of tables for largish groups and the dining area is family friendly. It’s one of the few places in Ballard that doesn’t change their menu between lunch and dinner. Also, they have a great collection of local and Belgian beers and usually have at least one hard cider available. In fact, they only serve beer and Washington wines. The Old Town Alehouse offers hot sandwiches, soups, salads, a couple of pasta dishes and the ubiquitous fish & chips.

The Service:

When we first arrived, it took a while before someone came to our table. At first this kind of annoyed me but I realized later that we had come in during a shift change. Also, the drink and food menus are already at the table so I think they tend give a little extra time so your order for drink and food can be taken all at once.

Our first server was very polite. When J ordered a pint of cider, she let him know that it was very dry which was fine with him. Our second server, who covered the last half of our meal, was equally polite and personable.

Another thing I need to mention is that our food came out incredibly fast. Both of us were shocked how fast it came out.

Drinks:

J ordered a pint of Anthem hard apple cider since he isn’t a fan of beer. It was a new brand of cider for him and he found it crisp and tasty. I tried a sip and would order it for myself if given the chance.

I had a pint of Schooner Exact, Gallant Maiden Hefeweizen, which I’ve ordered on previous visits to Old Town Alehouse. I’m a big fan of this beer, with its very light, citrus flavor with a slight floral aftertaste. If I could find this beer in the store, I could buy it all the time.

Food:

Salad: One of the things I always order at the Alehouse is their Caesar salad, one of my favorite Caesars in Seattle. A small order comes on a tiny plate, piled high with fresh romaine, just the right amount of a Caesar dressing that straddles the line between creamy and vinaigrette, fresh grated parmesan and, when requested, anchovies. My small salad had six, full sized anchovies.

Entrees:

I ordered the Ballard Beef Dip, roast beef with tomatoes, red onion, pickled cherry peppers, smoked provolone, mild horseradish spread and garlic au jus. I enjoyed my sandwich. Served on a toothsome Bolo roll, the sandwich had a large amount of moist, flavorful roast beef. The peppers and horseradish sauce had just the right amount of bite. Because the roll wasn’t too soft, it held up well when dipped into the au jus, which was tasty and not greasy as some au jus can get.

J ordered the Hot Turkey Pesto, smoked turkey breast with fresh basil pesto, roma tomatoes, onions and gruyere cheese. J isn’t a huge turkey fan but it sounded so good he went ahead and ordered it. He was not disappointed. He thought it was awesome.

Both sandwiches came with Alehouse Fries, their special fried, shoestring potatoes tossed in house spices and parmesan. These fries are great. Just the right amount of salt, peppery with the slight creaminess of cheese. The only problem with them is, as shoestrings, they have a tendency to get cold quickly. All the more reason to eat them quickly.

Dessert: After dinner, we debated whether to order dessert. A few years back I had tried their Turtle Sundae and sang its praises to J. We were full but figured that we wouldn’t get a chance to come back anytime soon. This sundae was well worth the food coma that came afterwards.

The Turtle Sundae was vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, fresh whipped cream and the best part, spiced pecans. It comes in a large, footed cup topped with whipped cream sprinkled with chocolate, caramel and the pecans. At first I thought all the pecans we would get with the sundae were the ones on top but as we worked down through the perfect vanilla ice cream and the hot sauces, we found a huge cache of spiced pecans at the very bottom. The sundae would’ve been overly sweet without the cayenne spiciness of the pecans.

The Price:

Anthem Cider: $5.25

Gallant Maiden Hefeweizen: $4.75

Caesar Salad: $4.50/sm

Ballard Beef Dip: $10.75

Hot Turkey Pesto: $10.75

Turtle Sundae: $6.00

The Verdict: We’ll both be back. The service, sandwiches and beverages were all worthy of a return trip. I’ll be back anyway since I usually go there for lunch once every couple of months for the Caesar salad and fries alone. Definitely try this place.