Home > Restaurants > Lock & Keel Tavern – 3/27/2011

Lock & Keel Tavern – 3/27/2011

No Website

Location: 5144 Ballard Ave NW


Mon-Fri: 4pm-2am

Sat-Sun: 11:30am-2am

Happy Hour:

Daily: 4-7

The Lock & Keel stands out as one of Ballard’s dive bars. Dark even on the sunniest of days. A mix of older, blue-collar workers, pool players (Sunday is free pool day) and guys watching whatever game happens to be on the TV. The décor is sea shanty chic. A huge racing boat with room for an 8-person crew hangs from the ceiling. The pool lights used to house outboard motors. It reminds me of the sailor bar in Airplane!

Oddly enough, instead of the usual bar fare, the Lock & Keel serves house-smoked barbeque. The smell of smoked meat assails you the minute you walk in. J and I had attempted to go here once before but made the mistake of hitting it on trivia night. This time, late afternoon on a Sunday, the place was still crowded but not packed. We fought our way past the crowd of people congregating at the bar to a table back by the pool tables.

The Service:

The one thing to remember about the Lock & Keel is that you get bar service there. This means there are usually only two people working, the bartender and a server/barback. Do not expect quick service unless you’re seated at the bar. It took a while for someone to come take our order but once that happened, our server (the bartender) was relatively friendly. Our drinks and food came out in fairly quick manner as well. The only hitch was when we wanted our check but as I said before … bar service.

The Drinks:

I ordered Strongbow cider, good as usual and draft to boot. J had his usual Long Island Iced Tea, which he said was a little too sweet.

The Food:

I had the Bum Steer, a shredded beef brisket sandwich with tangy BBQ sauce and potato salad. The sandwich was BBQ in its purest form. Just a Kaiser roll with meat and BBQ sauce. Nothing fancy. The Kaiser roll was soft enough to easily bite but hefty enough to not fall apart under the onslaught of BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce was their milder choice. Tangy with a hint of sweet spiciness. I found the brisket just smoky enough with a hint of wood flavor. When paired with the sauce, the sandwich was lovely. The meat on its own, though, was a bit too dry for my taste. The potato salad was exceptional. Perfectly cooked red potatoes in a creamy dressing with celery, onion and just a hint of dill.

J ordered the Two-Step meal, shredded brisket and pork, spicy BBQ sauce, coleslaw and garlic mashed potatoes. He loved the garlic-mashed potatoes. A complete surprise for a dive bar. The coleslaw was nothing special. The spicy BBQ sauce was a good mix between spicy and sweet. The meat could’ve been much juicier. Even with the sauce it still was drier than he would’ve liked. He did like the mix of beef and pork though.

The Price:

I’m having to backward engineer the price since we weren’t able to keep the itemized list and the Lock & Keel doesn’t have a website I can use to double check. Prices are estimated.

Strongbow Cider: $3.25 (Happy Hour price)

Long Island Iced Tea: $ 7.00

Bum Steer: $ 6.50

Two-Step: $ 8.50

The Verdict:

The Lock & Keel is okay. We’ve both said it seems different than it was a few years ago. A little rougher maybe? The BBQ is okay but not good enough to go out of the way to brave the dinginess. Granted, it does have Strongbow on tap but even at that, I don’t see us going there again unless it’s with a group for a pub crawl or something.

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