Home > Restaurants > Best of the Ballard Restaurant Project 2011

Best of the Ballard Restaurant Project 2011

Here it is. Finally. Our list of the top ten Ballard restaurants of 2011. When asked by friends, family, and strangers, these are the restaurants we consistently said were the best and we’ve had a number of people thank us for our suggestions.

It actually wasn’t that hard narrowing it down to ten from the 82 Ballard restaurants we visited. Our top ten turned out to be a good mix of cuisines and price points. They spanned the course of this project, which makes me think we spread out the good ones fairly well.

10. Tie

J’s Choice: Flying Squirrel Pizza

For J, Flying Squirrel Pizza has the best pizza in Seattle. Fabulous crust. Fresh and unique ingredients. Inexpensive for the quality. Quick. He looks forward to going whenever we decide to have pizza in Ballard. I like it, as well, but prefer the wood-fired crust of places like Veraci and Via Tribulani which is why I chose some place else as number 10.

H’s Choice: Bastille

The most beautiful restaurant in Ballard with food and cocktails to match. Delicious cocktails with a French twist. Good, solid French cuisine made with ingredients so fresh that some of them are grown on the roof. A great place to go for a special occasion. Our dinner there, for our first anniversary, was one of the more memorable of this project.

9. Copper Gate

In the top ten on the deliciousness of the Gravlax and Swedish Meatballs alone. J counts the gravlax, mustard, and pumpernickel bread as one of the best bites of food he’s had in his life. I liked the food, cocktails, and the fun décor mix of rustic Scandinavian furniture with old porn. A great nod to Ballard’s heritage.

8. The Boar’s Nest

Good, relatively inexpensive, hole-in-the-wall BBQ. Tender. Flavorful. Friendly staff. We loved how they provided different regional BBQ sauces on the table.  We have looked forward to going back ever since our first trip.

7.Pasta Bella

Do you want eat hearty, traditional Italian food and feel like you’re on the set of The Godfather? Then Pasta Bella is the place for you. A huge menu of fresh Italian dishes at reasonable prices plus a pretty fine wine list. Sure there are “nicer” Italian restaurants out there but they just don’t have the atmosphere of Pasta Bella.

6. Thai Thani

The best Thai food in Ballard and some of the best in Seattle. We’ve been back multiple times since our initial visit. The menu consists of the usual Thai favorites along with an extensive list of unique items. Huge portions and a fun cocktail menu round out a great place. Sure, it doesn’t have the ambiance of Thaiku but the food is way better.

5. The Sexton

Other than a plating misstep … that they subsequently changed after reading our review … our visit to The Sexton, on their opening weekend, was great. Rustic, comfortable space. Friendly servers. Fabulous, creative cocktails. Amazing hush puppies. Southern down-home cooking with a contemporary twist and quality ingredients. A great addition to Ballard’s mid-range, high quality dining establishments.

4. Ocho

We love Ocho, one of the first of Ballard’s creative, high quality restaurants. Awesome tapas. The bacon wrapped dates (La Carolina) continue to be one of our favorite single bites of food. The tapas are so delicious that it’s hard not to order everything available. J calls it “Spanish sushi”.

3. La Carte de Oaxaca

Best and most authentic Mexican food in Seattle. Fabulous cocktails. Small plates of amazing food made with the freshest of ingredients. Fresh tortillas that will spoil you forever more. Totally and completely worth the wait you will invariably have..

2. The Walrus and the Carpenter

If you think the nation has overhyped The Walrus and the Carpenter, you’d be wrong. It IS as good as everyone says. The only reason it is not tied for number one on this list is because it is so blasted hard to get a seat. Fresh, creative cocktails. Delicious, regional oysters. The salmon tartare is one of the best dishes we’ve eaten. Ever. Worth any sort of wait to get a seat. If you enjoy good food, you owe it to yourself to try The Walrus and the Carpenter, the best of the new flock of small-plate eateries in Seattle.

1. Plaka Estiatorio

We ate our review meal at Plaka Estiatorio way back in April and it has been at the top of our Best of Ballard list ever since. We have never had a bad meal here, lunch or dinner. Everyone is super friendly. The meze are fantastic with the best hummus we’ve ever had topping the list. The ingredients are either local or brought in from Greece giving every dish a fresh, authentic taste. Their lunch gyros … omg, the gyros are phenomenal. Anything you order will be cooked perfectly. Seafood. Lamb. Beef. And the avgolemono soup is a delight. Go to Plaka Estiatorio. Really. Don’t wait. You will not be sorry.

Next week I’ll post the Honorable Mentions. The ten restaurants that didn’t make the top ten but we want to highlight them. After that … the worst of Ballard restaurants.

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  1. January 23, 2012 at 10:22 am

    We love Volterra… Don and Michelle have brought so much to Ballard- and bartender Amy is the best. My husband has celiac disease and can’t eat gluten so many on your list are off-limits, but Don makes his own gluten-free pasta from scratch. We used to eat at Plaka, but they changed the gyro meat and my husband got sick. (now they put breadcrumbs in it.) I realize this is totally subjective and I honor your choices- and your guts for braving it all.

    • January 23, 2012 at 10:53 am

      Thank you for understanding that these are merely our favorites. It did get to be a slog for the last couple of months 🙂

      We really do love Volterra as well, especially their weekend brunch.

      Thank you for reading and we’re going to continue to review new places that open up in Ballard.

  2. Virginie
    January 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    very surprised that Golden Beattle did not make the list!

  3. Cheryl
    January 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    What a fun project! You gave us some new ideas to try for date night.

  4. Sheryl
    January 23, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Thanks for doing all the work.. I have some spots I need to try

  5. Diane
    January 24, 2012 at 5:15 am

    We are enormous fans of Portalis. Yes, it’s a wine bar and wine shop, but it also has a great small menu that frequently changes. We think their chef is one of the best kept secrets in Seattle. She makes delightful, interesting dishes that aren’t fussy. She has a knack for very well-balanced flavors. The menu choices always have recommended wine pairings by the glass. It’s our restaurant of choice for Friday night after work. No reservation, just show up and have a good glass of wine and a delicious meal together.

    • January 24, 2012 at 7:52 am

      We enjoyed our meal at Portalis as well.

      In reality, there are a lot of places that are really good in Ballard so I think our “Honorable Mention” list will be longer than we originally planned.

  6. Stan
    January 24, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Great job on the project and the list!
    That said, the service at Plaka Estiatorio has on 4 of 5 visits been as poor as I’ve encountered in Seattle–which is saying a lot.

    • January 24, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Thank you for the compliment.

      Odd. We’ve been to Plaka multiple times and only had great service. The variable of service is why we always put more emphasis on the food and drink when we did these reviews.

  7. Silver
    January 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Do coffee shops next! 😉

    – Silver

    p.s. – I want to go out to eat with you sometime!

  8. Andy Pritchard
    January 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Have not yet been to Plaka, but you are spot on with #2 and #3 – two of my favorite places in Ballard, hands down. Also, thanks for the tip re: Thai Thani – Thaiku was our go to Thai place, have to try this asap.

  9. Kate
    January 24, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    There are several places on the list that i haven’t tried and now I’m motivated. We did try Ocho and loved the food and everything BUT (old person alert) it was so loud we couldn’t hear each other across the tiny table. That’s a deal killer for me.

    +1 for Volterra and Golden Beetle

  10. medreigns
    January 26, 2012 at 11:27 am

    how many times have you eaten at the sexton…? they did JUST open right? is that fair? good list though.

    • January 26, 2012 at 11:51 am

      It was just that once but they gave us one of the best and most memorable meals we had last year. We’ve heard from other people who went and agreed with us. We can’t wait to go back.

    • Silver
      January 31, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      I had a great time there, too!

  1. January 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm
  2. February 26, 2012 at 10:05 am

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