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Copper Gate – 12/29/11

Website

Location: 6301 24th Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 5-12

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sun: 5-7pm

For the penultimate restaurant of this project, J and I went to Copper Gate with a couple of friends. We’d heard good things about Ballard’s only (for the moment) Scandinavian bar/restaurant and were looking forward to finally eating there.

Located on the north end of 24th, from the outside Copper Gate looks like a dive bar. A great art deco neon sign hangs over the red front door. The lighting inside and out is low, so at first we weren’t sure they were even open. The interior mixes the sparseness of Scandinavian décor with walls covered with old, pornographic art and photos. The huge Viking ship bar dominates the center of the restaurant, its dark wood contrasting with the white washed walls and furniture. Copper Gate has its own quirky style that makes it one of the neatest bars in Ballard.

Considering its long Scandinavian history, it’s surprising that Copper Gate is the only place in Ballard that serves dishes from Sweden and Norway. They offer small plates of dishes like gravlax, pickled herring, and Swedish meatballs along with a full bar with local draft beers, wine, liquor, and Aquavit.

The Service:

Our servers were friendly and unobtrusive. We ended up staying for a good, long time and they had no problem with us sticking around.

The Drinks:

Since we were there with friends for a few hours, J and I ended up having a couple of cocktails each.

For my first cocktail, I ordered the Stor Agurk, Aalborg aquavit, lemon, sugar, and cucumber. A bright, crisp drink with a flavor that reminded me of Thai food for some odd reason.

J’s first drink was the Epplecider, brandy, Gamel Dansk, curacao, and apple juice. He said it tasted like an alcoholic apple cider without the fizz. Very innovative in his opinion.

My second drink was the Kir Jaral, Heering cherry liquor and Marquis de Perlade sparkling wine. Very good. A nice cherry flavor without being overly sweet. Sparkling and crisp.

At the behest of J’s friend, T, he ordered a shot of Lysholm Linie Aquavit. He quite liked its stinging, strong alcohol taste. It was like Jaegermeister’s kinder, gentler brother.

The Food:

We started with the Pommes Frites with dill and curried ketchup. They had a nice dill flavor but were just not hot enough. We’ve noticed a trend with a few new restaurants lately of serving fries just over lukewarm. Fries should be hot, otherwise they tend to go limp quickly, like these did. The curried ketchup, on the other hand, was awesome with a strong curry flavor. The fries ended up a vehicle for the ketchup.

Our other starter was the Gravlax, cured salmon, pumpernickel, and dill mustard. J doesn’t usually like pumpernickel bread but found the combination of bread, mustard, and gravlax amazing. Every element complimented the other. The strong bread, the sharp-sweet mustard, and the smoky salmon with its hint of sweetness. The salmon was perfectly cured to a point between a soft lox and a firm smoked salmon. J said it was one of the best appetizers he’s ever had and when we go back to Copper Gate it will be ordered again.

For his small entrée, J ordered the Swedish Meatballs with celeriac-potato pure and lingonberry preserve. The combination of each component created a perfect bite. Exactly what a Swedish meatball should taste like rather than merely being an Italian meatball in Swedish style gravy. Our friend, T, says Copper Gate makes some of the best Swedish meatballs in Seattle. The celeriac-potato puree was perfectly creamy. All in all, J loved this entrée.

I chose a couple of small entrees to share with the table. First were the Fish Cakes with lemon zest, tarragon aioli, and parsley salad. Honestly, these chubby fish cakes were rather bland. The interior was the consistency of a sponge cake with a very mild fish flavor. The battered exterior wasn’t fried crispy enough to create the much-needed contrast with the spongy interior. The soft exterior and interior made the whole thing rather unappetizing. The tarragon aioli was nearly as bland and added nothing to the flavor of the fish cake.

My other entrée was the Coriander Honey Pork Skewers with apple salad. These were killer. Tender with just a hint of spice. The huge, porky skewers were seasoned so well that I savored each bite. Delicious. Another item that I will order again. The apples on the side were crisp and tart, contrasting well with the fatty, spicy pork.

Our friend, A, ordered the Mussels in Aquavit-tomato broth with bacon and let us have a bite. Amazing. The mussels were perfectly cooked. The delicious broth wasn’t too acidic and had just a hint of herbaciousness from the Aquavit. A mere taste of this dish convinced J and I to order it whenever we go back to Copper Gate.

For dessert, the four of us shared the Glogg Iskrem, Glogg poached pears and vanilla ice cream. The ice cream held up very well to the slightly warm, mulled wine sauce. The poached pears remained quite crispy in the spiced wine sauce. Very good.

The Price:

Stor Agurk: 9.00

Epplecider: 8.00

Kir Jaral: 9.00

Lysholm Linie Aquavit: 8.00

Pommes Frites: 6.00

Gravlax: 9.00

Swedish Meatballs: 9.00

Fish Cakes: 9.00

Coriander Honey Pork Skewers: 9.00

Glogg Iskrem: 6.00

The Verdict:

Copper Gate has really good food for what is essentially a bar. The atmosphere is creative and comfortable … unless you find photos and paintings of naked women offensive. The specialty cocktails are unique. The food shines with a nod to Ballard’s heritage. The gravlax, alone, is better than some entrees we’ve spent more money on. Sure the fries and fish cakes were misses but Copper Gate’s fresh take on traditional Scandinavian cuisine is well worth the trip. We will go back, no doubt about that.

The Sexton – 12/18/11

Website

Location: 5327 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Tues-Sun: 5pm-2am

Closed Monday

Happy Hour:

Tues-Sun: 5-7pm

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.

The Service:

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.

The Drinks:

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.

The Food:

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.

The Price:

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 Verdict:

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.

Mike’s Chili Parlor – 12/17/11

Website

Location: 1447 NW Ballard Way

Hours:

Mon-Thurs: 11am-11pm

Friday: 11am-12am

Saturday: 12pm-8pm

Cash Only

Mike’s Chili Parlor is a 72 year old Ballard institution. The distinctive Art Deco building has stared down modernity and continues to survive in new Ballard. A dive bar/diner that specializes in chili for decades to the point that even the Food Network has recognized their longevity in an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Mike’s is a tiny, one room bar with an old school diner counter running along one wall with a view of the huge pot of chili simmering on the stove. Along the opposite wall are booths with sagging red vinyl benches and in between are a couple of tall tables. Also crammed in to the small space is a pool table. How anyone can play pool without hitting everyone nearby, I do not know.

Their specialty is chili. Meat chili served over beans in bowls. Scooped over pasta, fries, hot dogs, and burgers. Sure you can order a plain burger or hot dog but why would you go to a place called Mike’s chili and not order chili? This is East Coast chili, with a Greek pedigree.  Not a vegetarian/vegan friendly place. They have a full bar, draft beer, and wine as well.

The Service:

Probably the fastest service we’ve had over the course of this project. We had barely sat down before the server came over to ask for our drink order. Friendly, too.

The Drinks:

I had a Manny’s Pale Ale, my default beer when there’s nothing else on draft that I’d like to try.

J ordered a Long Island Iced Tea. The quintessential, dive bar Long Island. Neither terrific nor horrible. Perfectly serviceable with just a hint of tequila.

The Food:

I chose the traditional Bowl of Chili, served over beans with cheese and onion. The first thing I noticed was how dark red it was. They must add a hefty portion of paprika to the spice blend. After a couple of bites, I found it to been very spicy, a little greasy, and way too salty. So salty, in fact, that I ended up drinking a couple of glasses of water afterwards because I was so thirsty. I did like the texture of the finely ground beef though. It made me nostalgic for taco salads. I liked the fact that they pour it over the beans so they stayed firm rather than turning to mush. I think I would have enjoyed the depth of spicy flavor of the chili more had it not been so salty.

J ordered an East Coast/Midwest favorite, Chili Pasta with cheese and onion. He loved his chili so much so that he lamented the fact that he’d ordered a small rather than a large. The pasta apparently helped cut the spiciness and saltiness of his chili because he didn’t have any complaints. He liked how finely diced the onions were so they ended up being a condiment rather than a feature of the chili. All in all, he thought it hit the spot.

The Price:

Manny’s Pale Ale: 4.25

Long Island Iced Tea: 8.00

Bowl of Chili: 5.50

Sm. Chili Pasta: 6.75

The Verdict:

J and I are kind of split on Mike’s Chili Parlor. He loved his chili pasta, partially out of nostalgia, I think. There aren’t many places in Seattle that serve chili over pasta. I thought my chili was way too salty. I would be willing to give Mike’s another chance to see if it was just a freak, salty batch of chili since I did like the texture of the meat.  Perhaps on some cold winter night, we’ll go back.

The Sloop Tavern – 10/29/11

Website

Location: 2830 NW Market St

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 11am-2am

One of the things we’ve learned over the course of this Project is that there are more pieces of Old Ballard left than you might think. Fine dining and hipster hangouts have not taken over all of Ballard. Saturday night, J and I walked the length of Ballard from our apartment on the east side of 15th to visit one such holdout.

The Sloop Tavern has been a Ballard institution for over 50 years. Located near the Ballard Locks, the seaman themed painting on the side of the unassuming cinderblock building lets you know immediately who the clientele of the Sloop is, if the name didn’t already. The interior has that interchangeable community bar look that’s the same across the country. A long bar along one wall. Numerous TVs showing two or three different sports games. Tatty Formica tables and red vinyl booths or beat up wooden chairs. There are a couple of pool tables, a pinball machine, and a few video games opposite the bar.

The menu at The Sloop matches the décor. Typical pub fare. Burgers. Sandwiches. Fried seafood. They have 9 beers and one cider on tap. Their claim to fame is the ability for customers to “Sloopersize” their draft beverages to a 33.8 oz, frosty mug that may take two hands to lift.

The Service:

It wasn’t busy at all when we went to The Sloop. Just a few people watching football or chatting. At one point, a couple dressed as Calvin and Hobbes came in, obviously for the Halloween party that was to take place later in the evening. The bartender, who also acted as waiter, was friendly and our food came out amazingly quick.

The Drinks:

J and I chose to Sloopersize our Stongbow Ciders, a nice, dry cider. The mug was so heavy that I had to use two hands to lift it. It took us so long to finish our ciders that we were able to finish and write our preliminary thoughts about our meal.

The Food:

J ordered the Fish and Chips. He said the fish was really fresh and surprisingly good considering he doesn’t usually like beer batter. Usually the batter overwhelms the flavor the fish but that wasn’t the case here. The fries were okay. He was glad he chose the seasoned fries option because otherwise they would have been rather bland.

I chose a BLT with a side of potato salad. This was BLT prime. The BLT from which all BLTs are descended. A BLT in its purest form. Lightly toasted, plain white bread. Mayonnaise. A pale tomato. The brilliant choice of shredded lettuce, thus keeping the other ingredients from sliding out from between the slices of bread. The salty bacon was fried to perfection. Crispy with just a slight chewiness. All it needed was a little yellow mustard. Was it a gourmet, fancy BLT? No, but it captured the essence of a BLT. The potato salad was a little too sweet. I think they used Miracle Whip rather than Mayonnaise. I added yellow mustard, salt, and pepper to make it more to my taste.

The Price:

Sloopersize Strongbow Cider: 2 @ 6.50

3 Piece Fish & Chips: 8.75

BLT with Potato Salad: 8.75

The Verdict:

We really liked The Sloop Tavern. It didn’t feel as insular and cliquey as the other old school Ballard bars we’ve been to over the course of this project. People were friendly. The atmosphere was comfortable. The food was better than most dive bars and a Sloopersized Strongbow Cider was awesome. We’ll definitely take the hike back.

 

The Viking Tavern – 10/8/11

Website

Location: 6404 24th Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sat: 11:30am-2am

Sunday: 11:30am-12am

On the window of The Viking Tavern, it proudly announces “Opened in 1950”. Walking through the door feels a bit like going through a time warp. Vinyl booths line one wall with a row of mirrors and black and white photos of the Viking over the years above them. The bar runs along the other side with old school, spinning bar stools under the chipped counter. The Viking is another piece of Old Ballard that has managed to survive. On one wall near the entry is one thing I, as a former library worker, can appreciate, a shelf of spy, detective, and romance novels.

The Viking Tavern is a bar with food rather than a restaurant that serves booze. While their specialty is house-smoked meats, preparation isn’t of primary import since the food is warmed up in a microwave.

The Service:

When we came in, the bartender was acting as server as well. He was friendly and bus but the food came out fairly quick.

The Drinks:

I ordered the Silver City Hefeweizen, which was pretty good even though it had a slight, musty flavor that I’ve noticed in a few other Hefeweizens.

J had a Long Island Iced Tea that he could smell before even lifting it to his lips. It was so well mixed that he dubbed it the third best Long Island in Ballard.

The Food:

I chose The Number One, hickory smoked, thinly sliced beef brisket, with house sauce and served with Tim’s Cascade chips and a pickle. The brisket was fairly tender and nicely flavored, even if it was warmed up in the microwave. It was okay but I like my brisket a bit moister and in thicker slices. I liked the onion roll on which it was served. The sauce was just the right consistency, with a nice, delayed spicy kick. A good barbeque sandwich for the price.

J had The Number Two, slow-smoked, shredded pork butt with house pork sauce on an onion roll. He thought it was really good barbeque. The pork was less shredded and more like moist, flavorful chunks of meat. He was kind of surprised how good it was.

The Price:

Silver City Hefeweizen: 4.75

Long Island Iced Tea: 7.00

The Number One: 8.75

The Number Two: 8.75

The Verdict:

The Viking Tavern provides good barbeque and drinks at a very reasonable price in a neat piece of Old Ballard. We liked the barbeque better than what’s sold at the Lock & Keel, the only other barbeque we’ve had thus far in this project. The meat was smoky, fairly moist, and flavorful. The sauce was really good. Their Long Island Iced Tea, surprisingly, comes in at third best in Ballard.

Our opinions of the remaining Ballard barbeque joints (Smokin’ Petes and the maybe opening before the end of the year, Bitterroot) will determine whether we return to The Viking. It is a bit out of the way from where we live in Ballard but if it’s the best, we’ll be back.

Paratii Craft Bar – 10/1/11 – Closed

Website

Location: 5463 Leary Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sat: 5pm-2am

Sunday: 5pm-10pm

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sat: 5pm-7pm

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.

The Service:

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.

The Drinks:

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.

The Food:

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.

The Price:

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

The Verdict:

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.

Shelter Lounge – 9/30/11

Website

Location: 4910 Leary Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Fri: 4pm-2am

Sat-Sun: 11am-2am

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sat: 4pm-6pm

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.

The Service:

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.

The Drinks:

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.

The Food:

Appetizers:

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.

The Price:

Friday:

Long Island Iced Tea: 8.00

Ballard 75: 8.00

Avocado Fries: 6.00

Carne Asada: 15.00

Rum Marinated Chicken: 14.00

Sunday:

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)

The Verdict:

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.