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Ballard Restaurant News – Febuary (First Half)

The beginning of February has been pretty slow on the Ballard Restaurant news front. The few places that are in the works (Benito’s Chicago Eatery and Po Dogs) seem to be in some sort of limbo.

Very soon J an I will start up the real reviews once again with Bitterroot and Belle Clementine at the top of that list.

Nice article about Café Munir, Loyal Heights’ new Lebanese restaurant, in Seattle Met’s, Nosh Pit and Seattle Weekly’s Voracious blog did a review of them as well.

My Ballard has more information on The Amber Den, the wine bar to open next month on the corner of 17th and 56th.

Bastille, Golden Beetle, and Staple & Fancy are all offering special Valentine’s Day dinners. Nosh Pit gives the details.

Seattle Met’s Sauced blog has the inside scoop on Hillard’s Beer, Ballard’s newest brewery.

Eater Seattle as the information on what looks to be a new dessert place coming soon to Ballard Ave.

And that’s pretty much it for now. Good eatings to you all.

 

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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.

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 Other Coast Café – 12/4/11

Website

Location: 5315 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sat: 10:30am-7pm

Sunday: 10:30pm-6pm

Cash Only

The Other Coast Café was one of the first places to open up on the block of Ballard Ave that now includes places like Bastille, Shiku, and The Nobel Fir. It’s a hole in the wall, narrow place with a handful of tables, a long counter lining one wall, and a huge glass deli case. If there’s more than a couple of people in line, the place feels packed.

The menu of salads, sides, and hot and cold sandwiches, hangs above the small prep area. They also offer chips, canned soda, bottled juice, and a small selection of beer.

The Service:

Friendly if a bit frazzled. This was to be expected considering we chose to go on a Sunday afternoon while the Ballard Farmer’s Market was in full swing right outside the door.

The Drinks:

J was pleasantly surprised to find RC Cola in the cooler. I chose a bottle of Thomas Kemper Black Cherry soda.

The Food:

J ordered a Meatball Sub (spiced, homemade meatballs topped with marinara and provolone served in a baguette) out of nostalgia. It was a traditional meatball sub that reminded him of the ones he had as a kid back in Pennsylvania. It tasted good and was made with fresh ingredients. His only problem with it was the fact that he had to eat it with a fork. He actually wished the meatballs had been smaller so he could have picked it up to eat. A weird issue but that one problem broke the aura of nostalgia for him.

I chose the Reuben, pastrami, swiss, sauerkraut, and mustard on rye bread. The pastrami was flavorful and moist but lacked the thick black pepper crust I like. There was way too much sauerkraut on the sandwich. So much that it overwhelmed the other flavors. The rye bread was toasted a bit too long, making it dry and crumbly. Okay over allbut nothing special.

The Price:

Meatball Sub: 8.35

Reuben: 8.55

The Verdict:

The Other Coast Café had good sandwiches, made with quality, fresh ingredients but I doubt we’ll return any time soon. It just wasn’t anything special about their sandwiches. I could make a pastrami sandwich at home for less money. If we want a sandwich, we tend to go for something different and interesting, like the selection at Café Mox or The Shelter.

Smokin’ Pete’s BBQ – 12/3/11

Website

Location: 1918 NW 65th

Hours:

Tues-Sat: 11am-9pm

Sunday: 11:30am-9pm

Seattle has never been much of a BBQ town. For a long time, there have been just a handful of BBQ joints scattered all over the city. Smokin’ Pete’s, on the corner of 65th and 20th, has been the Ballard BBQ outpost for years. Housed in a bright yellow building, Smokin’ Pete’s is the place I always took my BBQ loving father. It’s a simple place with two glass deli cases flanking the cash register and a few tables. The menu, naturally, consists of BBQ meats, pork, chicken, and beef, along with sides like potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, etc. They offer canned sodas, a couple of ciders, and beer.

The Service:

The guys at the counter were friendly and our orders came out pretty quick.

The Drink:

J and I each had a can of Faygo Root Beer.

The Food:

J ordered a small plate of Singin’ Man Pork Ribs, Memphis dry rubbed pork ribs with a piece of cornbread and mac and cheese. He found the meat dry and tough enough that it needed the thin, too sweet BBQ sauce to make it palatable. The cornbread was equally dry and rather flavorless. The mac and cheese tasted like the stuff they sell in the deli at Fred Meyer. Not quality BBQ.

I chose the Working Man’s Lunch, a slow smoked beef brisket sandwich with hush puppies. The beef was moist and had good flavor but had large, gelatinous chunks of fat running through it . The sauce was too sweet for my taste. The baguette, that the brisket was served on, was oddly greasy. The whole sandwich felt kind of thrown together. The hush puppies had the consistency of a white cake and was just as bland. I expect hush puppies to have a distinct corn flavor and some heft to them. These didn’t.

The Price:

Singin’ Man Pork Ribs: 13.75

The Working Man’s Lunch: 8.00

The Verdict:

We were disappointed by Smokin’ Pete’s. The sauce was mediocre. The meat was either too dry or too fatty. The sides were so generic that they might as well have come from a grocery store. We’ve eaten at Smokin’ Pete’s before and thought it was okay. Now, not so much. It seems like they got too used to being the only BBQ game in Ballard. They haven’t had any competition for years so it’s like they slacked off on quality. Now that not one, but two BBQ places have (The Boar’s Nest) or will (Bitterroot) open in Ballard, Smokin’ Pete’s needs to step up their game because, frankly, The Boar’s Nest blew them out of the water on all fronts.

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 Boar’s Nest-10/23/11

Website

Location: 2008 NW 56th St

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 11am-9pm

Right after our terrible dinner at Golden City on Saturday night, we noticed that whatever had taken over the space next to Malena’s Tacos had opened. We investigated and discovered a BBQ joint called The Boar’s Nest. The delicious smells wafting out into the street made us decide to go back the next day to try it out.

The name, The Boar’s Nest, apparently comes from the name of Boss Hogg’s watering hole in the Dukes of Hazzard. It’s a tiny place with a distinctly southern flavor to the décor and three TVs playing sports. On one wall is a long chalkboard with the simple menu of various BBQ meats and sides and next to the order counter is a tall cooler filled with odd bottled sodas and beer. At each of the tables are five squeeze bottles of house-made, regional BBQ sauces.

The Service:

The guys at the order counter were friendly and knowledgeable about their menu and the sauces available.

The Drink:

J was pleasantly surprised to find Dad’s Root Beer in the cooler and I had a bottle of Shiner Bock, a nice, light beer.

The Food:

I chose the Smoked Beef Brisket Plate with fried pickles, baked beans, and cornbread on the side. The slabs of a little more than room temperature brisket had a pink smoke ring around the edges, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a BBQ joint in Seattle. The fork tender beef had a lovely, smoky flavor. Very good.

The Fried Pickles were really good, better than any others I’ve had in Ballard. The breading was just the right consistency, being neither too thick nor too tough. The pickles were a little limp when bit into but that was evened out by the nice, vinegar flavor that went well with the spicy aioli that accompanied them. The Baked Beans reminded me of my mother’s with a little added heat. They were good but could have been improved with a dash of BBQ sauce. The Cornbread had a nice density, holding up well when sliced in half. It came with a honey butter that contrasted well with the corn flavor.

J ordered the Half-Rack of Pork Ribs with coleslaw and fried mac and cheese. The meat on the ribs was so moist that it literally fell off the bone. J said he could have easily eaten the ribs without sauce, they were so delicious. The coleslaw looked like it was homemade with nice, big chunks of red and green cabbage. He also mentioned the fact that the fried mac and cheese was the best he’d ever had, the filling being neither dry nor soupy.

Considering the selection of sauces available, I should mention our favorites. After trying all but the mayo based Alabama sauce, we agreed that our favorites were the Kansas City, which is the most traditional of the sauces, the Kentucky Bourbon for it’s sweet, whisky flavor, and the Memphis, a spicy sauce with a cumin aftertaste.

The Price:

Dad’s Root Beer: 2.50

Shiner Bock: 4.00

Smoked Beef Brisket Plate: 12.00

Half-Slab of Pork Ribs: 15.00

The Verdict:

The Boar’s nest is a fine addition to Ballard’s growing array of BBQ Joints. Better than the Lock & Keel and The Viking. The guys running it were friendly. Its location, interesting sides, different sauces, and moist, flavorful meats will have us returning to try more. I hope this place sticks around.