Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Brunch’

The Gerald – 4/13/12

Website

Location: 5210 Ballard Ave

Hours:

Tues-Sat: 4pm-Close

Sunday: 10am – 2pm

Happy Hour:

4:30-6pm

10:30-Close

The Gerald, located on Ballard Ave across the street from The Tractor, is Ballard’s newest bar/restaurant. It’s a chic place with a 60’s style in keeping with the 50th anniversary of the 1962 World’s Fair. Dark, wood paneling. Funky, geometric wallpaper. Nubby upholstery on the cushions of the booths. An European style that is somehow comfortable rather than overblown. Having seen photos of The Gerald on various Seattle restaurant news websites, I thought it would have that overly hipster vibe of some Capitol Hill bars. Instead The Gerald had a comfortable, friendly Ballard feel to it.

They have a great list of classic cocktails with quirky twists. The menu is full of comfort food favorites done through a foodie filter. Veggies chips. Duck deviled eggs. Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Swedish meatball sliders, as a nod to Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage. On Sundays they offer an eclectic brunch menu.

The Service:

Our server was friendly and chatty and interested in how our food and drinks were since she had not yet tried everything on the menu. On top of the friendly service, the manager/head bartender noticed from across the room that the color of J’s drink was wrong, meaning it was missing a key ingredient. So she came over to our table to fix the drink and make sure it tasted better.

The Drinks:

I ordered The Aviation, house infused kaffir lime gin, lemon, luxardo, and maraschino liqueur. I’m not usually a gin fan but his cocktail was quite refreshing with a sharp, almost spicy undertone.

J had a Moscow Mule, ginger and spice infused Fris vodka, lime, and house-made ginger soda. At first J found his cocktail good but a little too gingery and sweet. When the bartender added the missing ingredient, bitters, the cocktail became far more complex and balanced.

The Food:

We started with a couple of appetizers. First, the Deviled Duckies, 4 deviled duck eggs spiked with horseradish. The hard boiled duck eggs were firmer and chewier in texture than regular deviled chicken eggs. The filling had a subtle spiciness that tickled the back of the throat rather than making you sweat. The horseradish complimented rather than overwhelmed the egginess. These deviled eggs were so rich that two each was just enough.

Our other appetizer was the Devils on Horseback, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with asiago cheese. The asiago cheese, instead of the more common blue cheese stuffing, was a nice substitution. Its salty sharpness complimented the sweet, caramelized flavor of the date. The bacon wrapping, which can sometimes be over or under cooked, was broiled to a perfect state between crispy and chewy. We both liked the presentation of the dates on a bed of arugula. While most would ignore the arugula, we found it a perfect palette cleanser.

I ordered the Gourmet BLT, applewood-smoked bacon, arugula, and tomato with Tillamook cheddar, red onions, mayo, and avocado served with veggie chips. I was surprised when the sandwich arrived untoasted. I don’t think I’ve ever had a BLT from a restaurant without the bread being toasted. It was an oddly brilliant idea, the soft bread insuring that the interior ingredients wouldn’t slip out. The bacon was perfectly cooked. The grated Tillamook cheese only slightly melted onto the bacon allowing its sharp flavor to come through clearly. I really liked their use of spicy arugula instead of lettuce which gave what could have been a boring BLT a complexity. All in all a very good BLT.

The side of veggie chips was quite good as well. Especially the salty, fried greens which weren’t greasy or under cooked. Next time we may order a whole bowl of veggie chips for an appetizer.

For his entrée, J chose the Sweet Chorizo Grilled Cheese, smoked gouda with house-made chorizo and sliced tart apples with apple slaw. J described his sandwich as “a deconstructed cheese burger”. They used grated gouda which melted better over the spicy chorizo. Very different than any grilled cheese he’d ever had. Not as greasy or heavy. No big glop of cheese. No ingredient overpowered any other making for a surprisingly balanced sandwich. The apple slaw was hard to figure out since it was so unique. It tasted like slaw but with tart, Granny Smith apples and a hint of Chinese five-spice powder.

The Price:

The Aviation: 10.00

Moscow Mule: 10.00

Deviled Duckies: 6.00

Devils on Horseback: 7.00

Gourmet BLT: 10.00

Sweet Chorizo Grilled Cheese: 10.00

The Verdict:

The Gerald is a welcome addition to Ballard Avenue. Outstanding cocktails. Great service. Good food with a homey menu with a twist. There are definitely a number of other things on the menu that we would like to try. The Swedish meatballs and the chicken and waffles are at the top of the list along with trying out their Sunday brunch. We’ll be back.

Volterra – 12/31/11

Website

Location: 5411 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Bar:

Mon-Thurs: 4:30pm-12am

Fri: 4:30pm-1am

Saturday: 9am-11pm

Sunday: 9am-9pm

Brunch:

Sat-Sun: 9am-2pm

Dinner:

Mon-Thurs: 5pm-10pm

Fri-Sat: 5pm-11pm

Sunday: 5pm-9pm

From the inception of this project, partaking of New Year’s Eve dinner at Volterra was planned. It seemed like a fitting end to dine at one of Ballard’s more famous fine dining establishments.

Volterra is a smallish place with a bar, a square dining room, a patio of outdoor dining in nice weather, and a separate drawing room for special, private parties. SIFF often uses Volterra for Dinner and a Movie nights and, just last month, they had a special dinner with Gary Oldman there.

Volterra’s specialty is Tuscan-inspired cuisine made with local ingredients. Their menu leans heavily toward pasta and hearty Italian fare made with a variety of meats and seafood. Veal. Wild boar. Duck. Dungeness crab. With their highly praised wine list, it’s the type of place you save for a special occasion … unless you know about their weekend brunch. J and I have had dinner at Volterra once before but go for their surprisingly affordable brunch at least once every couple of months.

The Service:

Our server was personable and quite helpful when asked for wine pairings. The restaurant also comped our wine selections and gave us two jars of their fennel salt so they get extra points for that.

The Drinks:

Before our meal began, we each ordered a specialty cocktail. I had the Tuscan Limoncello Rosemary Drop, housemade limoncello, vodka, rosemary, and lemon sour in a rosemary sugar rimmed glass. A very lemony, summery drink with a nice contrast between sweet and herbaceous.

J ordered the Pomegranate Sidecar, brandy, pomegranate, and lemon juice. A sweet, girly cocktail that had no liquor taste at all.

With my meal, I chose a Supertuscan red wine that our server suggested would pair well with my entrée. A delicious, bold red.

J had a glass of Altesino Alte D’ Altesi Toscana, another Supertuscan. His wine was slightly lighter than mine but so flavorful that he plans on seeking out Supertuscans from now on.

The Food:

For New Year’s Eve, Volterra offered a five course, prix fixe menu.

Dinner began with an Antipasti Platter which included two types of salumi, unpasteurized buffalo mozzarella, sautéed portabella mushrooms, lentil salad, pickled onions, asparagus with pancetta, cannellini bean salad, and white anchovies. Almost everything was delicious. The mozzarella was divine, creamy, cheesy, and like no other mozzarella we’ve ever had. Even though I’m not usually a fan of lentils or beans, both salads were delicious. The only off note were the surprisingly nasty tasting pickled onions.

For my primi course selection, I chose the Lamb Sausage and Pepper served on a bed of carnaroli rice. The rice was creamy without being mushy and contrasted nicely with the acidic tomato and pepper sauce. Personally, I would have preferred the lamb sausage to be stronger in flavor but it was tasty none the less. On a whole, the whole dish seemed a bit heavy for a primi course. I ended up not finishing it because I didn’t want to get full when there were still three courses to go.

J ordered the Three Cheese Tortellini in Brodo, ricotta, reggiano, and pecorino filled tortellini in mushroom consume with Italian vegetables. He’s never had tortellini served like this before. He called it an Italian wonton soup. Huge tortellini in a light, flavorful broth. The cheese mixture in the tortellini was exceptionally good.

The insalata course came next. My selection was the Apple and Goat Cheese Salad, balsamic apples and cherries, mixed greens, pine nuts, and goat cheese with a fig-honey vinaigrette. A good salad but rather forgettable. The vinaigrette had very little flavor and the apples were a little overcooked. Since I really like goat cheese, I felt like there wasn’t enough even if it was very creamy. I did like the addition of the tart, dried cherries though.

J’s salad course was the Wild Mushroom Salad, foraged wild mushrooms, sautéed with balsamic vinaigrette served over arugula. Great but a bit heavy. A mushroom and arugula punch in the face, as he put it. He especially enjoyed how the mushrooms had been caramelized to the point of crispiness.

My main course was the Wild Boar Tenderloin in gorgonzola-mustard sauce with crispy Yukon Gold, rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables that turned out to be kale and parsnips. Perfectly cooked, medium rare wild boar. Melt in your mouth tender. The strong, gamey flavor stood up well to the rich, creamy mustard sauce. The sauce was so, so good, sharp and creamy. The sides were merely okay. The bland kale and parsnip side could have used a bit more seasoning. Some garlic or salt or lemon. Something. The equally bland potatoes tasted like they had been left on the stove too long. Dry. Tough. Even the amazing mustard sauce couldn’t make them palatable.

As his entrée, J chose the Beef Medallions with truffle-scented wild mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and asparagus with a fontina fonduta, scallions, and fried prosciutto sauce. He asked for the beef to be cooked medium-rare but it came out noticeably closer to medium. The truffle sauce did help to counter the overcooked beef. The asparagus was cooked perfectly. Much like my entrée, his sides felt like an afterthought. The mashed potatoes were okay but he’s had far better ones at cheaper restaurants. In all, slightly disappointing.

Our dessert was a Chocolate Sour Cream Cake, covered in chocolate ganache with a dollop of chocolate mousse, a chocolate wafer, espresso crème fraiche, and chocolate covered espresso beans. Very chocolaty yet rather dry. The ganache was rich and delicious and the chocolate wafer was amazing but J and I both felt like something was missing. The cake needed something tart, like a raspberry sauce, to counteract the overwhelming flavor of chocolate.

The Price:

Limoncello Rosemary Lemon Drop: 8.00

Pomegrante Sidecar: 9.00

Prix Fixe New Year’s Eve Dinner: 2 @ 75.00

The Verdict:

We did feel like we got our money’s worth at Volterra. Many elements were quite good. J’s tortellini. My wild boar. The wines and cocktails. But it wasn’t entirely the outstanding meal we were looking forward to. Maybe it was the prix fixe nature of the meal. Rather than fixing items for each patron, it may have been more like an assembly line. Considering some not so good aspects to our meal, it seems like more care could have been taken with parts of dinner.

Perhaps it didn’t help that on Christmas day, J and I had a prix fixe dinner that was outstanding. At the Heathman Hotel in Portland, there were far more people seated yet every single aspect of that meal was amazing and memorable. For instance, I am not a fan of Brussel sprouts, yet I had a side dish of them with my entrée at the Heathman that made me rethink my dislike. Volterra’s dinner paled in comparison.

Will we go back to Volterra? Sure. We’ve had very good meals there, especially their weekend brunch. And they did give us a memorable meal, even if some aspects weren’t the type of “memorable” they would have preferred. I guess it’s just that Volterra turned out to be a rather anti-climatic end to the project.

Next week we’ll compile our best and worst of Ballard lists along with the best of various types of food … like best burger or best Long Island Iced Tea. And I’ll let you all know where we go from here now that the official project is finished. Thank you for reading.

Kelly O’Briens – 9/18/11 – Closed

Website

Location: 5410 17th Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Fri: 4pm-2am

Sat-Sun: 12pm-2am

Tucked in a tiny space in the shadow of the Leva condos, Kelly O’Briens is one of the few bars located at the east end of Market street. It’s an Irish bar complete with Irish football jerseys, flags, and posters on the walls and a menu that includes shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. Along one wall is a huge, wood bar and on the other is high benches giving the place a cozy, pub feel.

The Service:

The bartender/server/owner? gets brownie points for commenting on J’s D&D t-shirt, having played Vampire: The Masquerade and reading fantasy authors like George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. Service was friendly and quick.

The Drinks:

I ordered a cider, which turned out to be a Magner’s Irish Cider. Not one of my favorites since I prefer a dry cider to a sweet one.

J, as usual, chose a Long Island Iced Tea. After a sip, he said it was more like a Long Island Lemonade. J liked the lemonade quality but it just wasn’t a true Long Island.

The Food:

I had the Shepherd’s Pie, ground lamb, peas, onion, and carrots topped with mashers. The tidy bowl of shepherd’s pie came out piping hot and remained so throughout our meal. The mashed potatoes were a bit dry and not nearly buttery enough for my taste. The stew part, though, was pretty good, with lots of lamb. The rich gravy needed a little salt due to the sweetness of the lamb and nowhere near as greasy as other shepherd’s pie I’ve tried … The Old Pequliar, I’m looking at you.

J ordered the Fish and Chips, Guinness battered cod with batter tossed French fries. The cod was merely okay in both flavor and portion size. The fries, on the other hand, were great. Hand-cut potatoes tossed in a little batter to give them extra crispness. Crunchy on the outside and creamy inside.

The Price:

Magner’s Irish Cider: 4.00

Long Island Iced Tea: 8.50

Shepherd’s Pie: 8.00

Fish and Chips: 8.00

The Verdict:

We really liked the neighborhood bar feel to Kelly O’Briens even though the food was just typical pub fare. We’ve had better and worse in Ballard. They could definitely improve on some of the food … J likes the fish at Market Arms better … But the French fries were great.

Considering that Kelly O’Briens is nearer to our apartment than most of Ballard’s bars, we’ll go back at some point. J and I are curious about the happy hour menu which includes a few items, like mini corn dogs, curry fries, and lamb sliders, not found elsewhere in Ballard. And the bartender is a fantasy, gamer dude, which automatically gives the place extra points in our book.

Golden Beetle – 9/16/11

Website

Location: 1744 NW Market St

Hours:

Sun-Thurs: 5pm-11pm (Kitchen closes at 10)

Fri-Sat: 5pm-12am (Kitchen closes at 10:30)

Brunch:

Sat-Sun: 10am-2pm

Happy Hour:

5-6

For our monthly “nice” dinner, J decided we should try Golden Beetle, one of the newest high end restaurants in Ballard. Located in a space that has been home to at least 2 or 3 restaurants before being vacant for a couple of years, Golden Beetle is the second restaurant of local chef, Maria Hines. Her first restaurant, Wallingford’s Tilth, has earned national acclaim for its organic and locally sourced menu. Hines has garnered a James Beard award and is one of the few challengers to have won on “Iron Chef America”.

Golden Beetle reflects Hines’ interest in the cuisine of the Mid-East and Mediterranean. Ingredients and spices like goat, lamb, sumac, harissa, and preserved lemon are cooked using indigenous methods. The full bar uses house made infused alcohol and bitters. They also offer a weekend brunch with some interesting options you don’t see everyday.

A word to the wise, Golden Beetle is, as J puts it, “the new hotness” in Ballard so getting a table without a reservation may take some patience. J and I waited 15 minutes before we were seated in the bar section. We were told that on busy nights, such as the Friday we visited, only a few tables in the bar area are saved for walk-ins. It’s a relatively small space with a subdued Mediterranean themed décor and packed with tables.

The Service:

As I said, we had to wait to be seated, which was to be expected on a Friday evening. J eventually had to ask someone how long the wait would be since he hadn’t been told when he gave the hostess his name. Once we were seated, our server was friendly if a little distracted. Considering how packed the place was, our food came out rather quickly.

The Drink:

Golden Beetle offers an interesting array of specialty cocktails so J and I ordered from the cocktail menu rather than having wine.

I chose the Kirsch Sour, Bulliet bourbon, kirschwasser and cherry. A perfectly mixed cocktail, in which I could taste each ingredient. The sweetness of the bourbon complimented the tart cherry. I’m contemplating making my own version at home since it was so good.

J ordered the Swashbuckling Sangree, Flor de Cana aged rum, simple syrup, lemon, Golden Beetle spiced bitters, and port. He declared it “the best cocktail I’ve had during the project so far”. All the flavors melded perfectly so it tasted like true sangria.

The Food:

We chose three appetizers to get a sense of Golden Beetle’s small bites.

First, the Muhammara Dip, walnut, pomegranate molasses, and extra virgin olive oil. An interesting mélange of flavors. It was almost like a walnut butter with a strong punch of pomegranate and just a hint of spiciness. Interesting but, as is usually the case, they didn’t offer enough pita for dipping.

I chose the next appetizer, the Grilled Halloumi Cheese, halloumi cheese, padron peppers, sea salt and peppermint. I liked this better than J, who was put off by the squeaky texture of the cheese. Even though the grilled halloumi was a bit over-burnt in places, I still liked the salty flavor and the hint of peppermint. The bland padron peppers were  improved when dipped in a little sea salt.

The final appetizer was the best. Kibbeh, ground lamb, date sauce, and eggplant relish. Awesome. We easily could’ve have eaten a full plate of these and gone home happy. These lamb stuffed falafels were delicious. Moist lamb. Crunchy exterior without being tough. The date sauce added a perfect note of sweetness. I’m not usually a fan of eggplant but the relish went really well with the meatballs.

For an entrée I ordered the Chicken Bisteeya, braised chicken, carrots, and potatoes in phyllo, topped with mushrooms. The chicken in the phyllo was quite good on its own. Flakey phyllo. Moist chicken with just a hint of Mid-eastern spice. The cinnamon sprinkled around the edge of the plate mixed with the chicken quite nicely. However, the mushrooms threw the entire dish off with their overwhelming vinegar flavor. I ended up pushing them to the side, uneaten. I would have loved this dish if not for the mushrooms.

J had the Goat Tagine, a goat stew with apricot, couscous, and walnut. Although he felt the portion was rather small, he really liked this dish. Except for one large piece, the goat was cooked perfectly. Moist. Rich. All the component parts harmonized when eaten together. The sweetness of the apricot worked well with the onion and the slightly gamey goat. He commented, while eating, that he could easily imagine having a similar dish at someone’s home in the mid-east.

The Price:

Kirsch Sour: 10.00

Swashbuckling Sangree: 10.00

Muhammara Dip: 3.00

Grilled Halloumi: 8.00

Lamb Meatballs/Kibbeh: 11.00

Chicken Bisteeya: 20.00

Goat Tagine: 24.00

The Verdict:

Golden Beetle was good but should have been better for the price. The drinks, kibbeh, and J’s entrée were great but J felt the portion sizes left something to be desired. We’ve been to a good number of high-end restaurants in Seattle and elsewhere in the US and, for the same price, have had better and larger meals.

I felt the quality was uneven. A few good items, a couple so-so ones, and my disappointing entrée. I would expect the quality to be more consistent now that they’ve been open for over six months … especially for the price.

Having said that, J and I will most likely return to Golden Beetle for happy hour or brunch. The cocktails were outstanding. I’d like to try some of the other small bites and the weekend brunch menu includes some intriguing items … especially the spiced donuts.

Bastille Café & Bar – 7/14/11

Website

Location: 5307 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Sunday Brunch: 10-3

Dinner: Sun-Thurs: 5:30-10

Fri-Sat: 5:30-11

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sun: 4:30-6

Sun-Thurs: 10pm-2am

Bar Hours:

Sun-Thurs: 4:30-12

Fri-Sat: 4:30-2

I remember when the building Bastille inhabits was a wood and metal workshop where there was a glowing eyeball on top of a giant metal spider in the window. Part of me wishes they had kept the spider for Bastille. Perhaps guarding the rooftop garden.

Bastille is the loveliest restaurant in Ballard. The main dining room, decorated in white tile and black iron work, feels like a French bistro. Large windows light the huge dining area where a bar and circular fire pit sit on one side and traditional booths on the other. French films play on the TV above the bar. Through glass French doors on the left is additional seating in a conservatory patio area. Add to this an intimate back bar and a beer garden on nice days and Bastille is hands down the largest restaurant in Ballard.

Frankly, from the beginning of this project, I had it in my head to visit Bastille for our first wedding anniversary. How could we resist going to a restaurant called Bastille on Bastille Day? Since I knew we would not be the only ones with this idea, I made dinner reservations two weeks in advance.

The Service:

Bastille was packed when arrived a little after 7pm. Even though our reservations were for 7:15, we were seated immediately at a booth. One of the few drawbacks of Bastille is the acoustics. The huge, open space can get very noisy when full.

Our server was great. Friendly. Helpful. She gets major points for bringing us complimentary champagne after J mentioned it was our first anniversary. Even though there were people waiting to be seated the entire time we were there, we never felt rushed. Our server’s attentiveness was one of the things that made our evening delightful.

The Drinks:

The Champagne was great. Crisp and cold.

We also ordered from their specialty cocktail menu. I chose the French 75 (gin, champagne, lemon and sugar) to keep with the champagne theme. It was quite refreshing. Like lemonade with just a touch of sharpness.

J ordered the Monk’s Habit, calvados, aquavit, Benedictine and antica formula. He thought it was very interesting and really good.

The Food:

We started our meal with half a dozen Penn Cove Oysters. These large, meaty oysters had an amazing, salty ocean flavor. The mignonette that accompanied it was tart but mild enough that it never overwhelmed the oyster’s distinct sea taste.

Next came a lovely, crunchy Baguette with sea salt butter. At each table is a small bottle of Dijon mustard so I added that to my slice of baguette to give it an extra sharpness.

Along with the baguette came three slices of Tete de Cochon, a terrine of pig’s head with semi-hard boiled eggs and mustard greens. The eggs were less cooked than I’m used to but delicious none the less. The mustard greens had a saltyness that complemented the creamy, fattiness of the Tete de Cochon. The chunks in the terrine gave an intense, smoky ham flavor. J was a bit wary of something made of pig’s head but found it as delicious as I did.

For a main course, I ordered the traditional Steak Frites, a grilled flat iron steak in red wine sauce and mushroom confit with French fries and garlic aioli. My stead was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. Juicy and tender with a peppery coating. The red wine sauce had a slightly bitter aftertaste and was just a bit too salty though. The mushroom confit was nicely cooked without being mushy.

The frites came in a paper cone and were twice cooked to perfection. Crunchy on the outside, creamy inside and lightly salted. The garlic aioli was good but a bit too mild for my taste.

J chose the Confit de Canard, crispy duck leg with sweet corn, mustard greens and smoked oyster mushroom jus. J declared it the best duck leg he’d ever had. The skin was really crispy. It was very tender and not at all greasy like previous duck he’s ordered elsewhere. The duck flavor nicely merged with all the other components of the dish. The only issue was that he felt the dish was a little too salty.

As a shared side, I ordered the Tomates a La Provencale, baked tomatoes, herbed bread crumbs and goat cheese. The main reason I ordered this dish was because I have a recipe for tomates a la Provencale and wanted to see what it tasted like. The best part of this side was the tomatoes. They must either grown their own tomatoes in a hothouse on the rooftop or buy them from a grower. These were the freshest, best tasting tomatoes I’ve had for a long time. An intense tomato flavor. While I would have preferred the goat cheese to be a bit stronger, this dish was delicious.

Since neither of us could resist, we ordered the Butterscotch Crème Brulee with black cardamom shortbread for dessert. Hands down the best crème brulee in Ballard. The serving is more than big enough for two to share. The sugar crust was perfectly torched to a crispy, glass-like texture. The savory, spiciness of the cardamom shortbread complimented the rich, butterscotch custard.

The Price:

French 75: 9.00

Monk’s Habit: 10.00

Oysters: 15.00

Baguette: 3.00

Tete du Cochon: 12.00

Steak Frites: 24.00

Confit du Canard: 24.00

Butterscotch Crème Brulee: 8.00

The Verdict:

We had an awesome meal. The drinks. The food. The service, especially, made our first wedding anniversary a night to cherish. Bastille is a great place to celebrate a special occasion. Sure the main courses are a bit pricey and ours were a little over salted but the great experience we had more than made up for those minor issues. Barring being elsewhere during our future anniversaries, I could picture making this a yearly thing.

So, yes we will go back to Bastille. In fact, I’d like to go back before the project ends. They offer a weekend brunch I’d like to try as well as, during the summer, a tour of their rooftop garden. And their happy hour menu looks delicious and much cheaper than their regular fare.

Lockspot Cafe – 6/2/11

No Website

Location: 3005 NW 54th St

Hours:

Mon-Fri: 11am-2am

Sat-Sun: 8am-2am

Happy Hour:

4-7 Daily

You know, the more restaurants we visit in Ballard, the more I realize that Old Ballard is still alive and kicking. This time around we chose another bastion of old school, maritime Ballard, the Lockspot Café.

The Lockspot sits at the far west end of Market street right next to the Ballard Locks. There’s a goofy looking neon sign in front with a fish in a top hat and a colorful mural on the one end. The interior reminded J of old bars he’d gone into in Pennsylvania. Dark wood paneling. Vinyl benches. Lighting so dim that it’s like walking into a cave. A seaside cave, since the décor leans heavily toward sea shanty chic. At the moment their claim to fame is that supposedly the guys from “Deadliest Catch” have been known to hang out there. The clientele usually runs toward the sailors and workers from the docks and tourists visiting the locks.

The Service:

Considering the place wasn’t all that crowded, it took longer than usual for someone to take our order. However, once our order was placed our food arrived surprisingly quick.

The Drinks:

I had a pint of Odin’s Gold, a golden beer with a wheaty aftertaste. Quite good.

J ordered a rum and coke. He made a face when he tasted it, claiming that they used Malibu rum as their well rum. Not exactly the type of rum he would have used since it has a coconut aftertaste.

The Food:

Unbeknownst to me, J considers himself a connoisseur of fried mushrooms, so we ordered the Lockspot’s Beer Battered Mushrooms with spicy ranch dip. Not a fine example at all. The beer batter covering was tough, tasteless and way too thick. Inside the batter were mushy, almost liquid, mushrooms swimming in molten fry grease.

On the other hand the spicy ranch dip was delicious. Peppery and creamy with a sharp, horseradish tang. We didn’t finish the mushrooms but continued to use the dip with our French fries.

For an entrée I chose the Bacon and Cheddar Burger with seasoned waffle fries. Turned out to be a pretty generic burger. Fairly high quality, store bought patty on a soft hamburger bun. The star of the burger was the thick cut, pepper bacon fried to crispy. I’m half tempted to try their weekend brunch just to get a full order of the bacon. The seasoned waffle fries stood out as a salty, crispy companion to the previously mentioned spicy ranch dip.

J tried the Lockspot’s “Famous” Fish and Chips. One of the better fish and chips he’s had lately. They certainly beat out the ones at Ballard Brother’s. He found them to be surprisingly light, especially after the mushrooms, and the cod more flavorful than many he’s tried. He had regular fries, which he declared “good” as well.

The Price:

Rum & Coke: 4.25

Odin’s Gold: 4.50

Beer Battered Mushrooms: 6.75

Bacon and Cheddar Burger with seasoned waffle fries: 9.75

Fish & Chips: 9.95

The Verdict:

The Lockspot wasn’t bad. Just your typical Ballard seafood restaurant with average food. Yes there were a couple of things that stood out but nothing special. I wouldn’t mind trying the fish and chips but I’m not rushing to do so anytime soon.

Palermo – 3/26/2011

Website

Location: 2005 NW Market St

Hours:

Sun: 9:30am-10 pm

Mon-Thurs: 11am-10pm

Fri: 11am-11pm

Sat: 9:30am-11pm

After having seen Sucker Punch at the Cinerama, J was in the mood for Italian for some reason, so we decided to visit the cheaper of the many Italian options in Ballard. Odd that. There are as many Italian restaurants in Ballard as there are Thai.

Palermo is in a storefront right on Market Street tucked in between a dry cleaners and the now empty storefront that once housed Epilogue Books. It’s a very unassuming little place. Light. Airy. Not at all pretentious. It feels like the family run restaurant it seems to be. The menu is long ranging from calzones to pizza to hot sandwiches to pasta and all with an Italian flair with hints of Greece here and there.

The Service:

Our waitress was very friendly, pausing to describe the special in great detail. She willingly answered our questions about the content of our dishes. Once we ordered, the food, a salad course followed by pasta, came out with amazing speed. Especially the pasta course, which came out virtually the minute we had finished our salads and was piping hot.

The Drinks:

J and I decided to share a carafe of the house red wine. It wasn’t the best red wine I’ve ever had but it was fine. Obviously a red blend, the wine had a bitey grape flavor with a surprisingly smooth finish. J commented that the wine tasted like it was made in the back of the restaurant … in a good way.

The Food:

The meal came with a huge house baked roll and a dipping oil of olive oil and paprika. The roll was hot, tender and delicious. J loved the dipping oil with its spicy, almost curry tasting bite.

I ordered the Penne alla Vodka with Seafood, vodka sauce with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, octopus, garlic, basil and parmesan with a side Caesar salad. The Caesar salad was heaped high with romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese and a creamy Caesar dressing. While the dressing lacked the anchovy flavor I’m so fond of, I enjoyed its  slightly salty richness.

The seafood pasta, naturally, had a strong, almost overwhelming, fresh “seafood” taste. I could pull out the distinctive flavors of the clams, mussels and calamari with each bite. The seafood portion was quite tasty with its freshness with each creature well cooked.

My issue with the dish was that the seafood flavor almost completely masked the vodka sauce. With ach bite, I was nearly unable to taste the sauce and what of it I did manage to taste was bland. I ended up squeezing lemon juice, from the lemon wedge that came with my Caesar salad, onto the pasta just to cut the seafood taste. This did bring forth a little of the sauce giving it a brightness it lacked. I would have enjoyed the pasta dish more if the sauce had been bolder. Perhaps a stronger kick of tomato or basil.

J ordered the Baked Fettuccini with Meatballs, in a classic Alfredo sauce backed with feta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese with a side salad. He was pleasantly surprised. It reminded him of Italian restaurants in Pennsylvania, where most of them were run by Greeks. He loved this dish finding the smallish meatballs perfect, delightfully moist with a hint of sweetness. His comment was “I don’t need a meatball the size of a softball.” He felt the addition of feta to the baked cheese topping added a interesting dimension to what could’ve been a common baked pasta.

The Price:

Carafe of House Red Wine: $17.95

Penne alla Vodka with Seafood: $14.25

Baked Fettucini with Meatballs: $13.50

The Verdict:

Even though I felt there was a certain blandness to my pasta, I would be willing to give Palermo another shot. I tried a bite of J’s fettuccini, which was far more flavorful than my penne. I wouldn’t mind trying one of their baked pastas or their calzones, for that matter. The prices are good for the amount and quality of food you receive. It’s a really nice family style restaurant with homemade, inexpensive Italian-Greek food with just enough unexpected touches to make it interesting.

Once this project is done, we’ll go back to Palermo whenever we feel like a good, homey Italian meal that won’t break the bank.