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Zesto’s Burgers – 11/26/11- Closed

Website

Location: 6416 15th Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 10am-10pm

As a teenager, I remember going to Zesto’s when we would drive out from Duvall to visit my dad’s aunt and uncle in North Ballard. If it wasn’t a holiday, my dad would usually take us to Zesto’s for lunch, more because of the classic car on the roof than for the food. Much later, when I had moved to Ballard, my dad continued to insist we take visiting relatives to Zesto’s for lunch. For the longest time, until I actually moved to here, I associated Ballard with Zesto’s.

Zesto’s has sat in its spot next to Ballard High School since the 50’s. It’s an old school burger joint in the mold of Arnold’s Diner from Happy Day’s. Red vinyl booths with Formica tables. Black and white photos from Zesto’s hey-day decorate the walls. The menu is what you would expect from a burger joint in Seattle. Burgers. Fish and chips. Milk shakes.

The Service:

The two guys behind the counter were really friendly and our food came out in a reasonable amount of time.

The Drink:

J had a Mr. Pibb Extra and I chose the Chocolate Milk Shake. The shake was passable. Not as thick as I like and a little mild on the chocolate flavor but not horrible.

The Food:

J ordered the Mushroom Burger with Swiss cheese and a side of fries. Not good at all. The patty was obviously previously frozen. The mushrooms were really greasy. He said it tasted like the crappy burgers he remembers from the high school cafeteria. The burger was better than the fries, which were barely cooked. The worst burger in Ballard.

I chose the Bacon Burger meal with fries and a milk shake. My burger had that “flame-broiled” flavor I associate with Burger King. It was a dry sesame seed bun containing a flavorless patty. The “special sauce”, which I usually hate, actually gave the burger some much needed flavor. The bacon was the best part and it was merely okay. The French fries, which were obviously frozen and from a bag, were lukewarm and forgettable.

The Price:

Mushroom Burger with fries and a drink: 8.99

Bacon Burger with fries and a milk shake: 9.99

The Verdict:

Sometimes doing these reviews is not fun. I remember when Zesto’s was better than average. The guys behind the counter were really nice and I hate to give a bad review but we have to be honest. Zesto’s is barely a step above McDonald’s and Burger King. Flavorless, frozen burger patties. Lukewarm fries. Greasy burgers and barely passable milk shakes. It’s really bad that, other than the service, the best thing we can say about Zesto’s is that neither of us got sick. Sure, if you feel nostalgic for the burger joints of your youth or are a teenager with no taste and a cast-iron stomach, I suppose Zesto’s is okay but in our opinion they have the worst burgers in Ballard.

At this point, we’ve visited all the burger joints in Ballard. Both J and I agree that the best burger is at King’s Hardware for their creative selection, flavorful beef, and .28 cent buffalo wings. The Counter and Hamburger Harry’s tie for second because I preferred the former and J, the latter. Then it depends on what you’re looking for in a burger. Scooter’s or Red Mill are good for relatively quick and cheap burgers. If you want a hipster atmosphere, Hattie’s Hat is a good bet. After that, it goes Zak’s, because their burgers were okay but not memorable and in last place is Zesto’s.

Of course, the best burger in Seattle remains Norm’s in Fremont.

Ballard Restaurant News – September

Twin brothers reopening Bad Albert’s in October.

New Vietnamese Restaurant to open on 15th.

Piada Italia/Seattle burger Company closed before we made it there. Too bad, a friend claimed the burgers were awesome.

Seattle Weekly talks Manhattans at Paratii Craft Bar.

Harlow’s Saloon closes … only to open soon as a Scottish themed bar.

Two empty storefronts in Ballard have liquor license applications in their windows:

On Leary, across the street from Sunny Teriyaki: Belle Clementine

On Ballard Ave, across the street from the Tractor Tavern: Bardot.

Thaiku – 4/28/11 – Closed

Website

Location: 5410 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Thurs: 11:30-9:30

Friday: 11:30-10:30

Saturday: 12-10:30

Sunday: 12-9:30

Fu Kun Wu Bar:

Mon-Sun: 5-12

Thaiku has been the Thai restaurant in Ballard for years. Before J and I moved to Fremont for a couple of years, we always went to Thaiku. The service was great. The food tasted fresher than your run of the mill Thai place. There is a creative selection of alcoholic beverages on the menu. Even the décor, in the large, romantically lit main room and the over the top, Thai apothecary shop back bar, Fu Kun Wu, is a higher class take on the usual Thai restaurant kitsch.

When we moved back to Ballard last year, Thaiku was one of the first restaurants we visited, expecting the usual great experience. Which we didn’t get. The service was lackadaisical at best, rude at worst. The food was greasy, bland and lukewarm almost to the point of inedibility. After having an awful time at Thaiku twice, we started driving back to Fremont whenever we got the craving for Thai food. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that we revisited Thaiku for this project.

The Service:

I’m happy to say the service this time regained its high marks. The server was friendly, quick and polite. The serving of the courses was spot on. Virtually the minute we finished with our appetizer, our entrees arrived, piping hot. Stellar service.

The Drinks:

I chose a nice, refreshing rose.

J ordered one of Thaiku’s specialty cocktail, the name of which neither of us can remember. It was served in an aperitif glass and contained brandy, if we remember correctly. He did quite enjoy it.

The Food:

For an appetizer we ordered the Giow Tawt, crab meat and cream cheese wrapped in a wonton, deep fried and served with plum sauce. One of the lighter Giow Tawt (crab Rangoon) in Seattle. Not greasy at all and perfectly complimented by the tart, almost citrus flavored plum sauce.

I chose the Chicken Pahd Kee Mao, wide rice noodles with red curry paste, green onion, baby corn, red and green peppers, cabbage, carrot and egg. Delicious. The vegetables were wok fried to a perfect al dente letting their natural flavor come through without being overwhelmed by the sauce. The sauce created a caramelized coating over the noodles and chicken which was enhanced by an ever so slight spiciness. Probably one of the best Pahd Kee Mao dishes I’ve had in Seattle. Well up to their old standards.

J ordered the Tofu Pahd See Iew, wide rice noodles with Chinese broccoli, black pepper, egg in a sweet soy sauce. He said it was really good even though it wasn’t very spicy. Everything was cooked perfectly.

The Price:

I’m having to guess at the price since Thaiku doesn’t post prices on their website.

Rose: 7.00

Mystery Cocktail: 9.00

Giow Tawt: 6.00

Pahd Kee Mao: 8.95

Pahd See Iew: 8.95

The Verdict:

Thaiku has redeemed itself. Everything about our visit hearkened back to why we loved the place. Great service and excellent food. Last year must’ve been a bad year for them or something because our meal was awesome. After reviewing three of the five Thai places in Ballard (a new one will be opening up soon), Thaiku is destined to become our choice for sit-down Thai food while the tiny Uma Thai, with its good food at cheap prices, will likely be our go-to restaurant for quick, take-out thai.

Yes, we’ll go back to Thaiku … if they keep up the good work.

5 Corner Market Bar & Kitchen – 1/7/2011- Closed

Location: 2200 NW Market Street

Website

Hours:

Brunch: 10:30-3 Sun

Lunch: 11:30-3 Mon – Sat

Dinner: 5-11 Mon-Thurs

5-12 Fri-Sat

5-10 Sun

Happy Hour:

4-6 Daily

10-Close Mon-Thurs

We decided that the first restaurant in this project would be the newest one in Ballard. The 5 Corner Market Bar & Kitchen opened recently in the space formerly taken by Lombari’s on the corner of Market and 22nd.  It’s one of those places that have “small plates” (appetizers and salads) and “plates” (entree).

Upon entering and being greeted by the staff, we were led to the second floor dining area. Very nice but not too formal. Our server was very helpful and friendly. We had a question or two about the drink and food menu and she answered as best she could and if she didn’t know the answer, she was willing to find out.

We both ordered house cocktails. Me: the Ballard Blue, which was basically a vodka martini with blue cheese stuffed olives and the husband got the 22nd Ave, a rum, lemon and ginger drink. Both were pretty good. I’ve never had vodka soaked blue cheese olives before … Tasty.

We each ordered a small plate and an entrée, along with a quarter of a baguette with butter and sea salt. Really good bread.

Small Plates:

Beef fat chips & aerated onion dip – The chips were light and crispy and the dip was surprisingly fluffy. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a bit of spice to counter-act the slightly sweet nature of the chips.

Bbq veal with roasted marrow beans – Delicious. A sophisticated take on bbq baked beans. The veal was fork tender and mighty tasty. We both agree that this was the best dish of the night.

Plates:

Me – Roasted Mad Hatcher garlic chicken, roasted potatoes, greens and vanilla bean jus – The chicken was good, done in kind of roulettes. One piece was a bit dry on the top but the chicken itself was flavorful if needing a little salt. The potatoes were delicious, not too creamy but with bits of skin, potato chunks and garlic. I’m not usually a fan of greens, they have a tendency to taste a little too bitter to me, but these were good for greens J

The Husband – Short Ribs with wide egg noodles in mushroom ragout- Husband says delicious but there could’ve been a few more short ribs. The noodles were excellent, obviously home-made, and the mushroom ragout reminded him of Swedish meatball sauce.

Price:

Drinks were $8 a piece

Small plates: between $7-9, bread was $3

Plates: Mine was $16 and the husband’s was $19.

The Verdict:

I’d have to say it was a good start to the project. The service was great, the ambience is nice and the food was pretty good overall. At some point we’re planning on returning to try out their happy hour menu (jalapeño deviled eggs) and their desserts.