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Zayda Buddy’s – 3/6/2011

Website

Location: 5405 Leary Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sat: 11am-2am

Sun: 9am-2am

After yet another failed attempt at going to King’s Hardware, we went to Ballard’s only theme restaurant, Zayda Buddy’s. Its claim to fame is their Minnesota style pizza and classic Midwest food and beer. Midwest beers. Bratwurst from Wisconsin. Tater tot hot dish. Have a Midwest experience right in the heart of Ballard.

Zayda Buddy’s is kind of small. Bar area on one side, dining on the other. High ceilings give the main room a much needed airiness. They’re open late so it’s the perfect sort of place to end a Ballard pub-crawl.

The Service:

It was pretty busy for a Sunday evening. There was a large party in the bar area and most of the tables were taken. We found a table along the wall and were served in a fairly quick manner considering there were only two servers and one was also acting as bartender. Both servers who waited on us were friendly and polite.

The Drinks:

J ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, as usual. His opinion of it was “It did its job.”

They were out of the beer I usually order, Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss so I tried one of their specialty cocktails instead. The Southern Minnesotan has Sweet Tea Vodka, mint and lemon. Basically alcoholic iced tea, that didn’t really taste like alcohol. Very cool and refreshing.

The Food:

J ordered the Minnetonka, thin sliced roast beef with white onions, green peppers, mushrooms and topped with warm Land O’ Lakes cheese sauce on a hoagie roll with a green side salad. J LOVED this. His exact words were “OMFG, awesome!”. He said it was the closest to a real Philly cheesesteak he’s had in his 16 years in Seattle. The key was the bright orange Land O’ Lakes cheese sauce. I tasted a bit and was amazed at the tender and moist roast beef. It really was good.

To get into the Midwest spirit of Zayda Buddy’s, I ordered the Tater Tot Hot Dish, or casserole for those who don’t know what a “hot dish” is. Basically it’s ground beef and tater tots mixed together, topped with cheddar cheese and a few crispy tater tots. Stick to your ribs (and arteries) food. It also came with a small garden side salad. I guess this was to make the meal feel healthier?

First the salad, which was a little odd, to be honest. On the good side, the greens were a nice mix rather than the iceberg lettuce I had halfway expected. The honey mustard dressing turned out to be quite different. I could tell they used yellow mustard rather than Dijon which gave the dressing a tangier, sharper flavor. Very interesting. The only thing I didn’t like about the salad was the beet, pickled onion, tomato, garbanzo bean and pepper topping. Must be a Midwest thing. I just don’t like beets so I scraped this stuff off.

The tater tot hot dish was good if a little under seasoned. The ground beef had a great flavor and the potatoes gave that distinct “tater tot” flavor without being heavy or greasy. The cheddar was generic, neon orange cheese. Kind of flavorless, actually. I wish they’d put the cheese sauce from the cheese steak on it instead.

While taking bites of the salad and the hot dish, I noticed the flavor of the latter was complimented quite nicely by the honey mustard dressing. The tartness of the dressing imparted an extra dimension to the beef and potatoes. Part way through I ended up dipping bits of the hot dish into a blob of Plochman’s mustard for the rest of the meal. The hot dish just needed something extra to take it up a notch. For me, the mustard did it but some jalapeños or onions would be a welcome addition as well. Of course, that would probably not make it authentically Midwestern …

The Price:

Long Island Iced Tea: $7.00

Southern Minnesotan: $9.00

Minnetonka Sandwich: $9.99

Substitute Garden Side Salad: $2.00

Tater Tot Hot Dish: $10.99

The Verdict:

J said it best when he described Zayda Buddy’s as the perfect place to end a Ballard pub-crawl. Homey. Friendly. Strong drinks. Very good comfort food. The cheese steak alone is enough to get J to go back. I’ll probably try something else next time. They do make a good hot pastrami sandwich and their fried cheese curds are the perfect bar food. We’ll definitely go back.

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