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Posts Tagged ‘Dinner’

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.

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.

Ravioli Station – 12/27/11 – Closed

No Website

Location: 4620 Leary Way NW

Hours:

Lunch:

Tues-Fri: 11:30am-2pm

Dinner:

Tues-Fri: 5pm-9:30pm

Sat: 5pm-10pm

Sunday: 5pm-9pm

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sat: 5-7pm

Sunday: All Day

Ever since moving back to Ballard, we’ve been curious about the Ravioli Station. Housed in a wedge shaped building that looks like an auto shop, it’s located in the industrial no-man’s land between Ballard and Fremont. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone by the Ravioli Station in the evening, looking in at an interior empty except for a couple of people sitting at the bar.

The night we went, the Ravioli Station was exactly that, empty but for one guy at the bar. It’s a small place, cheerfully painted and homey. J liked their choice of punk music immediately, spending most of our time there singing along. There are about a dozen tables and a bar with cool bar stools made from large pistons.

Their menu consists of salads, appetizers, and various pasta dishes. The specialty is ravioli, naturally, which comes in various flavors with four choices of sauces. There’s a full bar with draft beer and wine as well.

The Service:

Other than the guy at the bar, we were the only patrons. Our perky, friendly server readily answered any questions we had.

The Drinks:

I had the House Red wine, a generic, nameless peppery wine that was actually quite good.

J ordered a Rum and Coke, which was happily strong on the rum side.

The Food:

As a starter, the server brought a plate of lightly toasted foccacia bread and bowl of herbed oil. The foccacia bread was fine but the oil was delicious. Herby. Oily. So salty. I wish I could’ve taken a jar of it home with me.

I ordered a side sized Medin’s Mixed Green salad, carrots, cabbage, gorgonzola, toasted pecans, tomatoes, and olives tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. A large portion with an interesting combination of flavors. Fresh, crisp vegetables mixed with the spicy, roasted pecans and the strong gorgonzola cheese. The balsamic vinaigrette was just a bit too sweet but otherwise, on the whole,  it was quite good.

My entrée was Medin’s Pasta, spaghetti, prawns, olives, scallions, anchovies, and garlic with marinara sauce. A huge bowl of pasta with a pile of shredded parmesan on top. The spaghetti was a little past al dente. The marinara sauce tasted of sweet, caramelized tomatoes and salty anchovies. A very fishy sauce. The prawns were rather small but numerous. Each entrée came with a large, fried, cheese ravioli which was a little greasy, to be honest. All in all a pretty good dish.

J chose the Ravioli Sampler, one each of their raviolis (cheese, spinach, grilled sirloin, butternut squash, and chicken) with a sample of their four sauces (marinara, alfredo, tomato cream, and roasted red pepper). He thought it was neat that he didn’t have to choose just one ravioli and sauce to try. The beef was shredded rather than ground. The chicken had an interesting flavor that we couldn’t put out finger on. Some of the sauces were tasty but a little too rich. He liked the fried ravioli more than I did.

The Price:

House Wine: 8.00

Rum & Coke: 3.00

Side Medin’s Mixed Greens: 3.50

Medin’s Pasta: 14.95

Ravioli Sampler: 14.95

The Verdict:

The Ravioli Station was a nice, little place with a good atmosphere and friendly service. It felt like a bar trying to be a restaurant. The herbed oil and salad were delicious and the rest of the meal was good. The only issue we had was with the price. It seemed a bit pricey for food that was merely good rather than outstanding. We’ve had far better meals during the course of this project for equal if not less money. For instance, the amazing gnocchi J had at Pasta Bella was less expensive.

Since the Ravioli Station is a bit out of the way, we probably won’t go back any time soon. In some ways we hate to give this place a nominally “meh” review. The service was friendly and the atmosphere was great. If the price went down by just a bit, it might be worth the trip but as it is, we would rather go back to Pasta Bella when we’re in the mood for Italian food.

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.

Ristorante Picolinos – 12/14/11

Website

Location: 6415 32nd Ave NW

Hours:

Deli:

Mon-Sun: 10am-7pm

Café:

Mon-Sun: 6:30am-8pm

Restaurant:

Tues-Sat: 4:30pm-10pm

Sun-Mon: 4:30pm-9pm

Happy Hour:

Sun-Thurs: 4:30pm-6:30pm

For our last 14th dinner of this year, we chose Ristorante Picolinos, an Italian restaurant located on the corner of 32nd and 65th. It’s a sprawling complex that includes a deli, a café, a bakery, a bar, and the large main restaurant which includes a large outdoor patio. They offer everything from an early morning espresso to Panini to pizza to traditional Italian cuisine.

Picolinos is a higher end Italian restaurant of the sort that is appropriate for various special occasions. It’s the sort of place you take visiting relatives for a nice meal or where you go to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, or birthdays. They can readily accommodate large groups in the three large dining areas. In fact, the night we went, there were at least four such groups arriving.

Their menu tends toward traditional Italian pasta dishes with a modern twist. Pastas like linguine, gnocchi, and rigatoni are paired with salmon, clams, and wild boar. They also offer pizza both traditional Italian style and a small menu with gourmet ingredients. Picolinos includes a full bar, beer, and a small, but well thought out wine list.

The Service:

Our server was friendly, helpful, and very Italian. The service was exceptional.

The Drink:

J ordered a glass of Nebbiolo, a lighter red wine. He really liked how it went well with everything he ordered. It was the type of mild wine he would suggest to someone who does not normally like red wine.

I chose a glass of Super Tuscan, a rich red wine blend that was great on a winter day. For a weighty wine, it was surprisingly tangy and not at all bitter. Just a lovely wine with cheery notes.

The Food:

Our meal started with a basket of bread and a small bowl of pesto. The pest was bright and fresh, tasting strongly of garlic and Italian parsley. The bread was a little weird though. Instead of a baguette or slices of rustic Italian bread, it was a wheat bread that didn’t really pair with the pesto all that well.

For the appetizer/insalata course, J chose the Bresaola Limone e Capperi, thinly sliced, dry aged filet mignon, arugula, shaved Parmesan, and olive oil. The best meat salad he’s every had. The salty, rich filet mignon was meltingly tender. The peppery arugula complimented the meat and Parmesan. A bite comprised of each component tasted amazing and it was surprisingly light for a meat based salad.

I ordered the Insalata di Arugula, fresh arugula, pears, roasted hazelnuts, and gorgonzola with a balsamic vinaigrette. A huge heap of arugula accented with perfectly ripe pear slices. The gorgonzola was crumbled into small pieces so the ripe, salty flavor didn’t overwhelm. Everything was set off well by the light vinaigrette.

For his entrée, J had the Pasta del Giorno, gnocchi with braised short ribs in a tomato sauce. The short ribs were delicious, tender, and flavorful. J loves gnocchi so he was a little disappointed to find these were a bit overcooked and gummy, although he did like their sweet potato flavor. He also thought the tomato sauce was a little too sweet. It needed a punch of citrus to cut it. All in all, his meal tasted good but not as good as he expected.

I ordered the Rigatoni alla Salsiccia, pasta sautéed with wild boar sausage in a tomato sauce. The pipe-like rigatoni were cooked to a perfect al dente. The dense, almost caramelized tomato sauce had just a touch of heat. At first, the boar sausage tasted like your typical Italian sausage but eventually its inherent gaminess came though. Overall, a lovely entrée with a delicious, non traditional meat.

For dessert we shared the Crème Brulee. While the sugared top wasn’t quite as crisp as we prefer, it was still quite good. The custard had a distinctive anise flavor and was topped by three delicious brandied cherries.

The Price:

Nebiolo Damila: 10.00

Super Tuscan: 11.00

Bresaola Limone e Capperi: 12.00

Insalata di Arugula: 11.00

Pasta del Giorno: 19.00

Rigatoni alla Salsiccia: 17.00

Crème Brulee: 7.00

Coffee: 2 @ 2.00 ea.

The Verdict:

Other than J’s entrée, the meal we had at Ristorante Picolinos was quite good with J’s appetizer and my entrée standing out as exceptional. Their interesting takes on traditional Italian fare, fabulous wine choices, and romantic atmosphere really should make it a destination restaurant for special occasions when the fact that it’s one of the few places in Ballard that can handle large groups is added to the equation. I wouldn’t mind trying one of their pizzas some day, so I’m sure well be back.

Considering there are two similar Italian restaurants in Ballard, Pasta Bella and Picolinos, how do they stack up against one another? Honestly, as much as we did like Picolinos, both J and I prefer the homey atmosphere of Pasta Bella and their much larger menu of traditional Italian dishes. In the end, I think it comes down to location. If we lived nearer to Picolinos, we’d probably choose to go their more than once every couple of years but since we live three blocks away from Pasta Bella, I think we will go there far more often. Frankly, both are worth trying once.