Posts Tagged ‘Fish & Chips’

Zesto’s Burgers – 11/26/11- Closed


Location: 6416 15th Ave NW


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.


Red Mill Totem House – 10/30/11


Location: 3058 NW 54th St


Tues-Sat: 11am-9pm

Sunday: 12pm-8pm

Cash & Checks Only

The day before we started this project, one of Ballard’s institutions unexpectedly closed. Totem House Seafood and Chowder, located across the street from the Ballard Locks, had been there for years. A kitschy, 1950’s interpretation of a Native American long house, Totem House served up a plethora of fried seafood, chowder, and milkshakes to generations of Ballardites. For months the building stood empty with speculation of its eventual demise running rampant until it came out that local chain, Red Mill Burgers, had bought the building with the plan to renovate it while keeping true to its kitschy past.

Red Mill Totem House is tiny, just like the original Totem House. When J and I went, we ended up getting our meal to go since there was nowhere to sit. The interior is more colorful than its predecessor but just like it, the menu hangs over the order counter. Red Mill, known for their burgers and milkshakes, has added fish and chips at this location only.

The Service:

The obviously high school and college age staff were friendly and our order arrived quicker than I’d expected considering the crowd.

The Drinks:

I chose a Chocolate Milkshake, which had a mild chocolate flavor. It wasn’t quite the “collapse a lung” thickness I prefer but pretty good none the less.

J had a Strawberry Milkshake, made with chunks of real strawberry. Really good.

The Food:

I ordered the Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger, with lettuce and tomato on a Kaiser bun and fries on the side. I am not a fan of “special” sauces so I requested no Mill sauce. I know there are lots of fans of Red Mill burgers out there but I’m just not one of them. The beef patty was so thin and flavorless that all I could taste were the toppings. The bleu cheese was a bit too sharp even for me. The bun was forgettable. The only good things were the really fresh tomato and the peppery bacon. Red Mill bacon is awesome, I will give them that. The fries were pretty good as well. Thick without being greasy and having a nice potato flavor.

J chose the Double Bacon Delux Cheeseburger, two beef patties, bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, American cheese, and Mill sauce. Even with two patties, he made mention that the burger was still thinner than one at Norm’s. Possibly because he had double the meat, J said he could taste the beef. He really liked the bacon as well. A quintessential, classic bacon cheeseburger. He had onion rings on the side. Good but nothing special.

The Price:

Chocolate Milkshake: 3.39

Strawberry Milkshake: 3.39

Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger: 6.79

French Fries: 2.09

Double Bacon Deluxe Cheeseburger: 6.99

Babe’s Onion Rings: 3.19

The Verdict:

This is one of the few times J and I disagree. When it comes to fast, cheap burgers in Ballard, I preferred Scooter’s and J liked Red Mill. My problem with Red Mill centers on the flavorless beef. Why would I want to eat a burger in which I can’t tell there’s even beef in it? Might as well eat a salad. J really enjoyed his burger though so we might go back someday. If we do, I’ll try something from their new fish and chip menu instead.

The Sloop Tavern – 10/29/11


Location: 2830 NW Market St


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.


Wingmasters Sports Bar & Grill – 9/23/11

No Website

Location: 5811 24th Ave NW


Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2am

Sat-Sun: 10am-2pm

Wingmasters Sports Bar & Grill felt like an old school sports bar. The type found all over the United States where the only things to tell you what city/state you’re in are the posters on the wall, the games on the TV, and the theme of the menu. Dark wood paneling. Worn and torn vinyl booths. A couple of pools tables. A big elk shooting game in one corner. Pull tabs at the bar and peanuts by the handful for a quarter from a defunct gumball machine. It’s the type of place that has a bunch of regulars who hang out at the bar, watching ball games. The night we visited, a college football game, a Mariner’s game, and a soccer game were showing on the multitude of TVs.

Wingmasters, as one can guess from the name, specializes in chicken wings, offered with a choice of sauces. The menu also includes the usual array of bar food, salads, burgers, and fish and chips along with beer and a full bar.

The Service:

Our server was the only one, other than the bartender, working so service was pretty slow. Once we had finished our meal, J eventually had to stand at the bar for a few minutes before being able to pay our bill since our server never came over to cash us out.

The Drinks:

I had a pint of Widmer Hefeweizen, which turned out to be rather smooth with very little bitterness. Quite nice, actually.

J ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, which packed a punch but had too much tequila.

The Food:

I chose the Buffalo Chicken Strips and Fries. The chicken strips were of uneven quality. Some were moist while others were bone dry. The Buffalo sauce tasted pretty good with a spiciness that crept up on me. I also liked the extra crispy breading that covered the strips. The French fries that weren’t directly under the chicken strips were crispy but as the fries cooled, they turned greasy and limp.

J ordered 12 Chicken Wings in Buffalo Sauce. It should be mentioned that J has been to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York where Buffalo wings originated, so his bar for chicken wings is set very high. He took issue with how the wings were made. It seemed like they poured the sauce in the bottom of the paper-lined basket, and then placed the wings in it, without tossing the wings in the sauce. He said the wings on top were too dry while the ones in the sauce were merely okay. He was not impressed.

The Price:

Widmer Hefeweizen: 4.25

Long Island Iced Tea: 8.00

Buffalo Chicken Strips and Fries: 7.95

12 Chicken Wings with Buffalo Sauce: 12.95

The Verdict:

There were a number of things about Wingmasters that didn’t impress us. The atmosphere of the place was very insular. J especially felt this when he went up to the bar to pay our tab. It took him a few minutes to get someone’s attention, and when he did he felt like he was intruding on a private club. The wings were really pricey for the quality and quantity. King’s Hardware offers tastier wings for a better price, especially on Mondays when wings are .28 cents apiece. Really the only thing that was good was my beer.

Neither of us sees a reason to go back to Wingmasters. We can get better wings elsewhere and I can get Widmer Hefeweizen at the grocery store.

For those who might be wondering, in J’s opinion Norm’s, in Fremont, offers chicken wings that are the closest to the Anchor Bar’s original Buffalo wings.

Kelly O’Briens – 9/18/11 – Closed


Location: 5410 17th Ave NW


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.

Lockspot Cafe – 6/2/11

No Website

Location: 3005 NW 54th St


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.

Ballard Brother’s Seafood and Burgers – 5/15/11


Location: 5303 15th Ave NW


Mon-Sat: 11-9

Sun: 12-8

Ballard Brother’s Seafood and Burgers is probably better known by their presence at various Seattle festivals and fairs. Their big red booth can be found at the Fremont Solstice Festival, Ballard Seafood fest, Bumbershoot, etc. They specialize in blackened salmon burgers.

Their brick and mortar restaurant sits on 15th next to Wendy’s, which is kind of fitting since it’s pretty much homegrown fast food. The big red building looks huge from the outside but isn’t really all that big on the inside. A row of booths runs along the one wall with a few tables and chairs in the middle. The huge menu board lists everything from beef, salmon and chicken burgers to salads to a long list of fried seafood options.

The Service:

Polite and pretty quick.

The Drinks:

J ordered a Coke and I grabbed a bottle of water.

The Food:

I chose their specialty, a Cajun Blackened Salmon Burger with fries. While the salmon was obviously fresh, I was not all that fond of the blackening spices used. The spices gave the burger an unappetizing, bitter/burnt taste. The Cajun sauce seemed a bit bland. The okay fries were a bit thicker than normal with a crunchy coating. I think the only thing I liked was the soft, wheat bun.

J ordered the 4 pc. Cod and Chips. Although he usually prefers a tempura coating on this fried fish, he liked the flakey breading, which, he felt, gave the fish a much lighter taste. He also appreciated the homemade tarter sauce and the fries better than I did.

The Price:

Coke: 1.75

Bottle of Water: 1.50

Cajun Blackened Salmon: 8.49

4 pc. Cod and Chips: 8.41

The Verdict:

Basically Ballard Brother’s offers fresher and better tasting fast food. The fish was fresh, well cooked and the choices given are more interesting than Wendy’s or McDonalds but these mild pluses aren’t enough to get us to go out of our way to return. We just don’t normally eat fast food and it would take something fabulous to get us to eat that type of food. This just wasn’t that special.