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Posts Tagged ‘Lunch’

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.

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.

Pho Big Bowl – 12/11/11

No Website

Location: 2248 NW Market St

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 10am-10pm

Sunday was cold and damp so we decided it was the perfect weather for a bowl of pho. Pho Big Bowl sits at the west end of Market Street, near La Isla and Anne’s Teriyaki. It’s another restaurant on that block that would be perfectly at home in a strip mall. A simple interior of formica tables and the type of chairs I’m beginning to identify with cheap Asian restaurants. Other than a few spring rolls, the menu consists entirely of pho in bowls of varying sizes.

The Service:

The pho came out super quick and the staff was friendly.

The Drink:

Every bowl of pho comes with a can of soda so J had a Sprite. I was kind of chilled so I opted for Green Tea which was pretty bland.

The Food:

J ordered the Pho Tai Chin, noodle soup with medium rare eye round and brisket. Surprisingly good. The meat was flavorful, cooked to a perfect medium rare that continued to cook in the hot broth. Unlike the pho at Pho Than Bros, this meat looked and tasted like beef which gave the already good broth an extra punch of flavor. The small size was the perfect amount.

I chose the Pho Ga, noodle soup with shredded chicken. The chicken was moist and tender. The broth was good on its own but adding Thai basil, lime, and a little Sriracha gave it an even richer flavor. The noodles weren’t mushy. Overall quite tasty.

The Price:

Pho Tai Chin: 4.85

Pho Ga: 4.85

Green Tea: 1.00

The Verdict:

Pho Big Bowl totally surprised us. After our visit to Pho Than Bros, neither of us was particularly looking forward to another pho restaurant. The fresh ingredients and flavorful meat completely changed our minds about pho. I can understand why a bowl of piping hot pho would be lovely on a cold, winter day. I know I’d like to try the vegetable pho for it variety of veggies so we will be back.

If you have the choice between Pho Than Bros and Pho Big Bowl, choose Pho Big Bowl. You won’t be sorry.

Categories: Restaurants Tags: , , , ,

The Other Coast Café – 12/4/11

Website

Location: 5315 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sat: 10:30am-7pm

Sunday: 10:30pm-6pm

Cash Only

The Other Coast Café was one of the first places to open up on the block of Ballard Ave that now includes places like Bastille, Shiku, and The Nobel Fir. It’s a hole in the wall, narrow place with a handful of tables, a long counter lining one wall, and a huge glass deli case. If there’s more than a couple of people in line, the place feels packed.

The menu of salads, sides, and hot and cold sandwiches, hangs above the small prep area. They also offer chips, canned soda, bottled juice, and a small selection of beer.

The Service:

Friendly if a bit frazzled. This was to be expected considering we chose to go on a Sunday afternoon while the Ballard Farmer’s Market was in full swing right outside the door.

The Drinks:

J was pleasantly surprised to find RC Cola in the cooler. I chose a bottle of Thomas Kemper Black Cherry soda.

The Food:

J ordered a Meatball Sub (spiced, homemade meatballs topped with marinara and provolone served in a baguette) out of nostalgia. It was a traditional meatball sub that reminded him of the ones he had as a kid back in Pennsylvania. It tasted good and was made with fresh ingredients. His only problem with it was the fact that he had to eat it with a fork. He actually wished the meatballs had been smaller so he could have picked it up to eat. A weird issue but that one problem broke the aura of nostalgia for him.

I chose the Reuben, pastrami, swiss, sauerkraut, and mustard on rye bread. The pastrami was flavorful and moist but lacked the thick black pepper crust I like. There was way too much sauerkraut on the sandwich. So much that it overwhelmed the other flavors. The rye bread was toasted a bit too long, making it dry and crumbly. Okay over allbut nothing special.

The Price:

Meatball Sub: 8.35

Reuben: 8.55

The Verdict:

The Other Coast Café had good sandwiches, made with quality, fresh ingredients but I doubt we’ll return any time soon. It just wasn’t anything special about their sandwiches. I could make a pastrami sandwich at home for less money. If we want a sandwich, we tend to go for something different and interesting, like the selection at Café Mox or The Shelter.

Smokin’ Pete’s BBQ – 12/3/11

Website

Location: 1918 NW 65th

Hours:

Tues-Sat: 11am-9pm

Sunday: 11:30am-9pm

Seattle has never been much of a BBQ town. For a long time, there have been just a handful of BBQ joints scattered all over the city. Smokin’ Pete’s, on the corner of 65th and 20th, has been the Ballard BBQ outpost for years. Housed in a bright yellow building, Smokin’ Pete’s is the place I always took my BBQ loving father. It’s a simple place with two glass deli cases flanking the cash register and a few tables. The menu, naturally, consists of BBQ meats, pork, chicken, and beef, along with sides like potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, etc. They offer canned sodas, a couple of ciders, and beer.

The Service:

The guys at the counter were friendly and our orders came out pretty quick.

The Drink:

J and I each had a can of Faygo Root Beer.

The Food:

J ordered a small plate of Singin’ Man Pork Ribs, Memphis dry rubbed pork ribs with a piece of cornbread and mac and cheese. He found the meat dry and tough enough that it needed the thin, too sweet BBQ sauce to make it palatable. The cornbread was equally dry and rather flavorless. The mac and cheese tasted like the stuff they sell in the deli at Fred Meyer. Not quality BBQ.

I chose the Working Man’s Lunch, a slow smoked beef brisket sandwich with hush puppies. The beef was moist and had good flavor but had large, gelatinous chunks of fat running through it . The sauce was too sweet for my taste. The baguette, that the brisket was served on, was oddly greasy. The whole sandwich felt kind of thrown together. The hush puppies had the consistency of a white cake and was just as bland. I expect hush puppies to have a distinct corn flavor and some heft to them. These didn’t.

The Price:

Singin’ Man Pork Ribs: 13.75

The Working Man’s Lunch: 8.00

The Verdict:

We were disappointed by Smokin’ Pete’s. The sauce was mediocre. The meat was either too dry or too fatty. The sides were so generic that they might as well have come from a grocery store. We’ve eaten at Smokin’ Pete’s before and thought it was okay. Now, not so much. It seems like they got too used to being the only BBQ game in Ballard. They haven’t had any competition for years so it’s like they slacked off on quality. Now that not one, but two BBQ places have (The Boar’s Nest) or will (Bitterroot) open in Ballard, Smokin’ Pete’s needs to step up their game because, frankly, The Boar’s Nest blew them out of the water on all fronts.

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.

La Isla – 11/25/11

Website

Location: 2320 NW Market St

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 11:30am-2am

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sat: 3pm-6pm, 10pm-12am

Sunday: 3pm-6pm

La Isla is another unexpected and interesting ethnic restaurant in Ballard. It opened a few years ago just off the corner of Market and 24th, next door to Kitchen and Things. La Isla serves Puerto Rican cuisine in a fairly large space that once housed two retail stores. Someone I know said its location, surrounded by retail spaces as it is, reminded him of a restaurant in a strip mall. The interior is painted with bright colors and decorated with a Caribbean flair. The night we went it was nearly at full capacity.

La Isla’s menu is filled with unique appetizers and entrees that lean heavily towards garlic, meat, and plantains. I wouldn’t say it was really suitable for vegetarians. Many of the offerings probably can’t be found anywhere else in Seattle. The drink menu consists of a number of Caribbean inspired cocktails and an extensive rum selection.

The Service:

Our server was friendly and took our orders quite quickly. Unlike many places we’ve been to, they gave a longer than normal space of time between our appetizers and entrees. This may have just been a product of being rather busy that night but it was quite nice regardless.

The Drinks:

J ordered the Caribbean Crush, dark, coconut, and 151 rum mixed with a splash of Kahlua and fruit juices. Tasty with a strong coconut flavor that completely masked the considerable amount of liquor in the drink.

I had a Mojito, light rum with muddled mint and a splash of soda. It had a different flavor than other mojitos I’ve had. Very minty but it didn’t seem to have a lot of rum in it. I think they must’ve used club soda rather than Sprite for the splash of soda, which gave the drink an odd flavor.

The Food:

Since the menu was so interesting, we decided to order a couple of appetizers along with our entrees.

A friend suggested the Carne Frita, bone-in pork “wings” marinated in adobo, flash fried, and topped with sautéed onions and served with caldo sauce. Very moist and flavorful pork chunks. J said if they’d added a couple more pieces, the Carne Frita would have made a good entrée. The only thing that was a bit off was the caldo sauce. It was far too mild to go up against the meaty flavor of the pork.

We also ordered the Gandules Dip, a blend of onions, garlic, red pepper, green pigeon beans, olive oil, vinegar, and spices served with tostones cups. Interesting, in a good way. The dip had a strong olive oil flavor with hints of vinegar and citrus. A neat little do-it-yourself appetizer. The starchy tostones cups held up nicely to the dip without getting soggy.

For his entrée, J chose the Bisteca Encebollado, an 8 oz cut of churrasco steak, marinated in olive oil, garlic, and vinegar sauce, topped with sautéed onion and served with beans, rice, tostones, and al ajillo sauce. A huge amount of food. After trying a bit of the steak, J wished he’d spent the extra $1 for the spicier option because it was just a little bland. He ended up eating the steak with the super-garlicky al ajillo sauce for the extra flavor boost. He also felt the steak was a bit tough. J loved the beans and rice so much that he left some of the steak in order to finish them. The sides were so good that he wondered if La Isla served the beans and rice on their own on their lunch menu.

I ordered the Chuletas a la Criolla, two 6 oz pork chops, marinated in lemon and adobo, pan sizzled and smothered in red Creole sauce with beans, rice, tostones, and al ajillo sauce. Another portion of food so large, it couldn’t be finished. Oddly, the pork chops were moist and a little tough at the same time. The chops had just a faint hint of lemon to them. The red Creole sauce, made of onions and red peppers, was a little bland and overcooked for my taste. I like a bit more crunch to my veggies. The tostones and bright al ajillo sauce made a nice little side dish to the rest of the meal.

The Price:

Caribbean Crush: 8.50

Mojito: 7.50

Carne Frita: 7.50

Gandules Dip: 7.00

Bisteca Encebollado: 15.50

Chuletas a la Criolla: 15.00

The Verdict:

La Isla serves good food with a very unique flavor profile. The ingredients were fresh, the portions huge, and the super garlicky al ajillo sauce stole the show. I think our only issue was that the food was really heavy. The appetizers alone can fill you up and adding an entrée to that caused us to still feel stuffed the next morning. I would definitely suggest ordering drinks and a few appetizers or drinks and an entree rather than having both. Also if you go in expecting spicy, Latin American style food, you’ll be disappointed. The Puerto Rican cuisine at La Isla has a more sweet and sour taste with large hints of citrus and garlic. We are both intrigued enough about their menu to go back for more.