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Marking the Halfway Point

Due to J and myself coming down with summer colds, we haven’t been keeping up with the project for the last week and a half. We figured being ill would not make for an enjoyable eating experience. Instead, since we have hit the halfway point in the Ballard Restaurant Project, I thought I would write some about how it’s going thus far.

General Observations about Eating in Ballard:

~ Surprisingly, in the roughly 1 and a quarter square mile area we chose as the boundary for the project, as of July 1st, there are 79 restaurants. Fast food chains, coffee houses and the handful of bars that serve a very limited menu aren’t counted in this amount. Before the end of the year, this number may rise as high as 83 should the few pending openings (Thai Thani, Red Mill @ Totem House, Bitteroot, and whatever the heck is going into Madam K’s space) actually occur.

~ Since the project started on January 1st, four restaurants have closed; Carnegie’s, 5 Corner Market Bar and Kitchen, Ballard’s Best BBQ, and, sadly, Bad Albert’s.

~ Of the 40 restaurants we have reviewed, 22 were ones we had visited prior to the project. Of those left, half will be places neither of us have ever tried.

~ One of the most surprising discoveries has been that burger joints are to Ballard what Thai restaurants are to Fremont. As of July 1st, there are seven places that specialize in hamburgers (The Counter, Zestos, King’s Hardware, Piada Italia/Seattle Burger Company, Scooter’s, Hamburger Harry’s, and Zak’s), four bars that might as well call themselves burger joints (Hattie’s Hat, Lockspot, The Sloop, and Bad Albert’s) and one place slated to open before the end of the year (Red Mill @ Totem House).

~ Just out of curiosity, I counted the number of 21 and Over establishments in Ballard, some of which are not on our official list since they serve limited menus. Out of the, I would say, roughly 90 bars and restaurants total in Ballard, only twenty- five or so are 21 and over.

Personal Observations:

~ Generally this project has been fun and pretty educational for both of us. Over the time we’ve been together, J and I have become, for lack of a better word, foodies. We slowly began really searching out good food and restaurants both in Seattle and whenever we traveled over the course of four and a half years. This project has caused us to consciously think about what we eat. Within a couple of months, we both find ourselves thinking about what we eat, even when eating outside of Ballard.

~ My mood, good or ill, reflects more on my opinion of the service than on the food. The food stands on its own merits whereas the service is variable.

~ I have tried to be as no nonsense as possible when writing these reviews. I’m not a chef or seasoned food critic or even in the industry, so my reviews tend to be simple. Strike me down should I ever use the word “unctuous”.

~ I haven’t written on a regular basis since I (finally) finished my BA degree back in 2006 so the thought of writing 80+ reviews is rather daunting. It has been a chore at times to get into the rhythm. At first, I attempted to write at the computer but soon fell back into my old habit of handwriting a rough draft then transcribing and rewriting the whole thing in Word. Seems to work well for me.

~ After a couple of months I figured out that publishing reviews from our weekend visits during the week, usually Wednesdays, rather than immediately posting them on weekends leads to more people reading them.

~ J made an interesting observation. We’re doing this project for US. If others want to read our opinions, that’s cool but in the end we’re doing it to get to know our neighborhood better and find new places to eat. So, if you are reading, thank you.

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The Ballard Restaurant Project

My husband and I live in Ballard, a neighborhood just a bit north of Seattle. It’s a popular place full of boutique shops, bars and restaurants, the last two we partake of multiple times a week.

At the beginning of December 2010, while heading to the main part of Ballard for dinner, we were trying to figure out where to go … playing our usual “Where do you want to go?” game.

Husband: Where do you want to go?

Me: I don’t know. Where do you want to go?

H: I asked first.

M: I don’t care. What do you feel like?

H: I don’t know.

We ended up at one of a half dozen places we go to all the time. Ballard is full of restaurants. Everything from Mexican to German to great pizza to Thai to generic bar food. At last count, in a two-mile or so square, 75+ restaurants and bars and we go to the same 6 places. All the time.

While having dinner at the People’s Pub for the umpteenth time, I came up with the idea for a year-long project. We would go to every restaurant and bar in Ballard. All 75+ of them. From Volterra to Zesto’s.

Thus the Ballard Restaurant Project was born.

The ground rules:

  • The boundries are: North of the Ship Canal, West of 8th Ave, South of 65th Street and East of 32nd Ave. Except for a couple of places, every restaurant/bar is within walking distance of our apartment.
  • No fast food chains, grocery store food bars, coffee houses or bars with a limited menu*.
  • If it’s a place we visit regularly, we have to try something new.
  • Any new places will be added to the list up to the end of 2011.
  • If someplace is scheduled to close, we make our best attempt to eat there before it closes.
  • Our reviews will be based on three categories: service, drinks and food.

Granted, neither my husband nor I are professional food critics. We’re just a couple of people who like good food and our neighborhood. Our reviews will from the view of a couple that love eating and have a smattering of knowledge of food. I’ll try to list what we eat, drink and what it costs.

Come back at the beginning of January 2011 to find out what our first stop is … we don’t even know yet.

*Bars that only offer a few things on the menu or only have appetizers. The Nobel Fir, Harlow’s, and the Stepping Stone come readily to mind.