NFT Seattle Ballard

Ballard

Essentials
A Scandinavian fishing village at the turn of the 20th century and until relatively recently considered a nice place for seniors, Ballard has reinvented and reinvigorated itself as one of Seattle's most desirable 'nabes. Life's necessities are never hard to track down in this triangle-shaped hub hugging Salmon Bay, and a recent boom in condo development certainly doesn't hurt.

Sundries/Entertainment
Spots like Hattie's Hat, King's Hardware, and the People's Pub have the bases covered for great neighborhood nightlife. The Tractor Tavern is your home for live alt-country. Discover your new favorite band at See more.

>The Sunset.

The two main and navigable drags--vibrant Market Street and historic Ballard Avenue--feature tons of restaurants. La Carta de Oaxaca is well worth the wait, while Vera's is one of the last true old-school dining spots left in the city. Go big at Ethan Stowell's Staple & Fancy or Maria Hines' Golden Beetle. Have an oyster-gasm at The Walrus and the Carpenter. Finally, don't miss the Ballard Market every Sunday.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Road Dog's Brewery Tours

By Jessica Baxter
Where we're going, we need roads.
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Salvage Stores

By Ingrid Mattson
Ingrid knows where art goes to die--the appliance salvage stores of Seattle. Here, cheapskates with expensive taste find colored glass ceiling lights, overpriced church pews and water-damaged cabinetry to do up their digs. But Ingrid isn't a crack whore just because she can't stop shopping. Her fresh antique furnishings have made her least-expensive-house-in-Seattle the talk of the block. (At least that's why she thinks they talk).

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Aaaaaah, For It

By Karen Watson
Little known fact: Too much coffee and very little sun can do major harm to the body. So like all Seattleites, Karen Watson deserves some pampering and primping every so often. Follow Karen on her spa quest across the city and beyond.

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A (Karaoke) Place to Call Home

By Jessica Baxter
Eight years ago Jessica Baxter walked into an empty bar in Seattle to "sing" Daydream Believer in front of 3 friends and 6 wasted, possibly dangerous strangers. She wanted more. Now she's a bona fide karaoke expert.
Read More...

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Plaka Estiatorio
I'm down with any cuisine that promotes fried cheese as a basic food group. The Haloumi at Plaka Estiatorio is off the charts and there is a very good possibility it could even give you a spontaneous food orgasm. Yes, it is that good. Tucked away from the visiting hordes that dominate Ballard on the weekend, Plaka epitomizes a casual neighborhood joint. The savory aromas of lemon and garlic wafting from the open kitchen will lure you in better than any pied piper.



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Zayda Buddy's
Thank you Zayda Buddy's for bringing deep fried cheese curds and Leinenkugel's Summer Wheat beer to Seattle. But sauerkraut on pizza? No offense, but I could have lived without. And I think the last time I had Pringles was sometime in the mid-80s, although I had forgotten how strangely wonderful they really are. Thanks to ZB, Midwestern comfort food has found a Seattle following. Wisconsin style beer cheese dip and tater tot casserole always helps of course. The menu is rounded out by other old school favorites like tuna casserole, fish sticks and gravy smothered french fries. The other big draw -- Minnesota style pizza, which is rolled precariously thin and cut into little square pieces. You betcha, it's tasty. Oh, and ladies, say hi to the vintage Burt Reynolds poster in the bathroom.



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Senor Moose
I've been visiting Senor Moose for years and straight up, I am still amazed every time at how freakin' delicious the food is. Serving up comida tipica, otherwise known as Mexican comfort food, the cooks consistently dish out authentic and vibrantly flavored staples like carne asada, nopales, plantains, sopes, and of course tacos. You won't find cheddar cheese enchiladas and gloppy refried beans here. Instead they finish everything off with a dusting of Cotija cheese, real Mexican crema, and fresh avocado. The decor of sherbert colored paint, tile floors, oil cloth covered tables, and folk art combines in an assault on the senses almost making you forget that you're still in Seattle and not Veracruz. The crowds waiting to get in at prime meal times rivals those outside a Wal Mart on Black Friday. And it is oh so worth the wait.



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Aster Coffee Lounge
Yes, Aster has damn good coffee but what you really need to know about are the waffles. Plate sized with a three inch fluff index, these Belgian babes are crispy deliciousness perfection. Crannies big enough to swallow a lap dog hold so much syrup and toppings you'll want to go for a swim in them. Sugar cravings are satisfied by chocolate and banana combos while fans of the savory can go whole hog with ham and a mountain of shredded aged cheddar. On weekends Aster promotes a brunch special -- ten bucks for a waffle of your choice and a mimosa. They don't give you no wimpy glass either, it's at least the equivalent of two drinks at other breakfast places. But of course don't forget about the coffee - Aster features a Clover brewing system, one of only a handful in Seattle. You get your choice of fresh roasted beans from Costa Rica, Ethiopia, or Sumatra. If coffee isn't your thing not to worry, Aster also serves beer and wine with a daily happy hour from 4-7. With all the bases covered, I just might stay all day.



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Jhanjay
Restaurants dedicated to vegetarian Asian food confuse me. In my experience, most Thai places are extremely accommodating and will make food to order based on whichever food issue you're afflicted with. No fish sauce, vegan, soy allergy, sugar busters, whatever. Jhanjay caters to the strictly veg and every entree comes with your choice of fake meat, deep fried tofu, or tofu au natural. Even though I'm a vegetarian, soy choice means nothing to me if it doesn't pack a flavor punch. Sadly, the dishes I tried lack the sweet, tangy, tartness of some of my favorite Thai restaurants, namely Thaiku which is just up the street. They do however have presentation going for them. The Jhanjay Noodles are lovely plump noodle packages tempting you to rip of the rice paper and devour them. Since I know I can get a great veggie Thai meal elsewhere, Jhanjay probably won't be my first choice. But if you need that vegetarian chastity belt--the reassurance that your meal has never even been seen by meat--then this is your place.



Posted By:  Jessica Baxter
Photo:  Jessica Baxter

La Isla
I know that Madonna song is about San Pedro, but it's hard not to get it stuck in your head when dining at La Isla. This amazing Puerto Rican restaurant in Ballard is certainly where my stomach longs for me to be. Popular for a damned good reason is the Pernil Special: slow roasted pork shoulder that's been "marinated for days" in some kind of magic elixir, making it super tender and flavorful. Also mind-blowing is the Pastelon: a Puerto Rican "lasagna," layered with sweet plantains and cheesy goodness, plus your choice of meat or veggies. All entrees come with a generous helping of house recipe rice and beans and tostones (or sub these with sweet mash or maduros), plus their incredible mojito garlic sauce. Smother everything on your plate in it or try to resist shooting it straight from the dish. Get a box for your meal so you can have dessert. They have the best Tres Leches in town. And with lunch and happy hour specials (half-price apps and strong cocktails, 3-6 and 10-1 nightly), there are plenty of ways to lower the bill. If eating and drinking isn't enough to entertain you, they'll set you up with Dominoes.



Posted By:  Jessica Baxter
Photo:  Jessica Baxter

The Counter
So it's not a mom and pop burger joint. It started in California with franchises springing up in some unlikely places across the country (and the world). And maybe I'm just falling for the glamor of an evil empire on the rise. But when a place boasts 312,120 different possible burger combinationa (any mathematicians want to contest this figure?) how can you not? Because of the insane array of choices, their Build-Your-Own-Burger forms can be a little overwhelming. I find it's best to start with a sauce and go from there. You can be simple as you please (beef burger, American cheese, lettuce, regular bun) or highly experimental (turkey burger, soft ripened brie, hard boiled eggs, ginger soy glaze, dried cranberries on English muffin). It's all up to you. They just provide the high-quality ingredients. Especially impressive are their house-made veggie patties, an ingenious combination of grains and veggies mashed together and fried to a golden brown. Don't miss their Wednesday happy hour, which pairs 4 sliders with 4 microbrew samples for $4. Save room for a milkshake, which can also be combined however you please. It doesn't get any more "have it your way" than this.



Posted By:  Jessica Baxter
Photo:  Jessica Baxter

Snacks!
Snacks! is the sort of place that Charlie Bucket would have stood outside with longing, his poor little face pressed up against the window. For those of you who don't have to share a bed with all of your grandparents, Snacks! is open Thursday through Saturday till 2:30am (10 am-6 pm Sunday) and provides a rotating array of treats with the Ballard post-bar and munchie-laden in mind. Catering to both savory and sweet palettes and contrary to logic, it's best not to have any idea what you want when you walk through those doors because you never know what you're going to find. Their signature items, including pints of Molly Moon's ice cream in seasonal flavors, Dante's hot dogs, and the Chilly Dog (soft serve ice cream in a toasted bun with peanut butter and jelly) are mainstays, but their beer, wine, general snack and candy selection is constantly changing. Their best offerings are not portable over long-distances, so Snacks! isn't the best option if you don't already live in Ballard, or you're not planning to hang out there. If only there were a Snacks! in every neighborhood.



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Bastille Cafe & Bar
Bastille has totally nailed that pre-war Parisian joie de vivre feel with its vaulted ceilings and black and white tile reminiscent of the Paris subway. Based on the food prices they must be repaying quite a large loan for all that French atmosphere. Eleven dollars for a limp and oily salad is excessive even for the new trendy Ballard. The wait staff seems either overwhelmed or undertrained, ignoring customers as they try to waive them down to get in another drink order. When it takes an hour for French onion soup you damn well better be supplying me with cocktails at least. The frites are served with a gloppy, gelatinous, key lime flavored mess that the server explained to me was Hollandaise sauce. Perhaps Bastille's kitchen staff is revolutionizing the recipe for Hollandaise sauce? I think not. While the interior is gorgeous and the bar is the new place to be seen, Bastille better get themselves right or us peasants may revolt. I certainly couldn't be bothered to wait for the cake.



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Nervous Nellie's Espresso Co
Get out the way mac-n-cheese, toast is my ultimate comfort food. When I saw Ballard had a toast bar, I was thrilled. Nervous Nellie's is in a retail-free block off the main strip so it took me awhile to actually stumble across it, and from the number of customers I've seen not too many other Ballardites know about it either. Or maybe it's because Nellie's is outrageously friggin' expensive. One slab of toasted buttered bread runs $2.75. I understand that it's Great Harvest bread but c'mon I can buy a whole loaf at the store for $1.99. It was pretty good but at those prices I could end up in the streets from indulging my toast habit a little too often. Nellie's also offers other toast toppings like and assortment of jams, cinnamon sugar, cheese, Nutella, and creamed fish roe in a tube. Yeah, it's a Scandinavian thing. This is Ballard after all. Sorry Nervous Nellie's I'll only be coming here for special occasions or emergencies, like when they finally cancel America's Next Top Model.



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

La Carta de Oaxaca
Oaxaca, Mexico has one big culinary claim to fame. Super stellar mole' sauce. The cooks at Ballard's own Carta de Oaxaca do their namesake proud. The Mole' Negro Oaxaqueno throws your choice of chicken or pork into the deep end of a pool filled with mole'. Forget forks; use the fantastic homemade tortillas as a sauce mop. Melted cheese is my weakness and the quesadillas here truly hit the spot. You won't find an oily yellow mess masquerading as cheese at Carta de Oaxaca. Fresh Oaxaqueno cheese is liberally stuffed between the tortillas before being fried and smothered with guacamole, salsa fresca, and of course, mole'. The only downside is that I hardly ever get to eat here. Why is it that every newish bar/restaurant in Ballard is smaller than my linen closet? Oaxaca is tiny so that means a long wait and no real space to spend those fifty minutes. Rumor round the 'hood is that they have opened a back patio--but for the love of God, don't tell anyone.



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

O'Shan Sushi
I've completely bitten off all my fingernails while excitedly waiting for O'Shan to open. I love sushi and for the longest time Ballard has been a one horse neighborhood in terms of Japanese restaurants. The new owners have done a great job of transforming the interior from the former tex-mex chili pepper decor to a softly lit bamboo paradise. The table settings are as cute and pretty as the food you'll enjoy. Instead of cheap paper-wrapped chopsticks, they give you ones made of smoothly rounded wood. No bamboo splinters here. The menu features all the traditional Japanese stuff and standard sushi options, with things even the squeamish will enjoy (teriyaki and yakisoba). My seaweed salad tasted like the ocean and my spicy tuna set of firecrackers in my mouth. Both positives in my book. From my seat at the sushi bar I could even watch the cook tempura batter and fry the crab for my spider roll. And best of all, the prices are fantastic. Five buck for a California roll, four bucks for a heaping helping of seaweed salad, ten for a dragon roll. During the next blizzard I'll only have to walk three slippery blocks to get my fix of raw fish. Excellent!



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

The Tractor Tavern
Is there anyone in Seattle who doesn't know about the Tractor? Regardless, the hub of Ballard's live music scene deserves some props. Hell yeah, what up Tractor? Alt-country rules here but Rockabilly, folk, and indie rock fill in the gaps. Every fall Bettie Page and Stray Cats lookalikes spill out of the Tractor and their retro rides for the Rockabilly Ball. The open space is perfect for live shows and they keep it real with cheap beer and Jack-n-Cokes. Go ahead and order your Martini with extra olives. It will still come in a plastic cup. I've never seen anyone eating here, but supposedly they offer an excellent selection of TV dinners. I'll have to remember that the next time I want to get my Swanson on. Discarded cowboy boots and tractor tires decorate the space, rounding out the good ole' boy theme. But the best part is the huge horse painting on the wall next to the bar. My boyfriend questioned where one would put such a large painting of a horse in a house. I'm just happy it ended up at the Tractor. 




Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Second Ascent
Whoa, Second Ascent is totally sick. As in, THE place to shop for all your recreational outdoor needs. In my experience most people who would actually use an ice axe, crampons, and $350 mountaineering boots don’t hold jobs where they make bank, so used gear shops are our best friends. Plus, buying pre-loved gear is the planet friendly green way to go. Second Ascent will gladly take your cast offs for either cash or store credit. Before storming off to REI make a stop here, because they carry everything from guidebooks to bikes. The also have a wicked maintenance shop for bike tunes and repairs. My only complaint is that they don't provide ski tuning services. They have a huge selection of ski and winter gear though. With a super friendly staff and dog friendly policy who could ask for more?



Posted By:  Ingrid Mattson
Photo:  Ingrid Mattson

Old Town Ale House
I love this place. Even when I lived an hour outside of Seattle, I managed to get here at least one Sunday a month. Why Sunday? Dunno--maybe I've subconsciously associated the fries at this place with the sacred. Their fries are thin and crisp and tossed with Parmesan and savory, unidentifiable spices; they always come hot and the salty seasoning melts on your tongue. I could rave about everything else on the menu as well: the onion rings are lightly battered and crisp; the onions inside are cooked through but still firm enough that you don't feel like you're eating mush. The Caesar salad has huge, crunchy, spicy croutons and comes with whole anchovies on request. The cod in the fish and chips is battered in Panko, so it's crisp and light and cooked through but still firm. The sandwiches come on giant rolls and sometimes a wet nap (brilliant!). To top it off, they've got quality servers that anticipate your needs such as bringing a pitcher of Coke to a thirsty table of three or ensuring your beer glass never goes dry. This place must be heaven.




Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Ballard Farmers Market
I love my neighborhood. Getting a cup of coffee and walking down to the outdoor market on a fall Sunday is perfection. Slaloming around dogs and children while browsing the gorgeous produce gives me that feeling that the world really can be a good place. Not only is the Ballard Farmer's Market open year round, almost everything is organic and you can find what you need for the week. Produce dominates but cheese makes a strong showing, followed by a smattering of meats, smoked salmon, and baked goods. My favorite place to stop is the Little Prague bakery where I always buy a slice of raspberry strudel just like my Oma made. The street performer across from the booth usually sings selections from the Disney songbook--his rendition of "Under The Sea" is killer. Watch your back, Elton John.



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Java Bean
Anyone who wishes for year-long winters will love grabbing a cup of coffee at the Java Bean. Pining away for the first snow day and the chance to lay down some sick turns? In the middle of July it's still a cozy mountain lodge after a hard day of skiing inside the Java Bean. Antler chandeliers and a wood stove complete the image. Although the coffee isn't bad I really only come here because it's convenient. No wi-fi and expensive drinks are a turn off. Two seventy-five for a tall Americano is ridiculous. Even if it is fair trade, shade grown, organic coffee so many other places offer the same at a better price. I would kill for a butter horn however, which tastes just like a Pop Tart. At ninety-nine cents it's a steal. Friendly baristas and comfy couches tempt me to make this my neighborhood coffee stop but so far I'm not totally convinced.



Posted By:  Jessica Baxter
Photo:  Jessica Baxter

The People's Pub
There are lots of reasons to go to the German-themed People's Pub. There's the tap beer selection, which is a who's who of Deutsch brews, but also tosses in some other Euro favorites (like Strongbow cider) for good measure. There are the board games and the high probability of scoring a table on any given night. Happy hour lasts till 7 so you don't have to leave work early to partake. There's a late night happy hour too. But personally, I'd go there for the food. The fried pickles are a popular item (I find them a little overwhelming and I'm so over aoli as a concept) as is anything ending in "schnitzel" or "wurst." I'd recommend the fried tomato sandwich and the bread pudding. But whatever you decide to order, don't forget to throw in some spatzle. Spatzle is the German's greatest contribution to side-dishes. This incredible cross between noodles and dumplings can be enjoyed smothered in butter or blanketed with cheese. And it's also fun to say. It's pronounced "shpetz-luh." See? Fun! It's true the service can be spotty but the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses. Say it with me now. "Shpetz-luh!"



Posted By:  Ingrid Mattson
Photo:  Ingrid Mattson

The 2 Bit Saloon
I've been in lots of dirty bathrooms. Driving all over the country, hitting up bars--hell, even running a 10K where people have pre-race jitters. You're bound to come across them. The women's bathroom at the Bit Saloon ranks right up there with the filthiest. The good news is that even if you wanted to sit down, there's no room in the tiny, claustrophobic space so you're forced to do an awkward side-straddle. The men's room goes one better by regularly having a dollar bill in the urinal that without fail is removed by some brave soul by the end of the night and presumably used to buy beer. Get in, get out, that's my advice so that you can get back to drinking and listening to good, low cost (free--$5 cover) music on any given night. For a change, the crowd is not your typical Ballard Carhartt-wearing, bearded industrial folk. It's more like Aurora Avenue without the prostitutes (I know, I know--what's Aurora without the prostitutes? But trust me! You don't even miss them with the rest of the eye candy in the place).



Posted By:  Karen Watson
Photo:  Karen Watson

Olsen's Scandinavian Foods
I absolutely must have 91 Ways to Serve Lefse for my cookbook collection. What to do? Thank Norway I live in Ballard and can just roll down to Olsen's Scandinavian Foods. Mmmmmm, I'll just pick up some frystekake and svinneribbe while I'm here. And look, a Viking Power mug. That will certainly make my morning coffee feel pretty. Would I like a sample of pickled herring? Well, maybe just two or three. Gotta get those Omega fatty acids somehow. Lutefisk? No thanks, I'm watching my lye intake. But this Uff Da apron would make a perfect Administrative Professionals Day gift. Thank you Olsen's for keeping the dream of a Scandinavian Ballard alive.




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