Sometimes I forget how rare it is in this city to be a born-and-raised Seattleite. I live and breathe this city, and have so much pride for it I could explode with happiness sometimes. So today, I’m starting a city guide for restaurants, bars, shopping, and other favorite things for each of my favorite neighborhoods. I’m starting off with Ballard because it is where I was born and raised. Back in the day, Ballard was a weird fishing town full of Scandinavians. Everyone sort of thought Ballard was an outcast of a neighborhood, but really in the late 2000’s it started to boom and become really popular – tons of condos were built and everyone started to move there, and now it is the largest neighborhood in the city (is it wrong that I feel somewhat cool having lived in Ballard before it was cool? Because I do. Judge away). There are so many fun things to do in Ballard, so let me highlight some of my favorite spots. But since there seems to be a new restaurant, store, or bar opening every week, be sure to share some of your favorites with me so I can keep this updated!
Seafood – The Walrus and the Carpenter: Since we’re starting off with the fishing town of Ballard, I thought there would be no better restaurant to kick it off with than The Walrus and the Carpenter. If you’re looking for the freshest oysters in town, you have to check this place out. But beware – they do not take reservations, and even though they open at 5pm by 5:15 it place is always packed. So get there early, and come hungry!
Breakfast/Brunch – Portage Bay Cafe: Is there anything better than brunch? I can’t think of many things, and Ballard certainly knows how to serve a delicious one. With tons of options from Vera’s and The Hi-Life, to Portage Bay Cafe and Salmon Bay Cafe, you cannot really go wrong at any of them. However I will say that I’m partial to Portage Bay (there are also locations in the U District and in the SLU) – organic, local ingredients whenever possible, unique dishes, and a toppings bar that you MUST take a trip to when you’re there.
Sandwiches - Paseo: You may have heard of Paseo – it was voted the 2nd best sandwich in the country a few years back. Most people know them for their Fremont location, but did you also know there is a “hidden” Ballard one? It’s right on the water across from Anthony’s. There is no sign outside, so you’ll have to find it by looking for a massive line. Another tip – call in your order, and you’ll skip the line! True story. But be sure to get there early for lunch, they usually run out of bread by 3pm most days, and bring cash!
Bar – Kings Hardware: If you like cheap PBR, beer pong, and lively bars, this place is for you. It’s always packed but with games and tons of great people watching, it’s a good time.
Custom Cocktails – Percy’s & Co.: This apothecary-style bar has small bites, but my favorite thing about them are their unique, extravagant cocktails. Last time I was there I had the Garfunkel, which has fresh watermelon juice, mint and lime juice, and their rosemary and thyme infused gin. They also have fun drinks such as the Sweetest Taboo, or Smooth Operator. Another thing I love about this bar is the atmosphere. Is is a modern update on a classic Ballard spade – tons of exposed brick and beams, but they use it to their advantage. They also have a covered, yet still open and airy patio which is perfect for a summer evening.
Late Night Dancing – Balmar: Balmar is one of my favorite hangouts in Ballard, as I love to dance. I’ve celebrated many birthdays here (including my own a few years ago) and I adore the atmosphere. Downstairs is smaller and meant for happy hour or more quiet gathering, while upstairs on a Friday and Saturday night is always packed. I love that the garage door-style windows open upstairs, there are two bars, and a live DJ is there on the weekend spinning. There are plenty of couches to sit on, and you can always count on a good time.
Juice Bar – Blend Organic Juicery: As much as I love to indulge, I also am a sucker for some green juice and an acai bowl as well. Blend has a wide variety of juices and smoothies, with every ingredient being organic and pure. They also have wellness shots, breakfast bowls, and even salads and quinoa.
Guilty Pleasure – Hot Cakes: If you’re looking for an instagram-worthy dessert, this is it. All of their molton chocolate cakes are organic and presented in mason jars, which is the dessert they’re most famous for, but you can also get cookies, creme brûlée, a sundae, or even butter beer. Warning: if you come here as a dessert after dinner, even though they look small they are very rich, so I recommend splitting one.
Local Brewery – Hillards: Ballard is currently small brewery central, with a new brewery seeming to open up every block, but Hillards is one of the largest and my favorite. They have a delicious variety of light and dark beers, and there is outdoor seating available where you can enjoy live music and a rotating food truck!
Coffee – Caffe Fiore: While Starbucks is available on every corner it seems like (after all, it originated here in the 206), Seattle is known for being a bit of a coffee-snob city. There are so many smaller, local coffee places to support that are organic, quirky, hipster, friendly and personal, and my favorite one is Caffe Fiore. They have a few locations throughout the city, but I love that the old Ballard one is intimate, and of course covered in brick. They also have one located near my parent’s house in Sunset Hill (about 5 minutes north of downtown Ballard) if you’re up that way too.
Shopping – Ketch: Ballard has so many boutiques, but Ketch has to be my favorite. It reminds me of something that should be in New York. It has amazing brands, such as James Pierce, J Brand, House Of Harlow, LNA, and so many more. The layout is simple but gorgeous, and easy to browse.
Supporting Local – Ballard Farmers Market: One of my favorite things to do in Seattle in general is to explore the different farmers markets (most neighborhoods have them), but Ballard is by far my market of choice. It is open year round, every Sunday from 10-3, and they have everything from fresh produce and donuts, to jewelry, fresh flowers, and live music. To see more of the Ballard Farmers Market, visit my blog post about it here.
Where else in Ballard do you love to visit, what places didn’t make my list? Let me know in the comments below! I’ll be doing several other Seattle neighborhoods coming up as well, so let me know what neighborhood you would like to see next :)Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8