The Best Restaurants In Ballard

There’s a lot going on in Ballard—we’ll help you navigate the neighborhood.
The Best Restaurants In Ballard image

photo credit: Nate Watters

Much like rainbow coffee drinks or a teenager full of secrets, there’s a lot going on in Ballard. Some of this neighborhood is purely residential, some is an industrial wasteland, and some belongs to the locks that let boats through as tourists watch in pure awe, because they came all the way from Cincinnati and that’s all these locks do?

The center of Ballard is where all of the action happens (with a few other spots sprinkled throughout the neighborhood), and it’s a great place for restaurants—but only if you know where to go. These are our favorites.

Looking for Ballard bars? We have a guide for that. Ballard breweries? We have a guide for that, too.


photo credit: Nate Watters



$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good WineEating At The BarFirst/Early in the Game DatesImpressing Out of TownersSpecial OccasionsWalk-Ins
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You can’t call yourself a Seattleite unless you’ve chased down some raw oysters with bubbly wine at The Walrus and The Carpenter at 4pm on a Saturday. It’s the perfect power move for a casual date, or impressing out-of-town friends. Grab a seat at the marble bar overlooking the oysters waiting their turn to be shucked and share some of the best small plates in the city. If raw bivalves aren't your thing, we can also vouch for the delicate cornmeal-dredged ones dipped in an excellent cilantro aioli, and an amaro spritz at Barnacle next door is mandatory with every visit.

You might be familiar with Paseo, which means you might be familiar with the story of how a family-owned sandwich empire was bought by an investor at an auction, and never was the same. Un Bien is the sandwich shop run by the family who started Paseo. It’s an exact replica of the original Caribbean menu, and after one bite, you’ll realize you never need to eat at Paseo again. Truth hurts. Get the roast pork sandwich, fire-roasted corn if it's in season, and don’t wear a shirt that you care deeply about, because you may spill on it (this food is worth every OxiClean spot treatment).

photo credit: Nate Watters



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Turns out that one of the best restaurants in town is located inside a Ballard butcher shop after hours. You can experience Beast & Cleaver a few ways: buy some chops or links to cook at home, grab a masterpiece sandwich on Thursdays or Fridays at lunchtime, or attend a tasting menu dinner under their alter ego “The Peasant.” No matter when you show up, the steaks, burgers, homemade sausages, and surprisingly, the salads at this meat-focused operation are outstanding, and the wine list is excellent, too.

Even if you just popped in this pizzeria for a glass of Austrian natural bubbles and small plates like burrata in a pesto pool served with flatbread shards or the mountainous romaine-based Jersey Salad with shaved carrots and really good croutons, that’d be enough to have a satisfying meal. But you should prioritize the charred pies topped with things like hot salami, caramelized Walla Walla sweet onions, kalamata olives, and summer corn. The space is also an exciting, minimalist hangout perfect for anything from a date to a family dinner, powered by tea candles and good smells coming from the wood oven.

If you know someone who irons their jeans, you should take them to Copine. It's a minimally-designed, special occasion spot where each dish is more elegant than the last and the service is as incredibly warm as their f*cking phenomenal thyme brioche roll. And while you could make a reservation for the $120-per-person tasting menu, featuring dishes like risotto with bergamot mousseline or grilled bavette with smoked potato croquettes, we might like their Sunday-only takeout dinners even better. In particular, do not miss their rosemary-scented buttermilk fried chicken—it doesn't make an appearance often, but when it does, you'll want it.

We didn’t think empanadas in Seattle could make us feel like the protagonist in a romance novel, until we cracked open the ones at Maria Luisa. These tender little pastries are filled with a wide variety of meats, cheeses, and/or vegetables—prioritize creamy spinach or just-oily-enough chorizo—served with zesty chimichurri we’d like have handy at all times in packet form. Takeout is easy (even if you need to feed a big family) and their garage-like space has high-top tables that should work well for quick dine-in lunches. Make sure to try the chocolate alfajores sandwiching dulce de leche for dessert.

photo credit: Nate Watters

If you find yourself craving savory things while everyone else in your brunch group is knee-deep in a stack of pancakes, head to El Moose. This Mexican restaurant in Ballard serves great food all day, but their brunch is the star of the show. Floral oilcloths and papel picado brighten the space, while café de olla—an earthy spiced coffee served in clay mugs—livens up the out-late-last-night crowd. Order the alambres, a hot plate of shredded beef, spicy chorizo, and grilled poblano peppers and onions, topped with slices of cheese that melt on contact. Add a fried egg on top to appease the brunch gods, and swaddle it all inside tortillas. And while the horchata latte refills and warm energy may make you feel like the only customer in the entire city, they do get busy, so arrive early.

San Fermo is a romantic little white house with some of the best Italian food in Ballard and the charm of an indie rom-com scene. When it’s cold, get a bowl of steamy carbonara and a brown liquor cocktail, and when it’s warm, sip glasses of wine on the porch while snacking on farinata. No matter what season you’re in, make San Fermo your date night or special occasion secret weapon.

Seattle doesn’t have too many weekday breakfast places that’ll also work well to impress an out-of-towner or a date, but that’s where Sabine comes in. This counter-service operation serves things like avocado toast, griddled pastrami egg sandwiches, shakshuka, and apple butter oat pancakes with hazelnut dukkah. As for drinks, they range from fresh-pressed green juice to one of the best espresso martinis in town. It’s all done in a bright and airy space complete with a covered patio, high-end pantry staples for sale, and a surplus of calming sky-blue paint. And yes, they’re open for weekend brunch too, but good luck getting a table.

When it comes to sit-down dinner options near Golden Gardens, your best bet is to grab a table at Sunny Hill. This bright pizza palace from the Stoneburner team serves great blistery round pies and Detroit-style squares, among other things like cheeseburgers and tasty waffle fries (that you should be dunking in their homemade black garlic ranch). But you're really here for those pan pies, complete with a chewy focaccia-like crust, edges of frizzled cheese crunch, and a consistent layer of melted mozzarella.

“Don’t fill up on the bread.” It’s a warning that’s been passed down from generation to generation, programming our brains to ignore the basket in the middle of the dinner table. But at Samara, forget all of that and just eat the damn bread. The housemade baked goods at Samara are the main event, from the potato loaf that comes with whipped pork fat to the assorted cookies you can order for dessert. Beyond just the bread service, you should get anything that comes out of their medieval-looking hearth, including grilled sausages and fish. Even though the best things here seem like simple stuff—the grilled entrees and incredible bread—Samara is a restaurant that isn’t afraid to lean into what it does well.

The logo for Mean Sandwich is a giant open mouth, and it’s an accurate representation of how we look while eating here. The space is small and has that old school deli-counter feel, but the ingredients and flavor combinations are modern—try housemade thick-sliced corned beef with mustard, pickled cabbage, and a fistful of mint, or a standout Italian sub. Everything is made from scratch, down to their bread pudding for dessert (made with day-old buns), and there’s a backyard patio for warm-weather sandwiching.

This small Lebanese restaurant is filled with fuchsia lighting, couples on dates, and excellent grilled meat. This is Cafe Munir, and it’s one of the best places in this city to eat Middle Eastern food while eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. Prepare for a substantial wait for a table, but know that it will absolutely be worth it for the steak and the chicken kabobs with garlic sauce. Don’t get us started on the garlic sauce.

This former pop-up now has a permanent home in Ballard, which means unlimited access to delicious fried drumsticks and tenders for a quick takeout lunch or casual dinner before brewery-hopping. The chicken comes in many forms—on the bone, as strips or popcorn-style bites, in a sandwich, or tossed in a poutine bowl with deeply rich, brown gravy and cheese curds that stretch to the heavens. And with a dredge that has a softer, more subtle crunch, it doesn't get in the way of what's important, which to be clear, is chicken. But really, everything here—be it the poultry in question or a sack of excellent beer-battered fries—is simply a vehicle to get jazzed up by the many homemade dipping sauces Cookie's serves, like habanero ranch, sunny sauce (think Thousand Island), honey mustard, and creamy chipotle.

Spice Waala is a great Indian lunch takeout spot that serves roti wrapped with fillings like paneer masala, chicken tikka, and ground lamb—but our favorite is the aloo patty that keeps its crisp even when rolled up with their delicious green chutney. The kathi rolls run about $7 each, and they’re big enough to keep you full for a few hours. Add some fries with the aforementioned chutney and a soft serve sundae.

The dishes at Pestle Rock come from the Isan region, so this is where you come to eat crispy marinated chicken wings coated in Thai chili, slow-cooked pork with egg noodles, crab fried rice, salmon in panang curry, and snappy links of garlicky and spicy homemade sausage. Take into account the super-friendly staff and cozy red-brick interior, and you might never order delivery Pad Thai again.

Gracia is an upscale Mexican spot with a very strong taco situation. You’ll find tasty fillings like grilled chicken, cinnamon-kicked cochinita pibil, lamb barbacoa, and a phenomenal smoked pork belly special that really just needs to be on the permanent menu at this point. The margaritas have the perfect balance of booze and additions like guava or strawberry, and we love their salsa served with thick, just-fried chips. Come here on a date, for Happy Hour, or both.

Ray’s needs no introduction, except that they have valet parking, which is pretty great. Come with people you like, sit outside and feast your eyes on the Puget Sound sunset views, pass around some fish and chips or crab cakes, and call it a day (or, technically, a dusk). For a more romantic setting and slightly better seafood, head downstairs to the boathouse portion of the restaurant.

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Suggested Reading

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Bramling Cross

Bramling Cross is an excellent gastropub in Ballard where you could take your parents or a date.

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Percy’s is a Southern bar/restaurant in Ballard with a great patio and a lot of bourbon.

Ballard Pizza Co. image

Ballard Pizza Company has some of the best New York Pizza in town, and it’s a great spot for a big group hang or casual weeknight meal.

Exterior of Mean Sandwich, with white siding, exposed brick, and a neon sign depicting an open mouth.

Mean Sandwich is a Ballard spot that serves creative stuff between bread.

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