The Best Restaurants In Ballard guide image

photo credit: Rafael Soldi

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The Best Restaurants In Ballard

There’s a lot going on in Ballard—we’ll help you navigate. Here are the best Ballard restaurants.

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 of crates and shipping equipment, 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. So we’ve put together a guide to our favorite places to eat here.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Nate Watters

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9.0

The Walrus And The Carpenter

$$$$

4743 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle
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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).

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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, go to their Tuesday/Wednesday wine bar nights, 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, chic 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.

“Easy group meal” and “Ballard” don’t exactly mix—it's often pretty tough to grab a last-minute reservation in the neighborhood. The exception is Wero. This comfortable Korean spot specializes in ssam platters for two and cocktails featuring ingredients like matcha or sesame oil-washed Indian whiskey, and you can easily book a big booth for a group of six with as little notice as a few hours, even on weekends. With a menu full of shareable appetizers like butter-roasted potatoes, crunchy gochujang-slicked wings, and crackly rice cakes skewered with mini sausages, you could definitely pop in for drinks, but we urge you to go for the fried tofu ssam, which is even meatier and more flavorful than their similar kalbi steak option. Wero works equally as well if you’re solo too, as the bar is a great place to order a soju soda and mung bean kimchi pancake while you hang with a laptop and send some emails.


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8.0

San Fermo

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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.


There are so many Seattle bars that serve creative cocktails alongside mix-and-match small plates. Rupee Bar should be elected president of the club. Their delicious Sri Lankan and Indian bar snacks, like fried mutton rolls with creamy tomato sambol dipping sauce and the tandoor cauliflower with an eggplant puree, make this a bar where we want to have dinner. Instead of wings glistening with buffalo sauce, you can have naan glistening with ghee. The drinks stand out on their own, too, from the roasted banana rum cocktail to the coconut Old Fashioned.

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, an American restaurant in Ballard, 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. This sandwich joint f*cking rocks. 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, the fried chicken sandwich with buffalo mayo and calabrian chile relish, or a steak tartare club. 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.


Some of Seattle’s best barbecue can be found inside a room with logs of firewood stacked on shelves and a chain-link fence dangling from the ceiling. Bitterroot is perfect for when you need some smoked brisket in your evening, but maybe you’re on a date, and want to keep things a bit more upscale or you don’t feel like sharing a paper towel-lined picnic table with a family and their screaming children. Always start with the jalapeño hushpuppies (covered with mustard sauce), make sure some hot links hit the table, and note that the mac and cheese could probably serve four humans.


Spice Waala is a great 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 great food that makes up for the fact that the chips aren’t fresh. We're fans of their tacos in particular, with fillings like beer-battered cod or lamb barbacoa, but the enchiladas suizas are a hit if you need a more substantial entree and the combination of chicken and tomatillo sounds good to you. The space works well for a first date, group dinner, or even a solo Flamin' Hot Cheetos-infused mezcal cocktail at the bar. Yes, they do that here.


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.


Cycle Dogs serves delicious fast food like double smashburgers, Nashville-style hot chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs loaded with toppings like charred corn and lime or cream cheese and grilled onions—only completely vegan. And even if you're not exclusively consuming plants, these meatless fast food items are just as satisfying as a trip to Burgermaster. Make sure to get a side of crispy fries with hangry sauce.

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