The Best Bars In Ballard guide image


The Best Bars In Ballard

Ballard is known for its breweries, but there’s plenty to drink here in addition to beer. Here are the best bars in the area.

Ballard might be the best neighborhood in Seattle to drink. There are more breweries than any other area in the city, late-night food options are seemingly endless for when you can’t fit any more alcohol in you, and the whole neighborhood is flat. That last one seems unimportant, but trust us—when you’re a few flights deep, you’ll appreciate it. Whether you’re planning a birthday bar crawl or a low-key seventh date, there’s a drinking spot for every situation in Ballard.

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

The Spots


This is the sister bar to The Walrus and the Carpenter, and while we usually find ourselves sipping a drink here while waiting for a table next door, Barnacle is worth a trip on its own—and dare we say, it's even more fun when you make it your primary destination. They serve snacks like cured meats and cheeses, so it’s a good go-to for drinks and a light bite with someone you’d probably want a second date with.

It’s hard to choose a better spot for an energy-packed night out in the neighborhood than Bar Sabine. The cocktails are complicated and well-balanced, featuring fun ingredients like sandalwood, rhubarb Aperol, pistachio, strawberry red wine foam, and glitter. The space is fun too—their patio is an entire alleyway complete with a bunch of tables, space heaters in case the temperature drops, and a floral wall mural. Inside, there are massive paintings and chandeliers juxtaposed with the occasional disco ball, and it matches the serious-yet-fun nature of the cocktails really well. Sit out here with some tasty Mediterranean mezze, like smoked eggplant dip with homemade spiced potato chips, and appreciate your drink’s perfectly square ice cubes and rim of togarashi salt. 

Baker’s is a nice neighborhood bar in Sunset Hill where you should go if you want to impress a date. They have a cozy L-shaped marble counter and a friendly staff considering how busy it gets. You might have to cram in a random corner or listen to the conversations of six different people around you, but coming here makes for a lively night out. We’re big fans of their cocktails, which range from a classic painkiller to a gin and tonic with rose petal-infused liquor.

Sometimes you get stir-crazy after bouncing around the same breweries in Ballard. Cool off at Trailbend Taproom. It’s in the middle of the brewery district, but it isn’t a brewery—they just serve beer, with tap options coming from everywhere from Belgium to Bellingham. And if you’re really just sick of beer, maybe a taproom wasn’t the right plan of attack for you, but an Aperol spritz or some spiked coldbrew aren’t bad ideas. Neither is a ricotta garlic bread boat.

Essex is a dark and romantic little spot that you visit when you’re serious about cocktails, and you want the person you’re with to know it. The drinks here have ingredients you might not have at home, like Becherovka or artichoke liqueur. There’s also the option to get wasted on some delicious wood-fired vegetables and call it a night.

It feels good to be surrounded by like-minded people. It’s why Sakura-Con, dog parks, and theatre camp exist. At Pie Bar, you’re in a room full of people who like to eat pie. This place serves sweet slices like cookies and cream and key lime, as well as savories like steak or chicken pot. In addition to all of the pie, there’s a full bar where you can find classic drinks, plus a bunch of “pie-tinis” which, despite sounding like a corn syrup-infused gimmick, are actually good.

Usually, day drinking is way more fun when the weather isn’t awful, but if it’s pouring out, The Noble Fir is where you should be. You could probably uproot it from Ballard, leave it in an evergreen forest, and no one would notice the difference. The large selection of beer, cider, and charcuterie makes it easy to settle in, and the large selection of books in the reading nook makes it hard to leave.

King’s Hardware is an extremely lively and very dimly-lit bar in Ballard with taxidermy, huge baskets of onion rings, a solid burger, rotating alcoholic slushies (hope for watermelon vodka or mango lemonade), and two skeeball machines. On weekends, it’s packed with just the right amount of people so that you’re not hearing crickets or feeling like a ball in a ball pit.

Percy’s & Co. feels like that one friend you have who’s a little too much into LARP-ing successfully renovated a vintage brick building to look like an old-timey apothecary. There are plants sprouting out of test tubes secured by clamps, old tchotchkes you’d find on a deteriorating sunken ship, and cocktails that sound like chemistry experiments and have ingredients like sage-infused bourbon and benedictine. Hang out on the back covered patio, order anything off of the Southern-style menu like fried pickles with remoulade or chicken fingers coated in a cola glaze, and smile and nod when the same friend brings up the renaissance fair again.

If you’re considering a trip to Scotland, but spent all your money on plaid kilts and DVD copies of Shrek instead of a plane ticket, go to Macleod’s Fish & Chips. The inside feels thoroughly British, right down to the puffy fried fish and perfectly thick fries. That, and the big list of scotch makes for an ideal final stop on your Ballard bar crawl.

The Sunset is a music venue that hosts mostly local artists, but we’re here to talk about the front bar area, which goes by “Betty’s Room.” Even though lamps are blaring and guitars are screeching next door, Betty’s Room is a calm dive to grab a few beers or well drinks with friends. The whole space is decorated with vintage board games and red lighting, and the best part is that your eardrums will be safe.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

photo credit: Chona Kasinger

The Best Bars In Ballard guide image