There’s a reason why comfort food isn’t called “emotionally average food.” It’s your go-to in times of extreme need, like when you catch your wife embezzling her company’s money to buy an expensive tropical fish for her aquarium, or (more realistically) eat one too many weed gummies. In these moments, chances are you probably end up at the ramen spot on the corner or the pizza place across the street. But comfort food shouldn’t just be eaten while you’re in crisis mode. Sawyer, an upscale sawmill-turned-restaurant in Ballard, is perfect for when you want to go out to a nice dinner, but you’d also like some nachos.
On first glance, Sawyer’s menu has a lot of things you could get anywhere. But here, the nachos are topped with braised oxtail and the incredible burger involves a minty special sauce. After one bite of the DIY porchetta naan wrap with chimichurri here, your standby fried chicken and beer cheese from the pub downstairs won’t seem so warm and fuzzy anymore. The food is familiar but special - like the bone marrow-infused matzoh ball pho. And while this haphazard combination of dishes might sound like a trainwreck or an edible version of The Avengers, it also allows you to try a little of everything (unlike at your usual burger, pizza, or nacho spot).
photo credit: Nate Watters
The space is part industrial warehouse and part HGTV “after” photo, which is convenient for when you need to convince a client to sponsor your company’s annual lip sync battle or celebrate an anniversary. Whoever you bring here will be so content with the well-designed interior that they won’t notice that the sleeves of your finest blazer are rolled up to the elbows while you tear into the wild boar ribs slathered in mustard sauce. Sawyer offers a different kind of comfort that, ironically, warrants those nice shoes that hurt like hell.
So go ahead, have your birthday dinner sipping bourbon cocktails in the elegant space with a mouth full of ’nduja cheesy bread. Host a coworker Happy Hour over champagne and peanut butter s’mores choco tacos. If you’re anything like us, you’ll find that a meal at Sawyer is sophisticated, fun, and pretty dang smart. We’d leave the house with a felon or bad case of cottonmouth for that.
If you’re looking for a light start to the meal, the artichokes have a nice char and are topped with parmesan and hazelnuts, alongside a tangy remoulade for dipping. It’s great.
These are not your average Colby jack-covered nachos. They’re tossed buffalo wing-style with incredible braised oxtail, a tasty red sauce, and cotija cheese, plus a few fresher things.
Bone Marrow Matzo Ball
This pho is kind of a miss here. It’s difficult to share, and the broth tastes like a sour lime Warhead. The matzo balls, however, are some of the best we’ve had in this city, so it’s a shame that we can’t justify ordering them again.
Wild Boar Ribs
Don’t let the cuteness of a tiny little boar rib distract you - this dish is an excellent pile of tender meat that comes with a mustard-y BBQ sauce, and mini corn muffins that we could eat by the dozen.
Normally we’d be kind of mad at this thing because it shares a name with the secret menu burger at In-N-Out, but doesn’t contain cheese. But, it’s so good that it could be called “The Deborah Burger” and we wouldn’t even care who Deb is. It’s a very delicious double wagyu patty with caramelized onion and special sauce on a perfectly squishy bun. It’s acceptable to cut in pieces and share as an appetizer for the table, or to not cut at all and eat the whole thing yourself.
Behold, the entree you’re definitely ordering. It comes with two (very thick) fried slices of porchetta, a bunch of accoutrements, and homemade “naan” that really just tastes like a fluffy croissant in bread form. A DIY wrap with every element on this plate is the best bite of food in the house.
This is 100% not like those ice cream pops at Dairy Queen. It’s a chocolate covered cookie dough semifreddo on a stick served on top of a big glob of more cookie dough, just for fun. Don’t leave without one.
Do you really need someone to tell you to order the s’mores choco tacos with graham cracker waffle cone shell, peanut butter ice cream, and torched meringue?