We come bearing both joyous and bummer news. First, the sadness: Old Ballard Liquor Company, a bedrock of the neighborhood’s Scandinavian heritage, poured its last aquavit at a raucous goodbye party on February 17. The Ballard distillery-turned-restaurant is officially no more. But nordiphile revelers need not despair for long. We bear good tidings too: Skål, a cavernous new Viking-themed beer hall we’ve been expecting for more than a year, is getting ready to open soon in its Ballard Avenue locale. (They estimate opening at the end of March.)
Skål's Adam McQueen had teamed up with Old Ballard Liquor Company founder, who simply goes by Lexi, since the beginning. That at least, in this dining landscape of delayed permits and distillery closures, had always been the plan. While McQueen, a longtime beer industry vet, handles all things ale, Lexi will still spearhead the beer hall's game meat-centric menu (expect goose, mutton, goat, and reindeer—mostly on a stick). The small bits are intended to complement more than 20 local and imported beers on tap, plus a menu of aquavit-based cocktails and mead, which will be served in miniature Viking horns—try ordering that without smiling.
From the food, Lexi says to expect the sort of fare one might find from a Viking butcher. A glass case placed to face the doors will greet guests with a display of around 30 skewer and sausage options (the latter made by Ballard institution Scandinavian Specialties). An open kitchen will display a rotisserie spinning rabbit that is stuffed with smoked barley and glazed with malt syrup.
“This is not hundred-year-old Scandinavian food,” Lexi says. Read: The chef does not take meatball and pancake requests. “What we’re trying to do is reach back a little bit farther than a hundred years, more like a thousand years, and think of what kinds of ingredients and what kinds of techniques would have been available and popular to the people living in Scandinavia at that time, and then try to prepare those in a way that’s exciting and interesting.”
Everything will be sold a la carte in small bites (to complement an evening of beer drinking). Everything, that is, except for the rabbit, which diners should order ahead of time (Peking duck style) and come very, very hungry for.
Diners can find more than Lexi’s food at Skål. While stores last, Old Ballard’s herbaceous aquavit will be available for those thirsty for a final taste of the locally made Scandinavian liquor. Once doors finally open this spring, McQueen says, you won’t want to wait more than six months to snag the remaining aquavit—Lexi only made so much.