Exciting news for anyone who might be mourning the loss of the Ballard Azteca: The space on Market Street is still serving tacos. Only now they're puffy and dispatched out of a white-tiled takeaway window. Inside the brick building lurks an incredibly promising cocktail bar. Both are set to open this week.
Let me back up. Zach Harjo—the guy behind the excellent Ocho next door—and Keith Bartoloni and Andrew Church, of the equally excellent Hazlewood just two doors down, are getting ready to open Hotel Albatross in the building that spent 40 years as an Azteca.
At its core, Hotel Albatross serves "exotic drinks." Harjo avoids using the term "tiki bar," even though most libations will be classics from famed tiki haunts like Don the Beachcomber and the original Trader Vic's. Throw the term "tiki" into the conversation and people might expect kitsch by the light of bamboo torches.
"When tiki started in 1934, it was the hippest, sexiest thing that was happening," says Harjo. This new place, he says, will feel as chic as the tiki trend did in Hollywood's golden age, and its drinks will be complex and herbacious, not pinapple-drenched sugar bombs. A smaller bar in front will have a European cafe vibe and its own menu, and let's not forget the giant patio out front.
To go with those exotic drinks, Harjo promises a "fairly ambitious" food menu, full of big flavors and spice to play off the cocktails. "Street food is the unifying theme," he says, but Harjo doesn't want to divulge specifics just yet. So let's turn our attention to the takeout window, dubbed Sexy Alley Puffy Tacos. Harjo, Church, and Bartoloni converted a streetside window near the adjacent alley to a counter serving its own lineup of street-style fare to patrons in the actual street.
Hours are still in flux, but Harjo wants the window to be open super late, which seems logical for this corner of Ballard. Below is a glimpse of the soft opening menu, heavy on Mexican influences, with a few side trips to Korea, the American south, and, uh, the hallowed birthplace of totchos. The Hotel Albatross website isn't live yet, but both spaces should be open by Thursday.