Neighborhood Bar Crawls: Ballard

Drink your way through Seattle’s best bars.

By Clancey Denis and Rachel Sturtz February 18, 2011 Published in the March 2011 issue of Seattle Met

Tiny tapas joint Ocho is seasoned perfectly with spicy Spanish flair—which imbues its drinks (three kinds of sangrias), its food (gambas al ajillo, patatas bravas), and its romantic ambience (candles, tight spaces). Stock up on items from the $2 happy hour tapas rotating menu in preparation for the long night of drinking ahead.

With enough flannel to outfit a couple of Fleet Foxes cover bands, modern speakeasy Hazlewood, just a few doors down from Ocho, comes with a loftlike sitting area for peering down on newcomers as they order up old-school libations.

Next it’s over to Ballard Ave where slightly more beers than unkempt beards fill King’s Hardware. Ironic, considering the trims available at Rudy’s barbershop next door. Take your pint outdoors or cram inside and queue up for Skee-Ball.

Down the street, outdoor lovers find a home among the hiking guides and impressive selection of craft beers and ciders at the minimalist retreat called The Noble Fir. Oversize windows offer prime people watching, and every Wednesday your buzz gives back: after happy hour ends, $1 from every pint goes toward Seattle parks.

Hattie’s Hat, that worn-in, Old Ballard standby is as dark as it is divey, but that’s part of its no-frills charm: regulars up front and hipsters in the back. Sing along with the crowd or enjoy your stiff drink in solitude at the bar.

It’s quite a different scene at Bastille, where an opulent light fixture hovers over bespectacled fashionistas and proudly bejerseyed Seahawks fans, all crowding into the back bar.

Tucked behind Ethan Stowell’s newest restaurant, The Walrus and The Carpenter bar is popular with high-fashioned foodies who like to slurp cocktails infused with elderflower liqueur.

Head back up towards Market Street but before leaving Ballard Ave, stop in for an easygoing stint at Ballard Loft. Groups of friends show up for the beer and upscale pub grub, but most stay to watch big games, play pool, shoot darts, shoot deer (Big Buck Hunter), tee off (Golden Tee), or drink al fresco on the patio.

Back on Market, revelers of all ages find room for their crew at La Isla, a Puerto Rican eatery accented in the turquoise and orange you expect from a Caribbean spot and a play list you expect from KEXP. What else you can expect: tall mojitos and a very fun night.

A Viking ship hull serves as a bar Copper Gate Tavern; vintage nudie pics wallpaper the sails. In the back room, burlesque-esque shows and aquavit make for a sinfully good time. Early birds take note: Happy hour here is generous, but can be lonesome.

NEXT: Fremont and Wallingford

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