A warm summer evening made heading down the hill to Ballard an appealing option. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk to the heart of this area that sits between our Phinney Ridge neighborhood and Puget Sound. Tree-lined residential streets morph into a busier commercial district sporting a restaurant in every other storefront.
On a quest to explore unchartered territory, we headed to Old Ballard Avenue where there’s always a new restaurant. We considered a few on our way toward the end of the road to see if we could get into one of two places that have been open for about two years, but which we hadn’t visited: The Walrus and The Carpenter and Staple & Fancy Mercantile. The former doesn’t take reservations and there was a half-hour wait; we were hungry and parched, so we sat ourselves at Staple & Fancy’s bar (they do take reservations and their dinner tables were awaiting those who had planned ahead).
Mike quizzed the bartender about her most common cocktail requests as of late, and ended up ordering an “old pal,” their spin on a Manhattan. I tried a dry rosé, which went well with the two small plates we shared: fresh figs with arugula, shaved pecorino toscano, and Italian chestnut honey; and the seared scallops with seabeans, beets, and chive aioli. As a rule I don’t stalk famous local chefs, but Ethan Stowell happens to be a favorite (we like his place, How to Cook a Wolf, on Queen Anne). So, we expected to like Staple & Fancy. We did.
But we had places to go, even if we didn’t know where yet. Didn’t have to go far – we popped into Dutch Bike Co. right next door. Yes, it’s a bike shop and a café, serving coffee and baked goods. And beer. And wine. Believe it or not, we took a coffee break. Very, very good coffee – best in Seattle by some standards. My Americano with a little cream complemented my half of the salted chocolate chip cookie that begged us to buy it.
Coffee break over, we got serious and found McCleod’s Scottish Pub a few blocks back toward Market Street. The huge selection of Scotches, organized by place of origin, almost requires you to try one. Mike asked for the smoothest one for me, while he got something more peaty (that’s Scotch-talk for “tastes like peat”). An order of haggis crisps found its way to our table, and we sat back to watch a woman try to hook a metal ring by swinging it from a string (you gotta see it to believe that it can be slightly entertaining). This was another place we could’ve hung out longer – if only to peruse the long menu of whiskey cocktails, beers, and Scottish flavors.
Our final stop was a place we’ve hit several times and will again and again: Paratii, a craft bar with tasty Brazilian-influenced appetizers and dinners. Michael the bartender always enlightens us with his knowledge of cocktails, modern and ancient. This time I tried and loved the London Sunrise: Cumari pepper infused gin, lime juice, and tonic water. Definitely kicky. I forget what Mike had, but by then it was time to head home. Good thing we were walking, not driving.