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Totem House closes after 62 years in Ballard

Posted by Geeky Swedes on December 31st, 2010

Since 1948 people have been eating fish and chips at the Totem House. The restaurant, which sits just across the street from the Ballard Locks, is a yet another neighborhood victim of the economy.

Everything inside is being removed and hauled away. Chairs, the kitchen stove and even the teepee is being dismantled. The owner declined to talk with us, but the sign on the door says it all: “Goodbye friends,” the first line reads, “The economy has overtaken us. We will miss you greatly.”

Nora Charles first posted this in the forum and Cate responded, “I remember my family getting their fish and chips and sitting on the hillside above the locks eating it – must of been forty-five years ago. Hard to see something left from childhood disappear.”

Mechelle Bush has been coming to the Totem House for years. She stopped by Friday afternoon after seeing the sign on the door, not really believing that the Ballard institution has closed. “In the summer, in the winter, I’d stop by and get chowder on the way home from work. Yeah, I’m gonna miss it,” she tells us. “I feel bad for them. A lot of good memories. It’s just tragic.”

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61 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 Max // Jan 1, 2011 at 12:07 am

    To the MyBallard blogger: a “[sic]” needs to be inserted after the phrase “must of.”

  • 2 Max // Jan 1, 2011 at 12:07 am

    To the MyBallard blogger: a “[sic]” needs to be inserted after the phrase “must of.”

  • 3 yay // Jan 1, 2011 at 12:14 am

    good bye killer grease!

  • 4 Getalife // Jan 1, 2011 at 12:14 am

    no it doesn’t, spelling nazi.

  • 5 ballardissmallilikeanonymity // Jan 1, 2011 at 12:49 am

    It’s not a spelling issue. It’s the complete misuse of a word and bastardization of the intended phrase. The result is a homonymn for the intended “must have,” but it is still f%#king incorrect.

    The Swedes are welcome to cite poster Cate’s words, but the moment it rises to the level of an article, they have a responsibility not to propagate the lousy English.

    That [sic] is a levee against a rising tide of stupidity.

  • 6 Barfly // Jan 1, 2011 at 12:50 am

    You can never have enough kitsch.

  • 7 Cate // Jan 1, 2011 at 1:04 am

    I believe that was the correct use of a colloquial expression which suited the informal nature of the thread.

  • 8 Lwrseattle // Jan 1, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Apparently, I had my last fish sandwich from Totem House just yesterday; at the time I had no idea the restaurant was closing, how sad!

  • 9 Mark // Jan 1, 2011 at 1:14 am

    I used to work there back in the mid 70′s. Sorry to see it go. :(

  • 10 JustSayin' // Jan 1, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Much as respect your eye for grammatical error, Max, you’re cranking up the level of douchebaggery a bit with your ever-so-helpful editorial advice.

  • 11 Amthompson77 // Jan 1, 2011 at 2:05 am

    I am very sad to hear about Totems closing. Love the fish and chowder. Would stop in every time I went to Ballard then head to the beach and eat with the seagulls. The Ballard I grew up in is just not the same anymore. Thanks for years of good eats.

  • 12 Ufo // Jan 1, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Why do some people waste so much time and effort on picking on each others grammer? who cares ? it just makes you sound like an ass. If you have that much extra time, volunteer someplace and think of someone else for a change.
    Happy New Year!

  • 13 Shenandoah575 // Jan 1, 2011 at 2:34 am

    defend it as you may, it’s incorrect.

    just like “cardamon”

  • 14 BallardBasement // Jan 1, 2011 at 3:59 am

    G’bye Totem House. Never ate there after an employee of ours told us that, as a new worker there, it was “de rigueur” to pee in the chowder. Ick.

  • 15 don // Jan 1, 2011 at 4:06 am

    Yea, I used to tell my teacher in school, “Why are you picking on my grammar, it just makes you look like an ass?”

  • 16 Fishstick // Jan 1, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Come on man, really?!

  • 17 reasonable debate // Jan 1, 2011 at 4:42 am

    Perhaps it was a peevish post, but the point is valid. Nobody likes to have their grammar corrected, and in perhaps it is inappropriate a forum. Nevertheless, if blogs like this aspire to journalistic credibility, then they must adhere to proper editing standards in their articles. Clarity and proper grammar are part of these standards.

  • 18 Foghorn Leghorn // Jan 1, 2011 at 5:22 am

    So does MyBallard use the MLA or the APA? Commence bickering … now.

  • 19 SPG // Jan 1, 2011 at 5:55 am

    I won’t pick on your “grammer”, but I will pick on your spelling. The correct spelling is grammar.
    You may think that picking on spelling and grammar makes the picker sound like an ass, but the pickee sounds like an uneducated halfwit when they misspell or misuse common words. We’re not even talking about advancced grammar principles or splitting hairs, but basic mistakes that people should be embarrassed to write. “should of” instead of “should’ve” or “should have” is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.
    The other telltale signs of someone who didn’t care enough to learn, or now doesn’t care enough to even bother to not look stupid are the misuse of to, too, and two, using there no matter if they’re or their is called for.

  • 20 TartarTart // Jan 1, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I’m sorry that their food wasn’t good enough for me to have eaten there more often, but it just wasn’t. The chowder tasted of flour and clam base, with only an air-blessing of cream. Even so, I’m sorry to hear that another Ballard business has closed. Perhaps another fish and chips restaurant will open in its place? The Lockspot used to be good, but has really slipped over the last several years. Ballard could really used a decent purveyor of fried fish, and maybe we’ll get one now.

  • 21 leafdrop // Jan 1, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Your spelling conflicts are boring …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Happy new year!!!!

  • 22 ballardissmallilikeanonymity // Jan 1, 2011 at 11:22 am

    But thank you, Cate, for providing Shenandoah575 and I the opportunity to agree on something!

    Happy New Years merriment to all!

  • 23 ballardissmallilikeanonymity // Jan 1, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Correcting my own…

    “Happy New Year’s merriment to all!”

  • 24 Buck Futz // Jan 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Upon reading most comments I have come to the conclusion most people are bleeps. Seattle has become SNARK central. The story could be about free gold and within the 3rd comment we’re talking about spelling and who’s an ass. This is why I give up trying to inform the “experts” on everything that permeate this once fair region. Totem house closed? Simple. More Obamanonics.

  • 25 Oldskool // Jan 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Nooooooooooooooooooooooo0000000000000 :(

  • 26 Oldskool // Jan 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    “Please don’t feed the Ballard eagles” – they were always friendly, loved the salmon and oyster baskets. So sorry to see this go! It was always busy, so this is a surprise. Great place to take relatives who are visiting from out-of-town on a sunny day, on the way to or from the Locks.

  • 27 eric // Jan 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    …yawn

  • 28 Judi // Jan 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Larry and I had first date and others here. Whenever we were in Ballard we would stop and get Fish and Chips and drive down to the boat launch at the Gardens. We are going to miss the Totem House very much. So Sad.

  • 29 Pdaddymom // Jan 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    you are incorrect, both cardamon and cardamom are correct.

  • 30 aokeye // Jan 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Sorry to see this close. Might be a great location for Paseo!

  • 31 Ksoth // Jan 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    The Totem House is closing and what do most of the comments address? Each other, not mentioning the closure! Maybe the nit pickers should just correspond with each other via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook unless the choose to write a comment on the topic!

  • 32 Mallard // Jan 1, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    You can move along now.

  • 33 ballardissmallilikeanonymity // Jan 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Double-correcting my own…

    “Shenandoah575 and me…”

  • 34 ballardissmallilikeanonymity // Jan 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Not in English, they aren’t.

  • 35 JustSayin' // Jan 1, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Whether or not the author of the article “aspires to journalistic credibility” is anyone’s guess. Perhaps his or her intent is merely to convey news of the neighborhood.

    In any case, the issue at play in Max’s “point” is not to correct the author’s grammar, but to take Geeky Swedes to task for not editorially correcting (via the inclusion of “[sic]“) the grammar of a person whose written comment was being quoted. Is the “journalistic credibility” of Geeky Swedes somehow enhanced by his or her noting that the written material quoted included a grammatical error? In my opinion, not significantly, but I suppose it’s debatable.

    (Then again, it’s making an assumption to suggest that Max’s motive for the “correction” was to assist the blog in achieving journalistic credibility, isn’t it?)

  • 36 JustSayin' // Jan 1, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Maybe the Totem House’s problem wasn’t merely “the economy”: maybe it was also changing demographics and tastes in Ballard. (I put “the economy” between quotation marks because there are a variety of economic circumstances which could hurt a place such as the Totem House, and not all of them are in the category of economic downturn.)

  • 37 Stewartpepin // Jan 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    I worked at the totem House when I was 16, 1966. The food was of the best quality and a great place to eat. How sad it is gone. C.Stewart

  • 38 Cheekyamericans // Jan 2, 2011 at 2:03 am

    Noooo! So sad to see this place go! It was perfect to get a quick snack for picnics at the Locks.

  • 39 SPG // Jan 2, 2011 at 2:18 am

    …fart

  • 40 Back Fatz // Jan 2, 2011 at 2:20 am

    How the buck is this Obama’s fault? You sir are the bleep.

  • 41 Skoffth // Jan 2, 2011 at 2:23 am

    The people who really miss the Totem House are already communicating this through smoke signals. The rest of us are left to our comments, facebooks, twitters, emails, and texts.

  • 42 ballardissmallilikeanonymity // Jan 2, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Mea culpa for complaining about Cate’s linguistic atrocity and the Swedes’ failure to catch it, but not getting around to mentioning that I quite liked the Totem House the times I ate there.

    “The economy has overtaken us” is also a lovely and elegantly phrased spin on a sad turn of events. I wish them luck and future success in whatever form it arrives!

  • 43 Cate // Jan 2, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Atrocity? The Killing Fields were an atrocity. I merely used a common colloquialism in an informal chatroom. Get over yourself.

  • 44 maggiehood // Jan 2, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    You read my mind. Can you imagine how much MORE business Paseo would do if it moved there? Most out-of-townies don’t realize there is a great marina/beach park beyond the Locks so they stay there. Cha-ching. Paseo, you should do this!!! If you don’t–gosh, if I had the $, I would open up a killer place, affordable, delish sandwiches & soups, picnic items, beer/wine, brownies, coconut cake, hand pies, “damn fine cup of coffee,” etc.

  • 45 Shenandoah575 // Jan 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    but lets try Greek!

  • 46 Shenandoah575 // Jan 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    “Whether or not the author of the article “aspires to journalistic credibility” is anyone’s guess. Perhaps his or her intent is merely to convey news of the neighborhood..”

    Perhaps they should stop accepting journalism awards if this is the case.

  • 47 Shenandoah575 // Jan 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    for the record, the word “snark” is soo 5 years ago.

  • 48 Shenandoah575 // Jan 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    and what did you just do? you nit picked and whined about others!

  • 49 Shenandoah575 // Jan 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    oh come on cate. Ballardissmallilikeanonymity is a “hero!”

    it appears we all get to decide what words mean, huh?

  • 50 Anonymous // Jan 3, 2011 at 1:18 am

    It will be missed by me. So much is going, the Uptown Theater, the Neptune, now Totem House, are all the kinds of things I like about Seattle.

  • 51 JustSayin' // Jan 3, 2011 at 2:45 am

    If they’ve been offered and have accepted journalism awards from someone, that would be evidence of the awarder’s considering the blog to represent some sort of excellence and not of the blog’s “aspiring to journalistic credibility.”

  • 52 ballardbeaver96 // Jan 3, 2011 at 5:51 am

    The Totem House has not been good for twenty years. I don’t know what everyone is so upset about, the food was garbage and the prices were to high. Adios I say.
    I had a friend who worked at the Totem House in the 90′s. I once asked him what he did there, his reply was “mostly I kill rats”.

  • 53 ballardissmallilikeanonymity // Jan 3, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Well, yes… I indulged in a bit of winking hyperbole there. Honestly, Cate, I meant no offense to you, personally.

    But I did mean offense to your dug-in heels. Seattle has a very real problem of deeming all views “equally valid” even when one is demonstrably wrong. “Must of” is not equal. It’s wrong. Period.

    I drew the line.

  • 54 reasonable debate // Jan 3, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    I tried making this post before, but I guess the inclusion of a web address prohibited it from going through.

    To be clear, I was talking about the Geeky Swedes article about the Totem House. I don’t care about a grammatical error in a forum. I would image a forum post for a blogger is like an interview for a print journalist. The interviewee may make a grammatical error, but so what? They are in the moment and not bound by editorial review. The paper is bound by such concerns. This is the great thing about “[sic].” It captures both the speaker’s content and intent, thus advancing journalistic concerns for accuracy and clarity.

    As for MyBallard seeing itself as a journalism source, I think it certainly does. The post that didn’t make it included a link to a forum at UW where one of the Swedes was talking about blogs’ role in a new journalistic environment. Also, one rarely wins a journalism award without sending in a submission.

  • 55 Anonymous // Jan 4, 2011 at 12:33 am

    …and the Totem House is soooo last year.

  • 56 Chris Zimmerman // Jan 5, 2011 at 4:02 am

    haha i love reading these comments! do you have nothing better to do than correct spelling on a neighborhood blog?

  • 57 JustSayin' // Jan 5, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I understand the value and point of the “[sic].” What I don’t agree with is the notion that not including it somehow damages the blog’s “journalistic credibility.” What purpose does the notation serve? All it would do in this instance is to indicate that the grammatical error is not the author’s, but that of the person being quoted.

    Was there actually an “interviewee” or was Geeky Swedes quoting a post? (I had the impression that it was the latter, because if it were a transcrption of an oral statement, “must’ve” and “must of” would likely be homophonous.) Does “journalistic credibility” mean accurately conveying information, or adhering absolutely to the standards of the editorial stylebook? One could make the case that including “[sic]” (especially in instances such as thisone in which it does nothing to enhance clarity) potentially functions to discourage contributions from readers, which perhaps is at cross-purposes with the blog’s goals.

  • 58 Jkochoff // Jan 16, 2011 at 5:46 am

    The Totem had simply the best ‘Fish & Chips’ in all of Seattle. I’m so sad to see it gone! Just a reminder that time changes things… JoAnn Mydske Kochoff

  • 59 Elemental // Jan 31, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Oddly enough, I had no idea this place had closed. It “must of” been while I was trying to find a decent meal of fried goodness, because when I gave up THAT pointless search and returned to the Totem House, I was SOL.

    Whether it was to my taste or not, it is always sad to see such a long-standing business close. Most restaurants don’t make it 5 years, let alone 64.

    I love the idea of Red Mill Burgers going into that location.

  • 60 Elemental // Jan 31, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    or 62…or whatever 2010 minus 1948 is equal to…

  • 61 pepper03 // Jun 8, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I can’t believe the Totem House is closed. I come once a year from Georgia just to eat the fish. It is always my first stop coming from the airport. I was going to stop tonight and pick up fish and googled to see what time it closed. I never thought it would really be “closed” for good. I will miss it terribly! Georgia resident

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