Ballard bar named among ‘Best Bars in America’ by Esquire

There are a LOT of great Ballard bars, but Esquire magazine picked Barnacle in its list of the top 24 “Best Bars in America” in 2017. Located in Old Ballard in the Kolstrand Building, Barnacle is often a staging area for the Walrus & The Carpenter, but it’s grown into its own destination.

(Photo from

Esquire called it a “jaunty secret clubhouse” with “uniformly delicious” cocktails and a “deep, smart wine list.”

Like Walrus, Barnacle is a Renee Erickson creation. Last year Erickson won the James Beard award for best Northwest chef, and a Bon Appétit magazine article exclaimed that “Renee Erickson makes us want to move to Seattle.” Get in line.

Ballard bell rings to celebrate 97th birthday

Just after 2 p.m., the bell tower in Old Ballard chimed for one of the few times in two decades. The 1600-pound bell rang two short times to to commemorate a special occasion: the 97th birthday of Bertha Davis, a retired elementary school teacher who taught for 50 years at Ballard’s Webster School.

“It was a wonderful thing to hear the bell again,” said Bertha, surrounded by friends and family at the Ballard Landmark. Bertha and the late State Senator Ted Peterson were among a group of Ballard residents who helped bring the bell back to the neighborhood in the late 1980s. After it was vandalized a short time later, the ringing stopped. For years, Bertha has dreamed of bringing it back to the neighborhood. “That’s the spirit of Ballard,” she says.

Bertha and Ballard Historical Society have launched a fundraising campaign to install an automated mechanism that could be programmed to ring the bell at designated times — one suggestion is noon and 6 p.m. every day — as well as for special neighborhood events like Syttende Mai and Seafood Fest. “Everybody is on board to have that bell ring again,” says Peggy Sturdivant with the Ballard Historical Society. “The rallying point was, let’s do it for Bertha’s birthday! She’ll be 97 on Tuesday, so we decided, let it ring!”

Supporters have raised $18,000 and applied for a Small and Simple neighborhood grant with the city. They’re aiming to have everything in place by this summer. “It sounds great, it won’t be an annoyance,” Sturdivant says. “We think it will be a deterrent for the people who sometimes ring it after they leave bars. Automating it will prevent it from being vandalized.”

One hundred people packed into the Ballard Landmark lobby for Bertha’s birthday, eating cupcakes and singing a song for the occasion, “If I had a bell, I’d ring it on Ballard Avenue, I’d ring it every evening, all over this town…”

“Look at the all people who turned out, my goodness, I’m overwhelmed. It’s just wonderful,” Bertha says with a big grin. “Ballard’s spirit is here, we’ve got it!”

Action scenes from the Twilight Criterium races

A good crowd came down to Old Ballard Saturday evening to watch the Second Ascent Twilight Criterium — an action-packed series of bicycle races that are always a blast to watch. And photograph, too.

The races tore down Ballard and Shilshole Avenues, circling in a tight loop.

The crowd is up close and personal as the riders speed by.

How close? We could feel the breeze of the bicycles on the corners.

Like last year, there were spills to go with the thrills. Two riders took the corner too wide on Shilshole and found themselves with a nice case of road rash.

Friends of the other rider checked him over for injuries after the accident. His rear wheel had collapsed in the collision.

Some more action photos follow below. And for race results, they should be posted here in the next day or two.

Twilight ‘Crit’ to take over Old Ballard

Nearly 1,000 people are expected in Old Ballard for the Second Ascent Twilight Criterium on Saturday.

Photo from the 2009 Second Ascent Twilight Criterium.

In a criterium, cyclists race to complete the most laps in a given time. There are six different races with the first starting at 3:30 p.m. The marquee event is the men’s pro, 1 & 2 race which starts at 7:30 p.m. and lasts for 70 minutes. Cyclists in the last race can go speeds of 35 miles per hour on the four-corner course.

Photo from the 2009 Second Ascent Twilight Criterium.

These following streets will be closed from 2:30 to 9 p.m.:

  • Ballard Ave will be closed from Dock St. to Vernon Place.
  • Vernon Place will be closed from Ballard Ave to Shilshole Ave.
  • Shilshole Ave will be closed from Vernon Place to Dock St
  • Dock St will be closed from Shilshole Ave to Ballard Ave.
  • (Thanks John for the tip!)

    Power outage in Old Ballard closes businesses

    Updated 11:30 p.m.: The power went out in Old Ballard at 8 p.m., forcing many establishments to close their doors early. One business told us that Seattle City Light said a blown transformer to blame, and it could take as many as four to six hours to restore. But at 11 p.m., the power came back on.

    Facing the prospect of an extended outage, many restaurants and bars closed early, from Kings Hardware to the Copper Gate. Sunset Tavern moved its Seattle Improvised Music Festival to The Josephine in Ballard, promising to refund tickets for anyone who couldn’t make it. “Weird to see Ballard Ave. so dark!” said My Ballard reader Susan, who emailed us with the news.

    Oddly, a couple businesses were immune to the outage. Both Moshi Moshi and the Tractor Tavern still had power, and they told us they believed they were the only businesses along the stretch of Ballard Ave. with electricity. Balmar and Matador kept power, but they said everyone else to the southeast were dark. “The street is dark from about Thaiku on down,” wrote My Ballard reader Anna in an email.

    Earlier in the day, 173 customers lost power along the Ship Canal in Ballard and Fremont, according to an earlier report by Seattle City Light. It’s unclear if it was related to tonight’s outage. We’ll update the story in the morning once we’re able to contact City Light.

    Old Ballard lights up with Santa

    Holidays in Ballard kicked off in earnest Saturday night with a visit from Santa.

    Santa Claus sat inside the Old Ballard bell tower at Marvin Gardens Park, listening to wish lists from dozens of kids.

    Photos were provided by Jay Dotson Photography with the proceeds benefiting the Ballard Food Bank. (By the way, Jay has teamed up with Ballard Blossom to take Santa photos. More details on

    Some of the kids were a little shy — at first.

    The Seattle Fire Department’s Ladder 18 was also in attendance, which was nearly as big of a hit with the kids as Santa.

    There was also popcorn and hot drinks.

    Holidays in Ballard organizers adorned the bell tower and several trees in Marvin’s Garden and Bergen Place with holiday lights. We’re told this is the first time in years that the bell tower has been lit up for the holidays

    By the way, the missing Holidays in Ballard banner was discovered in an alley behind a house, and it was reinstalled in time for this weekend. (Full disclosure: Jay Dotson Photography is a sponsor of My Ballard.)

    Old Ballard hosting Honk Fest West tonight

    You can expect quite the show in Old Ballard tonight as Honk Fest West returns with “radical marching bands” from 5 states and Canada. “The streets, cafes, & pubs of Ballard and Georgetown will be overflowing with the lively sound of horn players and drummers from more than a dozen street bands,” explains the website, which lists events at The Sunset, Conor Byrne, Bop Street Records and the Chai House.

    Sounds like a blast. But last year, some of the bands decided to march up and down Ballard Ave., keeping some nearby residents awake. “I’ve lived on Ballard Ave. for 5 years. I’ve seen, heard and put up with just about everything — and I wouldn’t trade living here for the world — but this is the WORST!” wrote one My Ballard reader last year. Tonight’s event begins at 7 p.m.

    Ballard Ave. sidewalk repair nearly complete

    If you stopped by the Ballard Farmers Market on Sunday, you may have noticed new sections of sidewalk along the east side of Ballard Ave.

    While there are a few patches still under construction, SDOT says the concrete repair work should be done by this week, weather willing. We spoke to a few businesses along the construction zone, and they told us they’re happy the project is nearly complete. Some said they believed the construction — which closed sidewalks and reduced parking — was bad for business. The final phase will be sandblasting the finished sidewalk to “achieve the architectural finish required by the Ballard Landmarks District,” explains SDOT.

    Sidewalk repair gets underway in Old Ballard

    SDOT crews begin work on a sidewalk repair project along Ballard Ave. this Monday morning that’s expected to last four to five weeks. You may have seen the white paint marking the construction areas.

    Crews will begin work at Ballard Ave. and 20th St., ultimately covering most of the stretch along the east side of the Ave. in Old Ballard. It’s the last phase of a three-year project to “make the walking experience safe and smooth.”

    As you’ve probably noticed, some of the trees have pushed the sidewalk up in places. Repairs will include expanding the tree pits as well as replacing existing sidewalk sections with exposed aggregate sidewalk. SDOT says you can expect some pedestrian detours, parking restrictions as well as “moderate to high construction noise and dust” from time to time. More information right here.