Introducing Ballard’s best restaurants and a neighborhood guide

Since the redesign in November, we’ve been working to add new goodies to My Ballard. Here are a few of the recent additions:

  • We brought back the Ballard restaurants section featuring the most popular spots, ranked by your ratings. This is not mean to be a comprehensive list — there’s Google and Yelp for that — but a list of 40 or so best restaurants in the neighborhood. (This is still a work in progress, but feel free to go vote for your favorites.)
  • We’ve updated the Ballard breweries map to include nearby breweries in Fremont, Greenwood, Magnolia and Interbay.
  • There are a lot of new people moving to the neighborhood — or thinking about moving here — so we created a Ballard neighborhood guide with a list of hot spots, neighborhoods, schools, community groups and more.
  • The My Ballard Facebook Group is only a couple months old, but it’s growing like wildfire. More than 2,000 neighbors have joined so far, and many Ballard stories — like the power outage, dumpster fires, new/closing restaurants — are appearing in the group first. Unlike other community groups, we’re participating, too, helping confirm stories as we see them. If you’re a current or former Ballard neighbor, you can ask to join here.

My Ballard’s traffic has grown 2X since last fall, and we thank everyone for your support. As always, please let us know if you have any suggestions/feedback at

Trailbend Taproom to open in the middle of Ballard brewery country

The sign has gone up over the Trailbend Taproom, a new restaurant and bar from the owners of The Dray and The Yard.

Located deep in Ballard’s brewery district at 1118 N.W. 50th St., Trailbend is slated to open in March. With 42 taps and a wood-fired oven, the new restaurant and bar aims to capitalize on the growing brewery crowd in the area.

The taproom is the brainchild of Jamie Butler, Travis Eaton and Andy Walls, the founders of The Dray in Ballard and The Yard in Greenwood. The West Woodland location will be the most ambitious of the three.

“We’ve been trying to find a location there for a while,” said Butler, who says his Ballard home is “triangulated” between the three locations. “The food trucks are great, but some people prefer a sit-down restaurant, and the neighborhood is lacking that.”

The taproom takes up the first floor of The Klotski, a new three-story office development. With tall ceilings, concrete floors and custom woodwork and metal, Trailbend looks like a larger Colorado version of The Dray. Pending city approval, they also plan to open an outside patio.

The heart of Trailbend is the 42 taps, stretching 20 feet down the bar. On the wall, a giant sign with movable wooden letters details what’s available at a given moment, “inspired in part by an old train station sign,” Butler says.

The taps will feature “a good representation” of beer from the breweries next door. In fact, Butler says he’s working with Stoup Brewing to create “Stoup Trailbend IPA,” a co-branded beer for the opening. We also spotted Reuben’s, Populuxe and Fremont on the sign. Also on tap: cider, ginger beer, wine, Stumptown cold brew and a cocktail or two. “There will be a little bit of everything for everyone on tap,” he said.

As far as food, Trailbend is designed around its Wood Stone Oven — a popular oven created by a Bellingham company — that will create wood-fired pizza. They’ll also serve entrees, sandwiches and salads to attract folks in the neighborhood, too.

“There are a lot of homes around there,” he said while we talked at The Dray, a few blocks away. “We wanted to create a place that’s good for neighborhood.”

We’ll keep you updated as Trailbend gets closer to launch.

(Bottom two photos courtesy of @trailbendtaproom on Instagram)

Skillet in Ballard closes down

A little off the beaten path — and still recovering from a flood last year — Skillet has closed its Ballard restaurant for good.

“After 5 years, we sadly announce the closing of our Skillet Ballard location,” the restaurant posted on Facebook yesterday. “Thank you to all our family, friends, customers and employees for all your support over the years. And a big hug for Ballard – thanks for the opportunity to be part of the fabric of the neighborhood.”

In August of last year, Skillet and next door neighbor Parfait were forced to close after a flood in the Greenfire building on 56th St. Skillet was shut down for over a month before it reopened.

“Despite our best efforts, our business did not recover from the flood and we have decided it is in our best interest to close this location,” said Ann Downs, president of the Skillet Group, in a statement. Meanwhile, Skillet still has restaurants in Capitol Hill, Denny Regrade and the Seattle Center — as well as its food trucks.

Skillet said its doing its best to relocate its Ballard employees to its other locations.

Briefs: Locks, Salmon, Sushi, Elks, Lagunitas

We have a few news tidbits to share, beginning with the Ballard Locks. (Tilt-shift photo above is from the US Army Corps of Engineers on Facebook).

BALLARD LOCKS: The Seattle Times has put together a good in-depth look at why the Locks needs $30 million to $60 million in major repairs and upgrades. (Here’s our earlier story).

FEED THE SALMON: Seattle Parks is looking for volunteers who can help feed the salmon (baby salmon!) at Carkeek Park on a weekly basis.

BALLARD SUSHI: The chef of Shiku Sushi in Ballard, JP Kim, is bringing sushi to Magnolia. He bought Oliver’s Twist to turn it into a sushi restaurant, opening in February, according to Seattle Mag. Don’t worry Shiku fans, Kim will remain in Ballard.

ELKS SCHOLARSHIPS: The Ballard Elks Lodge is offering vocational scholarships for the first time: two students graduating high school (or getting their GED) this year will be awarded $1,000 or more. Interested? Here are the details.

LAGUNITAS GRANTS: Lagunitas Brewing Company plans to award grants up to $5,000 for qualifying nonprofit organizations. Want to apply? Learn more right here.

As always, if you have news, please email us at If you have an upcoming event, submit it to our Ballard events calendar.

Ballard Annex appearing on the Travel Channel

The Ballard Annex Oyster House on Ballard Ave. (near the bell tower) will be featured in this weekend’s episode of Food Paradise on the Travel Channel. Called “classic combos,” the episode will feature “the nation’s most crave-worthy combinations.”

What combo will they feature? You’ll just have to watch the show, says Kristina Schulte, GM of the Ballard Annex. “When I asked why they chose to film our restaurant, I was told that our historic building and location was a big draw along with our restaurant ambiance,” she told My Ballard.

Named after the annexation of Ballard back in 1907, the Ballard Annex occupies the building that was originally built for Fitzgerald and Hynes Department Store in 1908. In the 1930’s, the building housed Willy’s New Car Sales & Dealership, and it was home to the printing press for The Ballard News Tribune in the 1950’s, according to the Ballard Annex’s website.

The episode of Food Paradise airs this Sunday at 8 p.m. on the Travel Channel.

The Original Pancake House closes, to reopen as Crown Hill Broiler

Longtime customers of the Original Pancake House on 15th Ave. just north of 80th St. were surprised to learn the restaurant was abruptly closing. Today (Sunday) was its last day.

A sign on the door explains the establishment is closing for remodeling, then it reopen as a new restaurant called the “Crown Hill Broiler” in early April. It will be a “beautiful space” with “high-quality foods, service and beverages,” the signs says.

“This is very sad news!!! (I) love their breakfast!” said Lynn in the My Ballard Facebook group. Added Rachel, “My children will be devastated.”

The restaurant has called Ballard home for over 10 years, attracting good-sized crowds on weekend mornings. The Original Pancake House is a franchise with hundreds of locations nationwide. Besides Ballard, there are restaurants located in Redmond and Bothell.

“We thank all our wonderful customers that have supported the Original Pancake House in Seattle for so many years,” the sign explains.

We’ve reached out to the owners to learn more about why they’re making the switch — and if any the employees will stick around. (Thanks to Deb, Tim and Debbie for the tips.)

Salt and Straw giving away free ice cream, to open in Ballard soon

Update: LOTS of people came for the free ice cream on Sunday afternoon.

The line stretched over a block, merging with the crowd from the Ballard Farmers Market.

Earlier:The Portland artisan ice cream company, Salt and Straw, is planning to open its first Seattle stores next month: one in Capitol Hill and another here in Ballard.

To drum up some excitement, they’re going to be giving away free ice cream cups this Sunday in front of their upcoming store at 5420 Ballard Ave. NW (across from La Carta de Oaxaca). The craziness will begin at noon and end when they run out of ice cream. (Yes, the Ballard Farmers Market will be in full swing nearby. Be prepared.)

They’ll be serving the flavors Double Fold Vanilla, Freckled Woodblock Chocolate and Roasted Strawberry Coconut (vegan).

Salt and Straw is the brainchild of Kim Malek and her cousin Tyler Malek (pictured above). It began in Portland with a bang, and they’ve expanded to LA, SF and San Diego. In summer of last year, they landed an investment from a noted New York restaurant group to help fuel their expansion.

“We’re about building strong local community – both in the neighborhoods where we do business and by purchasing as many local products as possible,” explains founder Kim Malek.

Restaurant briefs: New space, new cafe, Revel moving, Piccolo 2.0, Joli reviewed

There’s always LOTS of restaurant news, so we’ve condensed it into bite-sized briefs…

NEW SPACE: A new land use application for 5101 14th Ave. NW calls for a 4-story office building with space for a restaurant on the first floor. That’s an early sketch of the building above. It’s too early to know if there’s a specific restaurant the developers have in mind, but we’ll keep an eye on it. Land use documents are available here.

NEW CAFE: My Ballard reader Fiona asks us, “[I’m] wanting to find out more about the new café opening on 11th and 50th. Construction is almost complete and wondering when it will open.” While we research it, if you have any details, leave a comment or email

NEW CHEF: Ballard’s Brimmer & Heeltap is bringing in a new chef, Tucson transplant David Valencia, reports Seattle Mag. They expect to have a mostly new menu by spring.

REVEL MOVING: The Fremont Korean restaurant Revel is moving to South Lake Union — temporarily. The restaurant at 403 N 36th St. is the site of an upcoming 3-story development, and when it’s complete, Revel plans to move back to Fremont, Eater reports.

PICCOLO 2.0: Speaking of Fremont, the owners of Piccolo in Maple Leaf — which shut down last year after 10 years in business — say they’re opening Esters Enoteca in Fremont next month. They told Seattle Mag it will be a “fast casual” wine bar.

JOLI REVIEWED: Joli opened at NW 65th St. and 7th Ave. NW in September, and the Seattle Times reviewer says it has an “ambitious menu” and the “bar is likely to become a real draw.”

Any more restaurant/foodie news out there we’re missing? Email us at

New Years Eve in Ballard and beyond

Here’s the scoop for New Years Eve events around our neighborhood…

SPACE NEEDLE FIREWORKS – Expect all the usual crowds and parking issues in Fremont and Wallingford leading up to New Years at the Needle. Live broadcast begins at 11:35 on KING 5.

VOLTERRA’S LAST DINNER – Tonight is Volterra’s last night in its current Ballard location, and it’s going out in style: two seatings with its New Years Eve menu with chef Don Curtiss in the kitchen.

MARKET IS OPEN – The Ballard Farmers Market is open with its usual hours.

STAPLE & FANCY – This Ballard Ave. restaurant is offering three seatings for its NYE menu.

MARINE HARDWARE – Right next door, Marine Hardware will have a five-course meal.

BRIMMER & HEELTAP – The Market St. restaurant is offering “an incredible multi-course menu.”

SUNSET TAVERN – Sallie Ford, Lonely Mountain Lovers, La Fonda will play at 9 p.m. at the Sunset.

CONOR BYRNENew Year’s Eve Garbage Bash IV with Honcho Poncho and more, 8 p.m.

OLD PEQULIAR – Phatti LaBelle will DJ this free party beginning at 9 p.m.

LEIF ERICKSON HALLNew Year’s Eve Dance with Big Blues with Little Bill, doors at 8 p.m.

SWEDISH CLUBNordic New Year’s Fest with music and dancing beginning at 8 p.m.

HALE’s PALLADIUM – The Moisture Festival throws its annual New Year’s Eve Extravaganza.

SOLD OUT – Looks like NYE events at Tarsan i Jane and the Tractor Tarvern are sold out.

FREE METRO – King County Metro is offering free rides for both buses and the Seattle Streetcar from 4 a.m. today (Sunday) until 4 a.m. on New Years morning.

What are we missing? Add a comment below…

Hale’s Ales closes pub, to re-open as a taproom

Hale’s long-running pub — a restaurant serving hamburgers, pizzas and sandwiches — has closed, and it will turn into a taproom serving a shortened menu in the new year.

The announcement was posted on Hale’s door. “Keep your eyes open for more information on our new hours and a new concept as we bring in the new year,” it explains.

Besides Hale’s beer and some guest taps, the taproom will serve chili, deli sandwiches and mac and cheese, according to Hale’s website.

A lot has changed since Hale’s opened in 1983, billed as the “longest-running, continually-owned brewery of any size in the Pacific Northwest.” Breweries of all shapes and sizes have popped up around Ballard and Fremont, attracting crowds with new brews, food trucks and social marketing.

Meanwhile, Hale’s Palladium remains a popular event space. Tonight (New Years Eve) it will host the Moisture Festival New Year’s Eve Extravaganza. Details here.