I really don't want to get behind on my posting, especially when it comes to Restaurant Reviews, since pretty much every week I am trying 1-2 new spots. Or that is the goal. The longer I marinate on the spots, the more they pile up. I already have three recipes cued up to be written, so I can't let things slide. And why would I want to when last week I had two more reasons to love Ballard? I already love La Carta De Oaxaca, India Bistro and Cupcake Royale (though I personally can't partake in the cupcakes, before I knew I couldn't, I did and they were wonderful). I am having so much good food in Ballard, I wonder if I am destined to move in and firmly plate a Free Ballard sticker on the back of my Subaru (I don't have a Subaru, but if I move to Ballard it seems almost inevitable I would trade in the Mini for one right?). This week was Hi-Life and King's Hardware.
Up to bat this past week was one of my standby recommendations, Hi Life. One of the Chow Foods restaurants, I have to laugh at myself for this being a restaurant that I frequent. It is where I take finicky eaters, where I take non-foodies, where I go if I want to get exactly what I expect. I started going there when I was Vegan and Gluten Free since they offer several vegetable sides which form a hearty meal when selecting two. Their side of smashed potatoes were so tasty and delicious that they once had Vegan me so thoroughly convinced there was Parmesan in them, I made the waitress ask the kitchen even though on the menu there was no indication. While I have had little or nothing glowing to say about any of the other Chow Foods places when I was Vegan, the Hi Life came through for me. Good drinks, a tad expensive and a rotating menu of foods from various parts of the world. I dig that.
This trip my mom and I tucked into the Northern Italian section of the menu. And feeling adventurous, I tried something new in the drink department. My first drink was a disappointing mix of rum and ginger beer. Should have been good, but there was a scant amount of whiskey and the ginger beer wasn't as flavorful as I'd like. When the waiter came round again to take our dinner order and second drink order and asked if I'd like my drink, I told him that I thought it a bit too weak and wanted to move on to the Hi-Life Manhattan. I love Manhattans, so while I was trying something new, I was really trying just what I usually like, only "their version". It included bourbon soaked dried cherries, which as it turns out our waiter, who is actually the manager of the whole place, soaked himself. That sounds so wrong, but that's just the fact. He was very personable and if there is anything that makes a restaurant going experience, it is a helpful, friendly server. In fact, I found the service so good and attentive, that I was willing to overlook the fact that all of our dishes were under salted. Thank goodness they offer both salt and pepper shakers on the table. A simply fix. As for the food, I started with a side of brussel sprouts with pancetta and Parmesan, which was my "salad" for the evening and then my main was a lamb risotto. It was flavorful, not to heavy and delightful. My mom got the braised beef short rib over polenta and brussel sprouts. While mascarpone polenta was a tasteless plate filler, the beef was perfectly cooked and delicious. I was in a gluttonous mood, so I scanned the dessert menu but found that everything contained eggs (which I am allergic to) and so I opted for a vanilla ice cream and decaf espresso. Hi Life is a good place to take your parents or picky eaters. The place can get really busy, but it is an interesting spot and is very Ballard.
My experience at Hi-Life, pales in comparison to that at King's Hardware. It was the week of dueling awesome waiters apparently because our waitress at King's Hardware was hilarious and attentive. Since moving away from Veganism, I haven't eaten a burger. Somewhere along the line, I heard about King's Hardware and their motto "can't beat our meat". It was there and then as a Vegan, I decided if I were to ever eat a burger again, it would be at King's Hardware. And somehow, that became my truth. I was not going to eat another burger, until I had a King's Hardware burger. I had tried to cajole a few people to go there, but no takers. Finally Thursday evening, my best friend and I got together for dinner and decided that tonight was the night to go there.
Walking in, I instantly loved the place. Laid back, "dive-bar-y" but not really. The crowd was as "Ballard" as Hi-Life, just a different age demographic. I had pursued the menu a few times online and knew they had some great choices. They even have choices for vegetarians (veggie burgers!). I love a good assortment of burgers. We sat down starving and while we weren't instantly helped (we just thought we weren't doing it right), when our waitress came she was ready for action. We ordered our drinks, I went for the Horse's Neck which was a better version of the previous evening's ginger beer and whiskey and Tara got a Grey Goose and Soda or something. The waitress teased me since I had said how hungry I was and then froze come ordering time. I couldn't make up my mind. Here I was going to have my first post-Vegan burger, I needed to make the right decision. I explained it to her that I hadn't eaten a burger in over 2 years and her eyes got huge. "Can I watch you take your first bite?" She asked. I thought that very amusing. I decided on the 5-alarm burger which she said was like a Thai 2.5, so not very spicy at all. Tara opted for the King's Burger sans cheese. When she asked how I wanted mine done, I said, "whatever the kitchen thinks is best". When you put your faith in the kitchen, they never fail you, at least in my experience. I mean, who wants to be told how to do their job best? I am no expert on the best prep for their burgers, so I give them room to do their best. We both got sweet potato fries. We watched people play games and lifted our voices into the collective din while waiting for our food. It came quickly and the anticipation was huge. "Where's your camera" the waitress asked. Shit, I forgot it. She leaned against the chair and waited for me to take a bite, Tara didn't even move in the direction of her own burger. "No pressure!" I said, laughing. I was laughing too hard to get a bite in. But then I just went for it. And it was worth it. The 5 alarm sauce was creamy with a little kick. The patty was perfectly cooked. In a word: awesome. It was not hard for me to clear my plate, sweet potato fries with ketchup and all. I am not a big greasy spoon person, I never eat fast food, but this burger was very satisfying and instead of feeling like I had tucked into something bad for me, I just felt satisfied. They use quality ingredients (you can't beat our meat, remember), including local hormone free beef. It was a taste experience and I was not disappointed in my decision to hold out for it. As we wrapped up and the waitress brought the bill, she said "hold on one second" and ran off to the kitchen. She came back holding a receipt, which was actually the kitchen ticket she'd put in. We got a good laugh about it:
If that is not a special instruction, I am not sure what is! All in all, I highly recommend King's Hardware. In two years when I am ready for another burger, I will be heading back to King's to indulge. In the meantime, I would go there for the great drinks, interesting patrons and laid back atmosphere. Now, onward to Capitol Hill and a trip to another of King's Hardware's owners spot, Odd Fellows and even more exciting, Poppy!