Neighborhoods

Seattle's Favorite Restaurants, Bars, and Places to Go in Ballard

The Results of Our Reader Survey Are In
September 21, 2021
San Fermo is our readers' favorite Ballard restaurant. (Suzi Pratt)

We probably don't have to tell you this, but Ballard is full of amazing breweries, cute cafes, and gorgeous parks. We already have our favorites outlined on our Ballard neighborhood guide, but now it's time to reveal our readers' favorite spots in Seattle's most Scandinavian neighborhood. Below, you'll find a list of the best restaurants, shopping, and other things to do in Ballard, as chosen in our recent reader survey. Want to participate in the next survey? Tell us about your favorite places on Capitol Hill!

Special thanks to our partners on this survey, Ballard Comedy Club! One lucky survey participant has won a pair of tickets to see Robert Pidde, who will perform from Sept 30–Oct 3.

FAVORITE BAKERY / COFFEE SHOP

Cafe Besalu and ROOT

More about Cafe Besalu:
Way back in 2005, The Stranger featured Cafe Besalu on its list of "neighborhood bakeries that do pastries right." Clearly, that's still the case today, even though former chef/owner James Miller has now moved to the actual town of Besalú, Spain. Offerings, which are currently available for walk-up ordering or preordered pickup, range from seasonal fruit pastries to cardamom pretzels to coconut chocolate babka. 

More about ROOT:
If you're looking for good coffee with a lush ambience, look no further than this indoor plant shop with a specialty coffee bar. As reader Mike S. notes, "Best coffee by far. Not much seating or bakery options, but the coffee is that good that it doesn't matter."

FAVORITE LUNCH SPOT

Other Coast Cafe

More about it: The “other” coast is the East Coast (get it?!). The meats are thin-sliced and tasty, the lettuce etc. is fresh, and the bread is great (baguette-ish but without that pointy crust that hurts your mouth and makes all the contents squish out). The meatballs-and-marinara sandwich is tasty, the basic turkey and Swiss is also extremely satisfying, but you’re missing out if you don’t order the signature Rajun Cajun (turkey, pepper jack, onion, tomato, and spicy mayo).

FAVORITE DINNER SPOT

San Fermo

More about it: This neighborhood Italian restaurant frequently tops lists of the best Ballard restaurants, and for good reason: It's located in a cute 19th-century house that sits amid all the brick and cobblestone of Ballard Avenue, and you can't go wrong with any of their handmade pastas. What region of Italy? As Tim Baker told Seattle Met when they opened in 2015, “I say, ‘New Jersey.’”

FAVORITE BREWERY

Stoup Brewing

More about it: As Tobias Coughlin-Bogue wrote in 2017, "Stoup bills its offerings as 'the art and science of beer.' It is both, being a partnership between a food-and-beer-loving scientist, his similarly gastronomically-and-scientifically-inclined wife, and a biology teacher/cicerone friend of theirs. There are lots of great breweries in Ballard [honorable mentions also go to Great Notion and Urban Family], but Stoup's beer sets it apart. Their Robust Porter, for example, is like the dark-beer-loving Emperor Palpatine to my pilsner-snob Anakin Skywalker: It converts me to the dark side every time."

FAVORITE COCKTAIL BAR

Percy's and Co.

More about it: Percy’s and Co., with its “apothecary-style” cocktails, sounds gimmicky, but Percy’s is very handsome and very comfortable, especially if you sit in one of the cushy semicircular booths. The food (burgers, fried pickles, flatbreads) is also tasty and in nice, big portions. All the new stuff in old Ballard should be this good.

FAVORITE RETAIL STORE

DIGS

More about it: The mid-century Scandinavian vibes are strong at this modern furniture and lifestyle store on Market Street, which moved to Ballard from Bellingham in 2018. They sell everything from hanging planters to sofas to puzzles and cross stitch kits.

FAVORITE PLACE TO SEE A SHOW OR MOVIE

Tractor Tavern

More about it: The Tractor's got great Americana decor, PBR tallboys, and the best selection of live local and national alt-country, rockabilly, old-time, folk, blues, and bluegrass bands in town. See their current schedule here.

FAVORITE OUTDOOR SPOT

Golden Gardens

More about it: Seattle's sunnier days are a blast at this massive park, which offers a full gamut of outdoor activities with wetlands, sandy beaches, hiking trails, and playground areas. Definitely bring a picnic blanket and snack provisions, which you can grab from the onsite concession stand Miri's (we recommend the poffertjes, aka mini Dutch pancakes) or from Larsen's Bakery (the custard-y, pull-apart smorkage is a real treat).

FAVORITE LANDMARK OR ATTRACTION

Ballard Locks

More about it: The fresh water in Lake Washington and Lake Union is about 20 feet higher than the salt water in Puget Sound. More boats travel through these locks than any other locks in the United States, and a million people per year gather round to watch it happen. You can spend a few minutes here, or all day. (PRO TIP: Check out the fish ladder viewing area to watch shiny little salmon swimming for their lives.)

FAVORITE PLACE WE DIDN'T ASK ABOUT

Mox Boarding House

More about it: Mox is more than 7,000 square feet of gaming paradise (their description, not ours), and Cafe Mox is the attached bar and cafe, with sandwiches (mini grilled cheese!), salads, beer, wine, cider, and mead. They say you can bring pretty much any game in from the shop and try it out! Paradise, indeed.