Crawling the Pubs of Ballard
As a member of the In Ballard Merchants Association, I feel it’s my duty to participate in the events that they sponsor to promote Ballard businesses. And if the current event just happens to be a pub crawl, on a beautiful sunny Tuesday evening, who I am to shirk my duty?
We started at Aster Lounge. Their special was happy hour prices for beer all evening. We’re getting a bit old for this sort of thing, and wanted to pace ourselves, so we started with coffee instead. Aster has a Clover coffee machine, one of the few sold before Starbucks bought the company that makes them. It does make quite an excellent cup of coffee. We’ll have to come back some Saturday morning and try the waffles.
We headed down the street to the Market Arms. It’s owned by the same guy who owns the classic George and Dragon pub in Fremont, where I used to go to watch football matches on telly before we got cable. Market Arms is larger, with a nice outdoor seating area, and plenty of big screens, although there’s no football on tonight. It has a similar British menu, with fish & chips, bacon sandwich, and a full English breakfast. (Don’t laugh – an evening match in England is in the morning here, and tea with fried things makes a nice accompaniment.) Still pacing ourselves, we just got an appetizer of popcorn chicken with chutney. The chicken was very lightly breaded, and tasty, washed down with a pint of Newcastle. Warning – the word “pint” in your order will get you a full 20 ounce Imperial pint. If you want the skimpier American version you have to specify “American pint”.
Next, we headed kitty-corner across the street to La Isla. I used to work for a boss who hailed from Puerto Rico, and he would occasionally take us to lunch here and tell us what comida deliciosa to order. The comida is still deliciosa, and they’ve expanded the space so more people can enjoy it.Â We sat outside, and ordered the Medley de Platanos; fried sweet plantain chunks and patties of mashed green plantain with a savory creamy dipping sauce and an awesomely garlic dipping sauce. I mean, this is SERIOUS garlic – if one person eats it everybody should! We went on to the Carne Frita, spice-marinated pork ribs falling-off-the bone tender, with fried onions, and Empanadillas, deliciously spiced ground beef in a pastry with yet another yummy sauce. We could have easily just hung out there all evening working our way through the appetizer menu, but this was supposed to be a pub crawl, so we crawled away and headed down Market to Ballard Avenue.
We were ambushed by D’Ambrosio Gelato. Although technically not a participant in the event, it looked too good to pass up. And it was oh my god incredible. This is not ice cream. It’s not even gelato as I’ve had it before. It’s what angels eat in heaven. They were really nice, offering sample tastes and explaining non-intuitive flavors like Bacia di Dama (chocolate almond). We had the Bacia di Dama, Florentine (fresh berries, cream and chocolate chips) and stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate flakes). I want to go back and have the Nutella, and the strawberry sorbet, and the lemon sorbet, and the Caffe Scuro… you know, I just want to sell everything and go live there and do nothing but eat their gelato for the rest of my life.
We were at this point stuffed full, and we still had at least one more place to visit – it doesn’t count unless you get your card stamped at four places. So we walked around, and looked at places. Bastille looked good, but we were TOO FULL. I’ve been wanting to try The Noble Fir, but we weren’t the only ones that were full – they were packed to bursting, so we’ll come back another night.
We walked around some more, not getting any less full, and then I had a brain wave. Cupcake Royale is a participant! We could buy cupcakes and bring them home and eat them later when we got hungry again! Am I a genius or what? Cupcake Royale had a special on half-dozens, so we got two of my fav orange ones, two fresh strawberry, and two classic vanilla with chocolate.
We didn’t get a chance to try even half the places, what with being old and having jobs to go to in the morning and all, so I hope that the event was successful, and they’ll do more stuff like this. Ballard is fun!