Freeman's Guide to Seattle: Ballard

Posted: Apr 05 2017

We love helping visitors to our store explore this beautiful city – "Where else in Seattle should I check out?" is one of our favorite questions that we get at the shop. So with that in mind, we're going to take a look at some of our favorite spots around the city. We tackled our end of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in a post last year, but we figured we'd offer some insight into some of the other awesome areas of Seattle where we like to spend time when we're not slinging menswear. 

First up is a collective favorite neighborhood of all of ours at Freeman, the way-out-west enclave of Ballard. Originally its own city, it was annexed by Seattle in 1907. Ballard has long been known for its strong Scandinavian roots – if you need your Volvo fixed, this is the neighborhood! – and a rich maritime history due its proximity to the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Puget Sound. Today, it's one of Seattle's most popular neighborhoods with a bustling farmers' market on historic Ballard Avenue, a vibrant restaurant scene and lots to see and do. Here are our picks – let us know your favorites!

EAT

  • Pestle Rock Isan Thai Cuisine: Specializing in northern Thai "Isan" cuisine, Pestle Rock makes some of our favorite food in the city. Go with a group so you can order family-style and try lots of different dishes. My personal favorite is the Khao Soi, a curry noodle soup from Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand.
  • Un Bien: From the family that started the famous Paseo's, Un Bien's Caribbean food is amazing – with long lines at their bright pink take-out windows to match the quality of the food. They're most famous for their overstuffed sandwiches, but everything from the spicy prawns to the marinated tofu is delicious.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter: If you feel like stepping out to one of Seattle's most celebrated restaurants, the Walrus and the Carpenter should be at the top of your list. Oysters and creative seafood small plates are the name of the game here, and if memory serves (I've only been once, like four years ago), it was as good as the hype suggests. 
  • Señor Moose Cafe: A longtime favorite for delicious Mexican food, Señor Moose serves up delicious moles, awesome guacamole and a dynamite brunch in the heart of Ballard.  

Pestle Rock Isan Thai Cuisine; photo courtesy of Pestle Rock.

DRINK

  • Hattie's Hat: Operating as a bar in one form or another since 1904, Hattie's Hat is a Ballard institution and one of the last remaining places to get a taste of "old Seattle." With Olympia on tap at the beautiful, carved-oak back bar, Hattie's just oozes Pacific Northwest atmosphere. I would live here if I could. And the food's great too!
  • The Hazelwood: Not much bigger than a broom closet, this Market Street bar offers craft cocktails minus the stuffiness. No arm garters or fifteen-dollar drinks here, just well-made cocktails and a unique vibe. Bonus Seattle bona fides: one of the owners plays bass for Soundgarden!
  • The Tin Hat:  While it's a little too far east to technically be in Ballard, we're gonna make an exception because the Tin Hat rules that hard. With walls adorned with '70s kitsch, free pinball on Sundays and cheap beer any time of day, this is one of the best low-key dives in Seattle. They've also got a well-stocked jukebox and great food – their tater tots are the stuff of east Ballard legend and can be ordered as a gargantuan, toppings-slathered tot-nacho hybrid called The Flatliner. It's not for the faint of heart. I friggin' love the Tin Hat. 

The Tin Hat.

SHOP

  • Filson: The second Seattle outpost from this venerable homegrown brand, Filson's Ballard Avenue outpost is much smaller than their flagship SoDo behemoth, but still worth a visit for a taste of the brand's Pacific Northwest-centric take on Americana on the most Pacific Northwest-meets-Americana street in the city.
  • Sonic Boom Records: Once a city-wide chainlet, Sonic Boom scaled back a few years ago to just their Ballard outpost. Still a reliable stop for new and used vinyl and CDs, it's a great spot for crate-digging and people watching. 
  • Ballard Consignment: One of the coolest used furniture stores in town! This place is huge, with a wide range of furniture styles, from log cabin rustic to mid-century modern. They allow dogs and they're next door to Full Tilt Ice Cream – what more could you want?
  • re-souL: One of Seattle's most popular shoe stores, re-souL offers up men's and women's footwear right on historic Ballard Avenue. With a well-curated array of local and international designers, you're sure to find something unique and beautiful. 

Filson's Ballard store; photo courtesy of Filson.

SEE & DO

  • Ballard Locks: The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, a.k.a. the Ballard Locks, connect Lake Washington and Lake Union to the Puget Sound. Everything from tiny fishing boats to hundred-million-dollar yachts pass through the Ballard Locks, and it's a great place to spend a sunny afternoon. Also home to a botanical garden, it's the busiest set of maritime locks in the country. Grab a burrito from El Camión and watch the ships go by. 
  • Golden Gardens Park: One of Seattle's most popular saltwater-meets-the-sand beaches, Golden Gardens offers beautiful views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. A sunset at Golden Gardens is pure Seattle.
  • Bardahl Oil sign: This Ballard landmark's pretty hard to miss, especially if you're driving north over the Ballard Bridge. Snap a pic, throw it on Instagram, stack up your likes. 

Golden Gardens Park at sunset; photo courtesy of the City of Seattle.

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