An Ode to the Ballard Neighborhood of Seattle

It seems like the most common response when someone finds out that I was actually BORN and RAISED in Seattle is “What?! You’ve lived here your whole life?”. With Seattle becoming one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, this response has been more and more common. The reason is simple; such a large number of people who live in Seattle are “transplants” from California and other parts of the nation (and the world for that matter) that it has become a bit of a rarity to come across someone who has lived in Seattle his or her entire life!

Having lived in Seattle for 35 years, I have experienced a ton of what this city has to offer. Although, it must be said that even after that long living in one city, I still come across new and exciting things to do and see almost every week. So, with that said, I’d like to provide a breakdown of my absolute FAVORITE neighborhood. Ballard.

Over the years, Ballard has gone from a sleepy Scandinavian fishing village to one of the most hip and desirable neighborhoods in the city. While Ballard is still clinging to its fishing roots (fun fact: both the Wizard and The Northwestern from ‘Deadliest Catch’ fame Moore in Ballard when they aren’t fishing in Alaska), the older parts of Ballard are quickly being replaced by high-rise apartment buildings and upscale restaurants & bars. While it is unfortunate that so much of that old Scandinavian charm has disappeared, it has opened the door for one of the most desirable neighborhoods to live in the city.

This is not to say that all of the old charm has disappeared though. A few of the Ballard icons remain. Probably the most notable of which is the Ballard Locks. Built over 100 years ago, to allow ships to make passage between Lake Washington and the Puget Sound, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.  A true marvel of engineering, a visit to the Locks will treat you to boats being lifted and lowered with water alone inside chambers which raise or lower the water level accordingly to allow passage between the lake and Puget Sound. Along with this, visitors are also treated to a unique fish ladder, complete with underwater viewing! This gives an amazing and up close view of the many species of salmon that swim in from Puget Sound en route to streams further upwards of Puget Sound.

Ballard is also a top destination in Seattle when it comes to dining and drinking! It’s a unique part of the city in that brand new, upscale eateries sit right next to “old timer” fisherman dive bars. Here is just a small sampling of some of the best dining options (in this authors opinion anyway) that you will find in Ballard.

Red Mill Burgers is not only renowned for making the best burgers in the city, but the Ballard location is nestled inside the old ‘Totem House’ restaurant which happens to be just across the street from the Ballard Locks. Highlights from a trip to Red Mill include an enormous stack of bacon visible from the counter, some of the best onion rings in the United States (don’t take my word for it…Oprah herself said so!) and burgers that are not pretentious, overly expensive or fancy. Just a good American burger joint!

Next up on my personal list is a Mexican restaurant that goes by the name of La Carta de Oaxaca. There is no sign out front to be found, but that’s of little concern. You’ll know you’re there when you see a line out the front door of people waiting to be seated and a packed house almost any evening of the week. So, why so packed? It comes down to the fact that La Carta has been offering up some of the most AUTHENTIC Mexican food in the city of Seattle for the past decade or more. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but their ‘Chicken Mole’ is absolutely OUT OF THIS WORLD.

No list of “best eats” in a neighborhood would be complete without a pizza joint, and there is one pizza place in Ballard that is a slice above the rest (hah!). Veraci pizza has been providing Ballard residents with amazing, thin crust pizza for years. Not only from their restaurant location, but at the weekly farmers market as well. They’ve even got a portable wood-fired pizza oven they trailer to the farmers market to ensure that their pizza stays consistent no matter where you find it!

Ok, so after binging on food, you’re going to need a place to go for a walk, sit down and relax, right? That place would be Golden Gardens. Located just a mile or so from downtown Ballard, you can find this absolute gem. It’s a beach, complete with soft sand, overlooking Puget Sound and it’s RIGHT in the heart of the city. On a warm summer day, the parking lot will be beyond packed, and every foot of real estate will be claimed by beach-goers, volleyball players, people enjoying a bbq cookout with family and friends or people just out for a stroll. When the sun sets, Golden Gardens becomes one of the most spectacular places in all of Seattle to catch a sunset. Not only do you get a view out to Puget Sound, but it’s framed by tree-lined islands and the snow-capped Olympic Mountain range. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see a sailboat heading into, or out of, Shilshole marina.

Just when you think you’re ready to pack up and leave, you may see an old staircase leading up into the forest. That’s right, Golden Gardens is more than just a beach, there are also miles of walking trails taking you through the woods and forested areas just above the beach. I would wager that there aren’t too many cities that you can spend time in a bustling neighborhood and less than a mile away be at a sandy beach, and just a few hundred steep steps from the beach, be up in what feel like the forest!

After dinner and a trip to Golden Gardens, perhaps you’re feeling like a drink? Check out The Sloop Tavern. It is an absolute Ballard institution in Seattle. The Sloop one of those last remaining bits of old Ballard. A dive bar for sailors and fishermen (and anyone really, but you WILL find a lot of fishermen hanging out there). Walk in, head up to the bar and order a SLOOPersized beer. You’ll understand when you see it! From there, head over to the Big Buck Hunter machine and slay some unsuspecting wildlife critters. All kidding aside though, it’s a showcase of old Ballard at its best. Sure, there are probably a hundred other bars in Ballard, but the Sloop stands out for its authentic nature.

Or, if dive bars are not necessarily your thing, you always have one of the dozen plus AMAZING micro and nano breweries that reside in Ballard. My personal favorite is Reubens Brews, but if you are looking for a beer in Seattle, there really is no other neighborhood with as many great brewery choices as you’ll have in Ballard.

So, there you have it. A tour de Ballard! I truly love Seattle. I love Capitol Hill. I love being a chiropractor in capitol hill, and at the end of a long day, I love driving home to Ballard to enjoy the food, drink and sights! It really doesn’t get much better than that in this city. Take it from one of the rare people who has lived here their entire lives. Ballard rocks. If you’re in Seattle, I cannot recommend making a trip there highly enough! Here are our top 10 things to do while you visit!


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Emerald City Spinal Care
1222 East Madison Street Suite D
Seattle, WA 98122
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