If Ballard Loft feels somewhat reminiscent of a renovated machine shop, well, that’s because it used to be an actual machine shop. Remnants of the building’s former occupation live on in several forms. A garage door opens to an outdoor patio alongside Ballard Avenue, and a retired jib hangs from the ceiling after a career spent hoisting heavy equipment and slumbering mechanics skyward.
Amidst this working man’s vibe, diners sit down to a substantial menu that includes sliders, wings, sandwiches, and a rotating menu of fresh food specials. The hearty meals are fitting for an area such as Salmon Bay, with its storied history of logging mills and maritime industry. But today, inside the Loft, those same meals are far more likely to fuel rounds of shuffleboard, pool, or darts or friendly competition during Tuesday night trivia.
According to a profile in Seattle magazine, chef John Howie started bussing tables at 15 and hasn’t looked back, building up a culinary empire of four venerated Washington restaurants. At SPORT Restaurant & Bar – A John Howie Restaurant, the menu evokes the classic idea of a sports bar while showcasing the chef's favorite plates, including chicken jambalaya, a deli-style reuben, and hand-tossed flatbread pizzas. Surrounded by the glow of flat-screens, visitors can watch a football game or Double Dutch match while sipping on a craft brew from the rotating menu of IPAs and stouts.
NYP Restaurant & Bar's culinary masterminds concoct cuisine ranging from hand-tossed pizzas slathered with homemade sauce to gourmet Angus burgers grilled to customer specifications. Working in tandem with bartenders, the chefs complement each tomato-topped pie or pasta dish with craft cocktails and 20 different signature martinis such as the Tsunami––a surge of coconut rum, vodka, peach schnapps, blue curacao, pineapple juice, and mist. They also serve local craft beers. For some mealtime entertainment, TVs located in the bar and in the restaurant show local sports teams such as the Seahawks and Sounders.
The clever chefs of Spitfire’s kitchens ingeniously upgrade mom’s home cooking with fine ingredients and gourmet cooking techniques. The kitchen sends out handcrafted treats such as classic Reuben sandwiches sporting coats of gruyere cheese, and sliders concealing organic beef or falafel patties. The drinks at Spitfire are similarly creative, as mixologists shake and stir 11 house cocktails.Twenty-two 42-inch plasma televisions glimmer from the dining-room walls, aided by one 100-inch and two 150-inch high-definition projection screens. Capable of playing 23 games at once from full-coverage sports networks across the globe, the mighty river of digital information shows off the latest action from NFL Sunday Ticket, Fox Soccer, and ESPN Mathletes. Elsewhere, paintings and natural materials take over the walls, with exposed brick and raw wood patterning diners’ backgrounds.
Though it's walking distance from both Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field, The Hawk's Nest makes the decision between facing the crowds at the stadium and staying indoors to watch the game with a beer and a burger a challenging one. The Seahawks, Sounders, and Mariners mecca, though lined with team paraphernalia and TVs displaying NFL Sunday Ticket, serves a more upscale spread than you might find at other sports bars. Chefs charbroil Misty Isle natural beef burgers with unique ingredients such as brie, peanut butter, and pineapple, and plate gourmet entrees of steamed clams and portabello goat-cheese sandwiches. Even the beer list is elevated—local microbrews and a rotating IPA populate the taps, though sports fans can always order up a bucket of Bud, Coors, or Miller bottles to accompany hollered insults at the TV's tiny referees. The bar is also a proud advocate for Ronald McDonald House and the Mittens For The Masses charity.
Aromas from 88 Keys' menu of American and Italian fare waft across floors crowded with jovial dancers shimmying beneath exposed-brick walls. 88 Keys' calendar orbits around the Piano Man's Friday- and Saturday-night dueling-piano shows, which exhibit the impressive nature of musical competition without the expense of shot-putting a cello. Blues showcases, open-mic jams, and a rotating cast of visiting bands round out the schedule.