Pizza at Ballard Pizza Company (Seattle)


My wife and I have been dog-sitting for our daughter this weekend. Rather than having her dog over to our house, we thought it would be best if we did the sitting where she would be most comfortable, at home, especially since this would be the first time my daughter would be away for a few days. This is the reason there has lately been a flurry of reviews of places to eat in the Ballard neighborhood, one of Seattle’s hot spots for dining.

Ethan Stowell already has a presence in Ballard with Staple & Fancy Mercantile. We dined there a year ago and had the fixed-price meal, which turned out to be not only delicious but far too much food than we could comfortably stuff in our stomachs, rather unusual for this kind of menu option.

To give customers value for their money, Stowell has decided to try a different concept—”natural fast food.” Think burgers, fish & chips and fried chicken. While “upscale” may not be the right descriptor, maybe “redefined?” Ballard Pizza Company is the first of this kind of venture, located only blocks away from Staple on Ballard Ave.

You can order a whole pie or a slice of pizza. But what a slice. Called a “fat” slice, it is one-sixth of a pie for $4. You can see what’s available along the kitchen-assembly line as you walk toward the cashier at the rear. Add a pint of one of several beers on tap, the combo should be enough to satisfy most modest appetites and eaten at one of the butcher block tables in front. Sit-down tables are reserved for whole-pie customers. For variety, there are several kinds of salad and pasta.

Our two choices were sun-dried tomato-Kalamata olive, and roasted garlic-rapini (both ☆☆½). The crust is New York-style, meaning that it is thin. The underside is baked a deep brown, crispy enough to lift without too much drooping. In fact, the tomato-olive pizza crust was over-toasted, almost crackery, while the garlic pizza was just fine. The topping was tasty with the olives providing the saltiness that the crust was spare on. On the other slice, roasted garlic provided a nice sweetness that was not balanced by adequate saltiness, from my point-of-view, and I scarcely consider myself a salt fiend. Bottom line: nice crusts but hardly stellar toppings.

Sun-dried tomato & olives; rapini & roasted garlic

Sun-dried tomato & olives; rapini & roasted garlic

We also shared an arugula salad (☆☆☆½). A generous mound of arugula leaves were served on top of wonderfully flavorful, thinly sliced prosciutto and drizzled with EVOO and lemon juice. High-quality Parmesan added extra savoriness.

Arugula salad (prosciutto, EVOO, lemon juice, Parmesan)

Arugula salad (prosciutto, EVOO, lemon juice, Parmesan)

BPC employs an old-fashioned pizza dough maker, one who tosses it into the air. The process involves massaging the dough with all fingers, flattening with palms, throwing the dough back-and-forth between left and right hands, then tossing the dough into the air, catching it with the backs of the closed hands, stretching (again with reverse fists) and repeating until the desired diameter is achieved. The crust maker, or I should say “master,” was able to finish one pie crust in 35 seconds, more if he had to repair tears.

Pizza crust maker

Pizza crust maker

Ballard Pizza Company
5107 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA
206.659.6033

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Kimchi House (Seattle, WA)


For all the restaurants that Ballard boasts having, none has been Korean. Until now, that is. What used to be a sushi restaurant on 24th Avenue only a few weeks ago is now Kimchi House. There was no change in ownership, just a change in the chef and menu. After the father retired, the rest of the family decided it was time to introduce the neighborhood to Korean food.

The interior is very small, like the menu, displayed on what looks like two LCD monitors suspended above the counter. You order what you want and take a seat. The food will be served to you. Though the menu will expand in the coming weeks, what’s offered now is confined to bulgogi, kalbi, bibimbop, pretty much standard Korean fare. But then, there is the house sandwich with your choice of pork belly, beef or tofu; kimchi fries, made with kimchi, cheddar, sour cream and house sauce; and kimchi fried rice. I’m assuming that, like today, there will be specials posted on a whiteboard on the counter.

Another difference from standard Korean restaurants is that banchan (☆☆☆½) is served on a plate with your order, side dishes American-style. Today’s consisted of red potatoes simmered in a sweet sauce (gamja jorim), shredded radish kimchi and what the restaurant calls white kimchi, pickled napa cabbage, similar to what Japanese call hakusai no shiozuke. This was so good, gingery and sour that I had to purchase a tub of it, which with other condiments, is available for purchase in a refrigerator up front. The potatoes were excellent.

Pork belly is Kimchi House’s specialty, which meant I was going to go for it. There were nice grill marks on the marinated belly pieces. Tasted by itself, it was good (☆☆☆), equally so when dipped in the sweet kochujang sauce available in a squeeze bottle at every table.

Pork belly

Pork belly

My wife’s mushroom soon dubu (☆☆☆), a special of the day, was also good. Though the tofu pieces were rather small, the broth was better than most with mushroom and shrimp shell flavors. Slices of shiitake, onions, green onions and shrimp rounded out the ingredients.

Mushroom soon dubu

Mushroom soon dubu

With food this well prepared, Kimchi House should have no problems getting locals to make Korean food a part of their regular restaurant rotation.

Kimchi House
5809 24th Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
206.784.5322

Café Besalu (Seattle)


There seems to be general agreement that Café Besalu in the Ballard neighborhood is the best croissant bakery in town. James Miller consistently has been a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award for outstanding pastry chef. There have also been some claims that Besalu ranks right up there with France’s finest. I’m not in a position to take sides on that last opinion. If you don’t get there early (7am-3pm, W-Su only), lines frequently form pretty quickly, often out the door. Later in the day, croissants can run out though in the morning the kitchen does churn out popular ones as fast as it can make them. My daughter swoons over the almond croissant. With over 400 reviews on Yelp, the average score is astonishingly high.

I was here at 8:20am, more than an hour after Besalu opens. Fortunately, there were only three customers ahead of me. As I’ve said before, I prefer savory over sweet breakfasts, so my choice this morning was the ham and cheese croissant (☆☆☆). I’ll say this, the croissant itself is perfect—buttery, flaky, light and chewy in the middle. As for the filling itself, it is definitely savory but falls a little short of being top-notch, or enough of a distraction to consider driving over here over the one I can get at Belle Pastry in Bellevue.

Ham and cheese croissant

Ham and cheese croissant

As for the other pastries, maybe tomorrow would be a good opportunity—or later today? Nah.

9-28-13: It was a day later than when I thought I’d return, but return I did. Blustery and wet weather may have had something to do with the usual line of customers, but I was able to walk right up and order a couple of pastries. The cardamom pretzel (☆☆☆½) was more of a twisted croissant, denser but still flaky with a nice chew and a hint of cardamom on the finish. The plum danish (☆☆☆☆), actually a frangipane, was a masterpiece. Sweet-and-tart plum was beautifully complemented by an almond-flavored crème filling.

Plum danish

Plum danish

Cardamom pretzel

Cardamom pretzel

Café Besalu
5909 24th Avenue Northwest
Seattle, Washington 98107
206.789.1463