Not long ago, the main thing to love about Ballard was lutefisk. But Ballard has changed. There’s much to do in this popular neighborhood—so much, that we’ll be revisiting for future reports. For now, let’s focus on what to do when you bring your love to Seaview Avenue.
PICK UP PIG FOR A PICNIC
After years of being “sandwich central” in Fremont, wildly popular Paseo finally opened a second location, in Ballard. You’ll have no trouble finding it. If you’re driving north on Seaview, it’s the bright pink shack on the right (east) side of the road. The menu is posted outside, next to the order window, and note that it’s cash only; an arrow will steer you in the direction of the ATM machine at the surf shop next door.
Come here for lunch or to share a sandwich as an afternoon snack. Good luck, though, picking just one of the amazing sandwiches. You can’t go wrong with any of the pork choices, with the Cuban roast (made with pork shoulder) being the most popular. The grilled pork and midnight Cuban press also have strong followings. If you’re a shrimp lover, the grilled prawn sandwich is something special, and comes with garlic tapenade and various spice levels. Vegetarians can enjoy that same tapenade in the tofu delight sandwich, and ultimately you’ll realize that Paseo is all about the caramelized onions—and that you can get an onion obsession sandwich.
All the sandwiches come with those onions, along with cilantro, romaine lettuce, pickled jalapenos, and aioli on a toasted baguette. Don’t count on the bread to hold things together, though. You better get lots of napkins, because tackling this sandwich results in a mess. A deliciously happy mess, but a mess nonetheless. Eating a Paseo sandwich is the equivalent of eating spaghetti on a first date. Just do it, and be yourself!
GO TO GOLDEN GARDENS
There are a few picnic tables at Paseo, but you’re taking your sandwich just up the road to Golden Gardens. Find a table, bring chairs, or throw a blanket on the beach while you enjoy your sandwich along with stunning views of Shilshole Bay and the Olympic Mountains. If you do nothing else all afternoon, this will be a day well-spent.
But, there is more to do. Like Gas Works, this is a perfect place to fly a kite. Or throw a Frisbee to each other. Maybe play volleyball?
If you want to get in/on the water instead of just looking at it, you can sail, kayak, paddleboard, and more.
Bring Fido and you’ll find an active, off-leash dog park. Unleash yourselves and spend the day hiking the trails, fishing off the pier, exploring the wetlands, or—if the weather is warm—lying in the sand. (Who says there’s no beach sand in Seattle?) And as the day is really all about the two of you getting romantic, maybe you can find a secluded spot for some snuggling…
CATCH SOME RAYS AT RAY’S
Back by Paseo on the west side of Seaview is a Ballard institution: Ray’s.
Just as Ballard isn’t just for Scandinavians, Ray’s isn’t just for tourists—though you’re likely to see many. Regardless, sometimes it’s fun to play tourist in your town.
Ray’s actually consists of a couple of places. Ray’s Boathouse is an upmarket restaurant with a formal dining room. Its large windows offer sparkling views of Shilshole Bay, but even better is to go upstairs to the more casual Ray’s Café to try to score a table on the outdoor deck. (Happy hour happens at the indoor bar area, though it’s offered outdoors on Tuesday nights.) Outside, you’ll definitely want sunglasses and maybe a hat (and a cold drink) if that elusive yellow star is shining down at you.
The café has the usual suspects, like clam chowder, crispy calamari, and shrimp cocktail. The smoked salmon skewers with cucumber-sesame relish and fresh pineapple are a good starter. Perhaps the most popular (and tastiest) dish is the sablefish in sake kasu, served with grilled choy sum, jasmine rice, honey soy, and scallion oil.
(At the end of a day like this, you’ll likely know whether you’re more of a Ray’s person or a Paseo person, as these are two very different dining experiences.)
Your biggest decision may be whether to take in the sunset at Ray’s, or to return back to Golden Gardens to enjoy nightfall there. With the sea views on Seaview in Ballard, both choices are winners.
- Sailboats at “Golden Gardens” by Flickr pool’s prpljoy
- “Midnight Cuban Press Sandwich” by Flickr pool’s Justin.li
- Couple on bench at “Golden Gardens” by Flickr pool’s rhys logan (rhystomahawk.com)
- “View from the deck at Ray’s” by Flickr pool’s cirocco
- “Sablefish” by Jay Friedman