Known for its beautiful and historical waterfront, Ballard is THE HUB for good food in Seattle. You could build a food-driven Seattle itinerary and stay in Ballard your entire visit. It’s truly a foodie’s paradise, with incredible restaurants nestled into cute-as-can-be streets that are brimming with trendy boutiques, art galleries, bars, and a thriving social scene.
Finding the Best Ballard Restaurants in Seattle
Ballard was once its own city, founded in 1853 by fishers, boat builders, and lumber workers, many of Scandinavian heritage. Today, as one of Seattle’s most popular neighborhoods, you’ll find plenty of Ballard pride (#FreeBallard), scenic parks, and So.Many. Restaurants to explore and enjoy. Navigating through the overwhelming amount of places to eat in this neighborhood can be a daunting task, but we’re here to make it deliciously easy.
Local Eats: The Ballard Sunday Market
Though it’s technically not a restaurant and can’t officially be included in this guide, it would be remiss of us not to mention the Ballard Sunday Market, where local eats reign supreme. The Ballard Sunday Market is second only to Pike Place (here are the best Pike Place Market eats) when it comes to the best local markets in the city. You’ll find a variety of vendors lined up along Ballard Ave every Sunday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Market Mini Donuts are an absolute must-try, and a great way to start your morning at the market. This is the “downtown” of Ballard, and many of the restaurants on our guide to the best restaurants in Ballard are walkable from here. Peruse the stalls, follow your nose and grab a few appetizers, then head to the Ballard restaurant of your choice.
17. Lunch with a View: Ray’s Cafe
If we had to describe Ray’s in one word it would be iconic. This seafood-focused eatery has been a dockside legend since 1939 and is the casual sibling restaurant to the more upscale Ray’s Boathouse, which is located just downstairs. But on blue-sky days, you’re not looking to be cozied up in the Boathouse. No, you’re heading straight for the Cafe’s open-air deck to order yourself a blackened salmon sandwich and some crispy calamari to share. Ray’s Cafe is great any time of day, but if you happen to catch one of Shilshole Bay’s spectacular sunsets while dining on the deck, you’ll be witnessing one of the most draw-dropping scenes in all of Ballard. On your way out, stop for a photo-op under the massive red neon “RAYS” sign to prove to your friends that you know where the best restaurants in Ballard are.
16. Vegan: Cycle Dogs
Cycle Dogs, the best plant-based fried food spot in the city and one of the best Ballard restaurants, is finally a permanent neighborhood fixture (it started out as a hot dog cart, then food truck, and now a brick-and-mortar). You’re definitely here for the hot dogs, which are the perfect texture, full of flavor, and made with all local ingredients. For classic hot dog lovers who want a step up from a dog and bun (though they do offer that as well), the Seattle Dog is the way to go, slathered with cream cheese and topped with grilled sweet onion. For those a bit more adventurous, we’ll never get over how delicious the Elote Dog is, loaded with buttery Mexican-style street corn, mayo, cayenne, green onion, and a lime wedge. Head to Cycle Dogs for dinner with a group of friends and sink your teeth into the best vegan dog you’ll ever have.
15. Sushi: Billy Beach Sushi & Bar
There’s no shortage of sushi in Seattle, and Billy Beach in Ballard offers some of the best. Situated on a lively neighborhood street and offering a large dining room, Billy Beach is a perfect spot for grabbing some affordable fresh fish with your friends. Start with a round of their edamame and/or their calamari, which features lightly tempura’d calamari strips tossed in a spicy garlic chili glaze and served with their signature house cream sauce (we’d drink it if we wouldn’t get side-eye from the surrounding tables). Next, it’s time to load up on sushi. The Belly Sampler, which includes salmon toro, hamachi toro, and maguro toro nigiri, is a great place to start if you’re feeling indecisive. If you’re more into rolls, we love the Ballard Crunch, Spicy Spider Roll, Dragon Fire, or the Beach Rainbow Roll.
14. Mexican: Asadero
Asadero isn’t your average Mexican joint. In fact, it’s the best Mexican steakhouse in the entire city. What you’ll experience at Asadero is a moody, buzzing atmosphere paired with cool, quirky decor and (most importantly) outstanding beef. The meat here comes in plenty of different Mexican cuts including peinecillo, vacio, or zabuton. But to get a taste of what makes Asadero one of the best restaurants in Ballard, it’s mandatory to get the carne asada. This grilled and thinly sliced specialty is made with American wagyu chuck-eye steak and is served in the form of a 16 oz platter served with nopal (cactus paddle) and chorizo. The carne asada is perfectly smoky and savory, and the portions are huge so it’s a great plate to share. Order some of Asadero’s housemade guacamole to share as well and you’ve got yourself a perfect meal.
13. Ramen: Arashi
Ramen is to Seattle what pizza is to New York. With at least nine months out of the year bringing sweater weather, ramen is a staple in this city and some of the most delicious can be found at Arashi, one of the best Ballard restaurants. It’s truly a delight to twirl and slurp your way through a bowl of hot, brothy goodness in this tiny noodle house. We highly recommend the Arashi, spicy miso, or black garlic ramen, but any bowl you order is guaranteed to warm your soul. If you’re in the mood for an appetizer before your noodles, get the wings! They pack just the right amount of punch, and perfectly prep your tastebuds for the noodly main course that awaits.
12. Italian: San Fermo
Don’t blink, you might miss it! San Fermo is camouflaged as a charming craftsman-style home located on Ballard Ave. But as soon as you walk in the front door, you’ll see that this historic home has been brilliantly transformed into one of the best restaurants in Ballard. San Fermo serves traditional, regional Italian food made from locally sourced ingredients, and they do it well. The menu is small and changes daily except for one dish, which is a must-order—the bolognese. It’s decadent, earthy, and comforting in the best way. Order an antipasti or two to share (we love the Farinata), then delight in a plate of handmade pasta (the mafaldine carbonara is also a must-order if it’s on the menu). On a nice night, we recommend making a reservation for their cozy covered patio. It’s fully equipped with heaters and there’s always lovely music playing overhead. The ambiance here is impeccable, but the food is the star of the show.
11. Breakfast: Portage Bay Cafe
Portage Bay Cafe is a great crowd-pleaser option for breakfast in Seattle because of its large selection of both sweet and savory menu items. They are most well-known for the breakfast bar, which is a truly magical display of various fruit, granola, nuts, and an enormous bowl of freshly whipped cream. Order any of their sweet menu items (french toast, pancakes, etc. ) and you’ll get to load up on these toppings. There are several eggs benedict options on the menu, but you’re here for the Seattle Benedict. The key ingredient is local Dungeness crab, but it is also topped with organic arugula, sliced avocado, fresh dill, and the classic poached egg and hollandaise combo. We love Portage Bay Cafe for a group dining option, and there are a few locations to choose from depending on where is most convenient.
10. Burger: 8oz Burger & Co.
When you need to get your burger fix in Ballard, start with one of our favorite Seattle restaurants, 8oz Burger & Co. The atmosphere at 8oz is trendy, upbeat, and feels like the gourmet version of your favorite burger joint. But what’s even better is that they serve phenomenal, juicy burgers cooked to perfection (what’s worse than an overcooked burger?). We can safely say that 8oz Burger & Co. is one of the very best Ballard restaurants, and can do no wrong in the construction of your dream burger. Our go-to order is The 8 oz, a house-blend beef patty served with arugula, balsamic onions, bacon, Beecher’s flagship cheddar, and truffle aioli on a sturdy yet fluffy brioche bun. Another favorite is The Union Burger featuring an espresso-rubbed patty, arugula, fried shallots, candied bacon, gorgonzola, and peppercorn aioli. Don’t skip the garlic truffle fries!
9. Bakery: Cafe Besalu
Do you love beige foods as much as we do? Good. Head straight to Cafe Besalu, where they have the best assortment of baked goods in the neighborhood! The telltale sign of any good bakery is a line out the door, and Cafe Besalu definitely has one, so get here early if you want to beat the crowds. Seating inside is minimal, but curbside parking is usually available in front of their shop and you can take your order to go. We appreciate a healthy balance of sweet and savory selections at a bakery, and Cafe Besalu absolutely delivers, but the savory croissants here are a must-try. They’re buttery, flaky, and melt-in-your-mouth good. We especially love the classic ham and swiss or the onion, gruyere, and thyme.
8. Fine Dining: Copine
Copine, a rare fine-dining gem found in a mostly casual neighborhood, is the perfect spot for any special occasion, whether you’re celebrating an anniversary or trying to impress the boss. With a cool underground location that you can spy on from the street, a beautifully modern dining room, and outstanding service, you’ll be shocked to find out that the best thing about Copine is the food. Here, classic French technique is melded with local ingredients to create thoughtful, balanced plates including caramelized sea scallops, poulet roti, and toasted barley risotto. Enjoy delightful complimentary small bites while you wait for your dinner, like a warm challah roll with butter and sea salt that is to die for. A night spent dining at Copine is sure to be a night to remember.
7. Middle Eastern: Cafe Munir
You’ll feel worlds away with the romantic atmosphere and exotic Lebanese food found at Cafe Munir, one of the best restaurants in Ballard. This tiny dining space is the perfect spot for an intimate date night. Everything you can order here packs an authentic and unique punch. Order three to five mezzes to share plus a few skewers so you can sample all the deliciousness. Both the beef and chicken skewers are succulent and delicious. And don’t forget the pita and hummus! The pita is pillowy and light without an overwhelming amount of flavor, making it the perfect vehicle for Cafe Munir’s incredible hummus. If you’re into lamb, we highly recommend the lamb hummus.
6. Neighborhood Hangout: Brimmer & Heeltap
A charming bistro and bar, Brimmer & Heeltap is a local-favorite hangout and one of the very best restaurants in Ballard. The bright, winsome interior—including a floor tiled with pennies—will have you at hello, and every item on their menu is thoughtful, interesting, and downright delicious. The waitstaff here is genuinely invested in your dining experience and always ready to offer confident menu recommendations. The menu changes seasonally but always includes creative and beautifully executed plates showcasing local ingredients. Whether you order the buttery soft cod swimming in crab broth or the rye spaetzle featuring wild mushrooms and toasty breadcrumbs, you’re in for a treat! We love Brimmer & Heeltap because they offer dishes that you wouldn’t typically find elsewhere, while still managing to keep their menu approachable. It’s no wonder locals return to Brimmer & Heeltap again and again (and again). A side note: if you’re in the area during brunch hours (7 a.m.-2 p.m.), head through the outdoor gate right next to the restaurant to discover a hidden oasis in the city. Red Arrow Coffee, which is Brimmer & Heeltap’s garden cafe, serves up tasty bites and brews in an al fresco setting. As if this place wasn’t wonderful enough!
5. Caribbean: Un Bien
Just one bite of Un Bien’s Caribbean Roast Sandwich and you’ll be a fan for life. This little beauty showcases pork shoulder coated in marinade and slow-roasted until it falls into succulent morsels. Those succulent morsels are then piled onto a lightly toasted baguette (team no soggy bread) which is slathered with aioli, then topped with fresh cilantro, crisp romaine, pickled jalapeños, and the thickest, tastiest caramelized onions you’ve ever had. It’s a big, juicy, delicious mess and we know you’ll love it as much as we do. Un Bien’s Shilshole location is one of the very best Ballard restaurants and has a breezy beach town feel with its bright pink exterior, communal patio tables, and proximity to Puget Sound. Next door, you’ll find a kayak and SUP rental shop so you can lunch and then launch from the beach just across the street. We can’t think of a better way to spend a summer afternoon in Seattle.
4. Small Plates: The Walrus and the Carpenter
The Walrus and the Carpenter has more than enough national acclaim, including many, many “best seafood” and “best oyster bar” lists. And we’re here to assure you that the hype is real. This bustling restaurant/fishing pub hybrid is a must-not-miss for bivalve connoisseurs. Imagine piles of ice-cold chubby oysters that are reminiscent of the sea with a slight tang of lemon juice. The menu changes daily based on what’s available, but let us be clear: any of the oysters you try at The Walrus and the Carpenter are bound to be some of the freshest and most delicious you will ever enjoy. We recommend starting with the Sea Wolf bread and butter (don’t be shy with the butter) and ordering several small plates to accompany those oysters. Bottoms up!
3. Thai: Pestle Rock
Serving up Thai cuisine in the heart of Ballard, Pestle Rock is a culinary gem. Most of us are used to the taste of Bangkok-style Thai food, such as Pad Thai or Swimming Rama, but don’t come here looking for either of those dishes. Pestle Rock specializes in Thai food from Isan, a Northeast region of Thailand known for its pungent, spicy dishes that are often seasoned with fresh herbs, lime juice, and fish sauce. Everything on the menu is bold in flavor and made with ingredients that are fresh, local, and all-natural. Our favorites? If you’re visiting for dinner, choose the Kao Soi, a creamy curry noodle soup cooked with chicken, topped with red onion, pickled mustard greens, and crispy noodles. If you’re here for lunch, we love the Khao Ka Prau Gai Khai-Dao: Draper Valley ground chicken stir-fried with fresh chilies and hot basil, served with rice and topped with a fried egg. Wash it all down with a tamarind soda and you’ll be convinced that Pestle Rock is one of Seattle’s best Ballard restaurants.
2. Pizza: Delancey
Delancey is the perfect culmination of Seattle culture, local talent, and of course, perfect pizza. Not too fancy yet not too casual, Delancey serves pizza six days a week (closed on Monday) with wood-fired, New York-style crust that is somehow both chewy and charred, and artisanal toppings like crimini mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, and housemade sausage. Start with the Jersey Salad, order as many pizzas as your party can handle, and don’t forget to end with their divine Chocolate Chip Cookie with Gray Salt—available as dough or baked!
1. New American: Sawyer
Here she is, the best restaurant in the glorious food-driven neighborhood of Ballard: Sawyer. New American is one of those food genres that can be intimidating and too stuffy. But not at Sawyer, where they serve up comfort food with an elevated twist. The menu here is sheer perfection and well-suited for food snobs and picky eaters alike with playful yet sophisticated offerings like pork belly steam buns (a MUST order), cinnamon roll monkey bread, potato piroshky pull-apart, and a s’more choco taco. All of the menu items are meant to be shareable plates so you can sample a little bit of everything. As an added perk, the restaurant itself is absolutely stunning, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed beams, and cozy booths that are situated in a renovated 1920s sawmill. You simply must visit Sawyer for both brunch AND dinner, because both of them are the best offering in the entire neighborhood. We love Sawyer because they bring the level of creativity and quality you’d expect from a fine dining establishment, but with the approachability of a neighborhood staple. And we know you’ll love it too.
BONUS: 5 Best Ballard Restaurants for Dessert
5. Cupcake Royale
If you’re looking for the best cupcake in Ballard, visit Cupcake Royale. Cupcake Royale will make all of your cupcake dreams come true with flavors like tiramisu, lemon drop, peppermint party, and coconut bunny. Our favorite from all of their delicious options is the salted caramel—chocolate cake topped with house-made caramel buttercream, Fleur de Sel, and dark chocolate curls. And once you’re fully addicted, don’t forget to download their mobile app so you can cash in on some sweet (pun intended) rewards.
4. Frankie + Jo’s
Frankie & Jo’s is here to radically change the way you think about ice cream. As one of our favorite vegan restaurants in Seattle, this adorable scoop shop gives us major SoCal-in-the-70s vibes with its sunshiny ambiance and funky wallpaper. But behind Frankie & Jo’s groovy ice cream counter is where the real dairy-free plant magic happens. That’s where they’re mixing up their 10 incredible mainstay flavors and three monthly flavors showcasing seasonal superfoods. All of Frankie & Jo’s creations are ultra-creamy and luscious, but our number one pick has to be their Salty Caramel Ash made with housemade cashew milk, coconut milk, cane sugar, coconut oil, activated charcoal, vanilla extract, and sea salt. The black color of the ice cream comes from the activated charcoal and might look questionable but trust us, it’s undeniably scrumptious (and doesn’t stain your teeth!). Be sure to get your scoops in one of their gluten-free maple-vanilla waffle cones that are perfectly chewy and made in house daily. Frankie & Jo’s is the perfect spot for a frosty plant-based treat with your girlfriends.
3. D’Ambrosio Gelato
D’Ambrosio is a gelateria situated on Ballard Ave that churns out Italy’s finest creation in over 15 incredible flavors. Perfect for strolling the streets of Ballard on a warm summer day, this gelato will have you reminiscing about that dreamy Italian vacation you took, or at least have you planning one ASAP. D’Ambrosio uses all farm-fresh, organic, and locally produced ingredients, which is evident with just one bite. Picking a favorite flavor is like picking a favorite child, but some highlights include the Theo Chocolate, Bronte Pistacchio, and strawberry sorbet.
2. Salt & Straw
Though it isn’t technically a Ballard original (the OG shop is in Portland), we can’t help but be over the moon for Salt & Straw. Get your Salt & Straw fix in a cup, waffle cone, sundae, or by the pint and lap up the dessert dreams are made of at one of the best restaurants in Ballard. There are tons of scoop selections on the menu including Salt & Straw staples that are always available and exciting themed options that change monthly. Salt & Straw continues to give new meaning to creativity with their experimental flavors, particularly in their rotating monthly specials. There is always a line out the door, but the staff gives every customer incredible attention and service. We love the cinnamon snickerdoodle or sea salt with caramel ribbons paired with the chocolate gooey brownie for a creamy and decadent treat!
1. Hot Cakes
As self-proclaimed chocoholics, we never say no to chocolate, particularly when it takes the form of a freshly baked molten cake. If you too enjoy warm, gooey-in-the-middle, crusty-on-the-top chocolate cake, Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery is the place for you. Hot Cakes’ Dark Decadence is the cake that started it all, originally sold at various farmers’ markets in the Seattle area, and it’s the one you should order. This cake is made up of deep, velvety Theo chocolate and dry-burned caramel, served alongside vanilla ice cream that’s topped with nib toffee. If your mouth isn’t watering by now, check your pulse! We love Hot Cakes’ cozy, hipster-chic location in Ballard for a GNO or romantic dessert date. Get ready to indulge in the best Ballard restaurant for dessert.