“FreLard,” the murky gray area between Fremont and Ballard in Seattle is becoming a destination neighborhood specializing in craft beer and craft meat
FreLard: the proverbial “taint” of Ballard and Fremont, a formerly drab, industrial and residential blur between the two neighborhoods is transforming into it’s own interesting little neighborhood. The main drag of FreLard is Leary Way NW, which runs from Market Street in Ballard all the way to N 36th St in the heart of Fremont. FreLard isn’t an official neighborhood title, but it’s something many Seattleites have called it for years– an accurate way to describe the location of a place when you’re not quite sure which neighborhood it is in. Is it in Ballard or Fremont? FreLard.
Over the last decade, and in the last two years in particular, many very hip new restaurants and nano-breweries have sprouted up in FreLard, adding to the few lonely businesses who have pioneered the area. A resounding theme: craft beer, upscale pub grub, and craft meat, with a down-home, high-quality/low-fuss attitude.
The largest of the early pioneers to FreLard is definitely Hales Brewery. The brewery started in 1983 in Colville, WA and moved to Seattle in 1995. The food is pretty good, but most people go for the beer and the spacious, comfortable pub that is great for larger groups. They have three event spaces to rent out for private parties, and in the spring they host the Moisture Festival. We’ve never been to the Moisture Festival, but have always wanted to go and have heard nothing but rave reviews. Maybe we’ll make it next year.
Another old standby in FreLard is The Dish, arguably one of the best breakfast spots in North Seattle. There is almost always a line on the weekends, with a sign in clip board tacked up outside the front door so you can put your name on the list.
The atmosphere in The Dish is bright and cheery, with mismatched coffee mugs and an old style diner breakfast bar. The food is fantastic.
If the weekend line for The Dish is too long, or you really need a little booze with your breakfast, I hear the dark and dog-friendly Leary Traveler next door does a great brunch from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. We keep meaning to try it out, but we often wake up at 8:00 AM starving on the weekends, and don’t feel like waiting until 10:00. Someday we’ll make it in there. I’ve heard the bloody marys are worth the wait.
A bit closer to the Ballard Bridge next to Cash ‘N Carry is Maritime Pacific’s Jolly Roger Taproom. While the focus at the Jolly Roger Taproom is showcasing their very tasty microbrews, we go for the food. It is actually one of our favorite restaurants in Seattle.
They have a regular happy hour and bar menu full of cheap yet unique and delicious pub items, such as smoked jalapeno caesar salads (Paddy’s favorite), smoked onion ring “stackers” with smoked jalapeno tarter sauce, beer battered bacon, and mahi mahi sliders. You can easily eat a very satisfying happy hour dinner there for under $15.
The Jolly Roger Taproom also has a rotating seasonal dinner menu that is even better than the pub snacks. In the fall they usually pay homage to Oktoberfest with German-inspired cuisine, and the rest of the year the menu is seasonal and creative. The prices are higher than the bar menu, but not outrageous–about $16-$22 a plate. The plates are enough on their own to fill you up, and the food is high end and unique enough that we’d put their chef up against any of the fancy big-name chefs in this town.
The secret of their amazing food hasn’t stayed a secret though, and you may find a bit of a wait on Friday and Saturday nights. Trust us, it’s worth it.
FreLard has also become a mecca for a smattering of new nano-breweries in the last couple of years, most of which have a symbiotic relationship with the local food trucks in the area. They serve beer out of warehouse-style taprooms tucked into residential neighborhood streets, while a food truck sets up camp in front to serve food to the beer drinkers. The food truck doesn’t need a liquor license, and the breweries don’t need a food license. It’s a win-win, and beer drinkers get to sample a different food truck menu on different days of the week.
The Stoup at 1108 NW 52nd St opened in 2013. They have an inside and outside beer garden, and you can check the food truck schedule on their website to see what’s for dinner.
Multiple people have told us to check out Reubens Brews on 5010 14th Ave NW. They just moved to their new larger location this month, two blocks from their original location. This is good news, because their popularity kept their old location so busy that the one time my co-workers and I tried to check it out, we couldn’t even fit in the door to get in line for beer. The beer must be fantastic, we’ll have to give it another try. They are open Monday through Thursday from 3 to 9, and Friday through Sunday from 12 to 9.
Also in the neighborhood is Popluxe Brewing, another new nano brewery in FreLard at 826 B NW 49th St. We haven’t been there yet and don’t know much about it, but the reviews are good. A friend of mine says they have a nice little yard area to hang out in and often host live music. Food trucks are stationed there on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Back on Leary Way NW in what looks like an old auto garage is Bad Jimmy’s Brewing. I went to Bad Jimmy’s on a Seattle Cycle Saloon tour with my co-workers and it was my favorite brewery on the tour. They had some really interesting and unique beers that I’ve never had anywhere else, such as their cocoa vanilla porter (delicious!), blood orange honey wheat, and habanero amber.
There is a somewhat decent amount of seating inside for bad weather days, and they encourage people to bring in food from outside. They are right next door to Bourbon and Bones, a new southern food and whiskey restaurant on Leary Way.
Bourbon and Bones has taken southern food and BBQ up a notch, also serving beer and craft cocktails with a focus on bourbon (if you couldn’t tell from the name). It is good that Bad Jimmy’s has developed a friendly relationship with their next door neighbor by allowing take-out food at their taproom, because Bourbon and Bones has a serious lack of seating for how popular they are. The first time Paddy and I attempted to go there, there was not one seat to be found and we weren’t in the mood to stand outside in the rain waiting for someone to leave. We decided to try again a couple months ago, and managed to snag two bar stools just as a couple people were leaving.
I had the fried chicken with collard greens and mac and cheese, and Paddy had the ribs with collards and mac and cheese, and we shared a side of hush puppies. Food was served on a metal lunch tray, and came with two slices of white bread which can pretty much be purposed as edible napkins for all the sauce. A few different house-made BBQ sauces were on the bar and all the tables as condiments, and they were all delicious.
The fried chicken was excellent, and Paddy really enjoyed his ribs. The collards were smoky and the mac and cheese was soupy. It was a nice contrast to dried out mac and cheese found at many southern restaurants in town, and the flavor was nice and cheesy. We didn’t have room for dessert, but there were some ridiculously amazing cakes and pies behind the bar waiting to be served, including a maple bacon cake that I kind of wished I’d gotten a slice of to go.
The only things that make us hesitant to make Bourbon and Bones a new regular spot are the constant battle for a seat and the slightly high prices. The counter is right at the front door, so it is easy to get take out to go. We might try getting some to-go dinner to have along with beer at Bad Jimmy’s in their taproom next time.
Last month, another new BBQ joint brazenly opened up in FreLard a block down the street from Bourbon and Bones on Leary Way NW, called Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ. While they may serve a similar cuisine to Bourbon and Bones, the theme and menu focus are very different.
At Drunky’s, it’s all about the slow-smoked meat. It is simple, affordable, and cooked with love. You can smell it cooking all the way into Fremont in the afternoons and it smells amazing. You won’t find any hush puppies, maple bourbon cake, or collard greens; instead there are simple, Texas-style staples like baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad. Paddy tried the brisket dinner and I had the half chicken. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and the flavor was incredible. The potato salad and coleslaw weren’t anything to write home about, but they were good. Just like mom used to make. The baked beans however were fabulous and flavorful–a far cry from a can of Bush’s.
There is more seating at Drunky’s than at Bourbon and Bones, and a great patio with astro turf and string lights to set the back-country mood. The owners put a lot of attention to detail into the restaurant itself: Tractor seats at the bar, velvet Elvis paintings and taxidermy, reclaimed rustic wood walls and a chandelier made out of chainsaws. Food is served on metal camping plates with baked beans in a matching camping mug. Given the awesome food, low prices, and fabulous patio, we may be back a few times this summer.
A little ways west down Leary Way NW from Drunky’s and Bourbon and Bones (across from the new BevMo) is yet another new western Americana-themed restaurant called Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens. Instead of BBQ, the focus is on gourmet burgers and a gourmet salad bar.
The “greens” are what sets this place apart. You can order hand cut fries or haystack fried onions, but they are an afterthought. Instead of the usual greasy fried sides, you can walk in, grab a bowl at the salad bar, fill it with whatever you want and however big you want, and pay for it by the pound at the counter when you order your burger. Or don’t order a burger–just have a salad. There were a variety of pickled veggies and a curry chicken salad, several types of cheese, and two types of greens in addition to all the usual salad bar stuff.
We’ve been twice, the first time I got the haystack onions as a side and while they were tasty, there wasn’t much to them. Kind of like a fresh version of the french fried onions you put on a green bean casserole. The second time we went I did the salad bar and it was excellent. The pickled onions I added to the salad were fantastic. Both times I got The Catch burger (I don’t eat beef) and it was very good. It was a house made cod patty instead of the usual breaded and fried pre-fab piece of cod, which was refreshing. Paddy had a different beef burger each time (sorry, I don’t remember which ones) and he said they were both great. They also have a chicken sandwich and a white bean and quinoa burger which I have yet to try.
Giddy-Up has a separate room area off the main area that can be rented for private parties, and in the summer is converted to an open-air dining area. Either way, there is usually plenty of space to find a seat.
FreLard used to be an area we’d just past through on the way to either Ballard or Fremont, but now it’s a place we go on purpose. There is more parking available than in Fremont and Ballard, and there are now several great restaurants to choose from, and more are most likely on the way. I just heard of a Korean restaurant that opened last year just off of Leary as well called Tray Kitchen which we will be checking out soon. FreLard–check it out!