Monday, July 13, 2009

Bastille Café & Bar

I have been reading about Bastille for a while now, and every time I walked past its Ballard location I would try to catch a glimpse inside to check on the progress. Open now for just a couple of weeks, I stopped in recently for a drink and a look around. French-inspired Bastille is owned by two veterans of the Seattle food scene, Deming Maclise and James Weimann. Maclise opened local organic coffee house Caffe Fiore in multiple locations, and Weimann owned Triangle Tavern, El Camino, Peso’s, and The Ballroom, among others. The two men responsible for what comes out of the kitchen have some very recognizable names on their resumes as well: Executive Chef Shannon Galusha with Campagne, Café Campagne, and the now-closed Veil; and Chef de Cuisine Jason Stoneburner with Campagne, Union, and How to Cook a Wolf.

The first thing that struck me about Bastille is its scale. The front room includes feet and feet of a beautiful zinc-topped bar and huge mirrors on one side of the room, a restaurant space with dining tables and a few select booths on the other, and what seems these days to be the requisite open kitchen. Extending what you see of the space from your first look inside is a large outdoor patio that will be perfect for lounging about on long summer evenings. Bastille’s bright white subway tile and fantastic café-style light fixtures do bring a bit of Paris to Ballard, while the big metal beams give a nod to the history of the place and root it in this formerly industrial neighborhood. I really like that they have retained some of the elements of the old building, which used to house family-owned Obermaier Machine Works. Though one of those elements, a hood that vented a furnace at Obermaier, has below it something that resembles an open brick fire pit that would be more at home at the Mexican joint up the street, Matador. I love the light airiness of the front space, but for my next visit I intend to spend considerable time at the back bar, accessed down a hallway and hidden away in the rear of the building. Despite the tall ceilings, this room with its two massive portraits and equally massive mirrors still manages to be the darker, cozier cousin of the front space.

In uncharacteristic fashion I skipped the cocktail menu this time around but will be back soon to try one of my favorites, the French 75, as well as something I spotted on Bastille’s menu, La Rive Gauche. Anything with the liqueur, St. Germain -- I’m on it. If you’re in the mood for beer, they offer a few local but mostly appropriately international beers including Hoegarden, Stella Artois, Chimay, Fischer Amber, Kronenbourg, Tecate, and Negra Modelo.

On this first visit to Bastille I sampled some of the items from the happy hour menu. Although the mussels (in a broth of champagne, leeks, and thyme) didn’t knock my socks off, I really enjoyed the fries (love the grey sea salt) and the grilled lamb burger (on a lavash sesame bun with harissa aioli and arugula). The dinner menu looks as though it will be worth a more serious perusal some time soon and a few things that I have my eye on include the Salade Lyonnaise with frisée, crisp bacon, poached egg, and a Dijon vinaigrette; Crispy Pork Belly with a summer pole bean salad and pickled radish; and the classic charcuterie plate of cured meats, rillettes, oil-preserved olives, and baguette slices.

Adding to the draw of Bastille is the fact that all of their herbs and salad greens are grown in raised-bed planter boxes on the restaurant’s roof. In a city crazy for locally-sourced products, they are certainly raising the bar in shortening the distance from soil to table.

Bastille Café & Bar  on Urbanspoon

[Photo courtesy of Marty Lindal]


  1. Love those French 75s

  2. Had brunch there this last summer with some friends. It was a lovely sunny Seattle day so we sat outdoors. It was so "ladies who lunch" as I wore my sundress and my friend carried around her cloth bag full of veggies, fruits and baguette from the Ballard Sunday Market. So very French. I ordered the Lavendar French Toast - subtle and delicious. My friend ordered a very rich, eggy and cheesy dish. It was so rich she took half of it home!