Peek Inside Ballard Annex Oyster House

Name: Ballard Annex Oyster House

Opening date: March 21

The concept: Fresh seafood and house-made chowders, soups, and bisques, plus a handful of seafood entrees from Nathan Opper and Zak Melang, who also own Ballard's Matador and Kickin' Boot Whiskey Kitchen.

The look: The big space next to the original town hall bell covers an airy 4,000 square feet and is appropriately, but subtly, nautical in theme. The d├ęcor features lots of wood, and most of the design elements are locally crafted or sourced, like rope from Ballard Hardware, custom light fixtures from Seattle glass and metal artists, and leftover wood paneling from the Matador and Kickin' Boot. It's the feel of old Ballard scrubbed squeaky clean.

The crew: A mix of families and young Ballardites on dates.

The food:The food here doesn't push the flavor envelope and I wasn't compelled to lick my plate, but it's good stuff. I had a $12 bowl of unmemorable salmon chowder, creamy and a little spicy, with a few chunks of salmon lurking in the bowl. My dining buddy ordered the pan-seared sockeye ($22), which was cooked perfectly and set on a dollop of horseradish mashed potatoes and green beans. We shared raw oysters, which came with an impressive array of toppings for this sauce lover: mango habanero, spicy cocktail, classic cocktail, and shallot mignonette.

Other main dishes include lobster ravioli, halibut fish and chips, clam linguini, prawn scampi, pan-fried trout, and seared sea scallops. The restaurant also serves rolls of chilled lobster, halibut, fried oyster, and crab, plus whole Maine lobster and Dungeness crab. I found it curious they serve Maine lobster; isn't the bounty of the Northwest's waters enough?

If you don't eat seafood, you're out of luck here, unless you want to stick to a salad and a side of fries or rice pilaf.

The drinks:The restaurant's specialties are a Bloody Mary with bacon, lime, and a blue cheese olive, and a Bloody Caesar with a jumbo prawn and horseradish. There's a selection of white and wine by the glass, half carafe, and bottle. Ten champagne choices, also by glass and bottle, are stocked to complement raw oysters. The tap selection is limited to four choices, and only two are from Northwest breweries: Maritime Old Seattle and 10 Barrel Apocalypse IPA. Several bottles are available, including Maritime Islander Pale Ale, Boon Framboise, and Chimay Blue. Rounding out the menu are specialty cocktails like elderflower bellini, swashbuckler, white sangria, and dark and stormy.

The cost: Appetizers run from $10-$14, entrees from $14-$38, and rolls $12-$20. Raw oysters are $2-$3 each, and there's a selection of steamed and baked oysters, clams, and mussels from $9 to $19. There are daily specials and a daily happy hour from 3:30pm to 5:30pm with $1.50 oysters and $1 off draft beer and wine.

The essential details: 5410 Ballard Ave NW,, Mon - Thurs 3:30 to midnight, Fri and Sat 11am to 1am, and Sun. 11am to midnight.

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