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Originally published March 21, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 21, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Taste of the Town

For Ballard, Copper Gate a go-go? Ya, sure

In one quadrant of the dim, votive-lit space a group of gal-pals sang Norwegian drinking songs. Across the room other drinkers lifted glasses...

Seattle Times restaurant critic

In one quadrant of the dim, votive-lit space a group of gal-pals sang Norwegian drinking songs. Across the room other drinkers lifted glasses and voices, responding in Swedish with their own tipsy tunes.

Me? I was sitting alone at the bar at Copper Gate (6301 24th Ave. N.W., Seattle, 206-706-3292, www.thecoppergate.com) — a modern-day tribute to Vikings and va-va-voom — sipping an ice-cold Linie aquavit and eating pickled herring with buttered pumpernickel. And I came this close to standing up, lifting my tumbler, and singing a rousing chorus of "To life! To life! L'chaim!" just to prove you don't have to be a descendant of the tribe to appreciate the charms of Copper Gate.

Now, if you're thinking, "Copper Gate? Isn't that the grimy tavern up past Dandelion, Tall Grass Bakery and Café Besalu? The one that's been around forever?" Well, yeah, you've got that right. But the latest iteration of that old Ballard booze-hall (from the folks who brought us terrific Thai food at Thaiku and Mexican magic at La Carta de Oaxaca) harkens back to the neighborhood's Scandinavian roots with this re-jiggered bar and nosh-spot.

With a freezer full of aquavit, Scandahoovian cocktails and a Norwegian cook named Per Amundsen plating up Swedish meatballs, mounds of fries and other nibbles from a small-plates menu ($6-$9), Copper Gate takes the New Ballard hipster trend in an old direction. If you're looking for aquavit-steamed mussels and glogg-poached pears, look no further.

But before you grab Aunt Ingaborg and promise her gravlax and a shot of Gammel Dansk, know this: Copper Gate has you covered on that front, but elsewhere — uh-oh! — she might not ken to coy cocktails like the appropriately named "Tyttebar" (Kristall Swedish lingonberry soda and sparkling wine). Nor the bare-naked Barbies in the lady's loo and the bare-breasted ladies — vintage photos, all — that double as daring decor. That said, the girls yelling "Skoal!" apparently didn't mind, and neither did I. Open 5-12 p.m. nightly.

Elsewhere in Ballard

Last summer I shared Sitka & Spruce's community table with Mark Ball and Emily Pickering, owners of Ballard's new Snoose Junction Pizzeria (2305 N.W. Market St., Seattle; 206-789-2305, snoosejunctionpizzeria.com). While I quietly and anonymously ate poussin with morels, they were busy consulting with Sitka & Spruce's owner/chef Matt Dillon, discussing purveyors and plans, and examining an architectural blueprint for Snoose Junction — which finally opened in January.

Leson on KPLU


Seattle Times restaurant critic Nancy Leson's commentaries on food and restaurants air on KPLU-FM (88.5) at 5:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m. and 4:44 p.m. Wednesdays, and at 8:30 a.m. Saturdays. (This week's topic: knives.)

Leson's commentaries are archived on KPLU's Web site, www.kplu.org, and may also be heard at www.seattletimes.com/restaurants.

(Note to those who think restaurant critics shouldn't try to maintain their anonymity. Despite 12-plus years on the beat and the occasional "outing," moments like that happen to me all the time. Hello! Steve Rosen and James Allard, of Blue C Sushi! That was me in the booth near yours while you were schmoozing Japanese business types at your U-Village store last week. Congrats on snagging the former Ravenna Gardens slot in Alderwood Mall. See you this summer in Lynnwood.)

As I was saying, in the six months since we "did lunch," Ball and Pickering have taken "the worst space in Seattle" — as he calls it — down to the studs, finding a 10-foot Norwegian flag framed into the wall in the process. They've built it back up into a slick looking pizza shop that takes its name from early Scandinavian settlers' penchant for "snoose" (snuff and chewing tobacco) and takes its "community spirit" seriously by using local purveyors and incorporating recycled materials into their pizzeria's decor.

I stopped in for a slice of pizza and encountered more than just friendly service. There's a kiddie train-setup in the front, a pair of old pinball machines ("Oh, Gilligan!") in the way-back, as well as restroom doors recycled from the Western District Courts Building, old bleachers from Roosevelt High School that double as bench seats, and bowling lanes from Leilani Lanes re-envisioned as tabletops. Cool.

So, how was the slice? Loved the high-quality mozzarella, tart tomato sauce and excellent meats (prosciutto, sausage and pepperoni), but the crust, in need of more "pull," could use some tinkering. Next time I'll try a whole pie (basic cheese $14), or maybe a calzone ($8-$11), a panini ($6.50-$7.50) or a salad ($4.50-$7.50). You can check the place out during late-afternoon happy hour (3-5 p.m.) when $4.50 buys a beer and a slice, or after 10 p.m. when a soda and a slice is $3.50. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays-Mondays, till midnight Tuesdays-Wednesdays and till 3 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays.

More Ballard? Uh, ya.

A year after closing her Dish D'Lish kiosk in Pike Place Market, Kathy Casey has opened a new flagship shop in the heart of old Ballard (5136 Ballard Ave N.W., Seattle 206-789-8121, www.kathycasey.com). Which means you'll no longer have to go to Sea-Tac Airport to get your fix of fancy foodstuffs bearing you-know-who's label.

The newest D'Lish is adjacent to Kathy Casey Food Studios (where The Seattle Times culinary columnist and Diva of Dish holds court, consulting and hosting private events at her "culinary playground"). Like its airport cafe sibling — hold the harried hurried — this flashy jewel box of a joint is devoted to gourmet gifts, upscale takeout, deli delights and cafe society. You'll find the latter sitting at tiny tables, eating soups, salads, sandwiches and such ($3.25-$7.49), or sipping specialty coffees, signature lemonades and adult beverages, too. Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, till 6 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays (closed Mondays).

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or nleson@seattletimes.com.

More columns are available at seattletimes.com/nancyleson

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