The impresarios behind this cocktail den run a small, but smart, well-curated bar snack-and-cocktail menu combining Northwest flavors with turmeric, curry, coconut milk and other South Asian ingredients. In a cocktail scene filled with copycats, this Sri Lanka- and-India-themed bar is a refreshing addition with original and playful cocktails including a gimlet with “ghee-washed gin, curry leaf, sea salt and lime.”
The ambitious cocktails, at least for now, are priced $12 and under, and most bar snacks and small plates — from fried chicken nuggets to a mutton roll — are priced $8 or less. Prices are low by Ballard standards (though it helps that this is not in the high-rent, barhopping drag around Northwest Market Street). The 29-seat bar is run by the same team behind Manolin, which was anointed as one of America’s best new restaurants by Bon Appétit magazine in 2015. Rupee Bar, its long-awaited encore, has lived up to the high expectations.
On Fridays and Saturdays, expect to wait up to 90 minutes, though the host will take down your name and number and you can grab a pint at the watering hole Olaf’s next door until your table is ready. Psst, just come at 4 p.m. if you want to avoid the scrum.
Tuesdays-Saturdays 4-10 p.m., Sundays 4-9 p.m., closed Mondays; 6307 24th Ave. N.W., Seattle; 206-397-3263, rupeeseattle.com
Vera’s Pizza and Bar
Old-timers who wander into the old greasy spoon Vera’s may be in for a surprise. It’s a 21-and-over spot now with loud music and walls covered with giant paintings of George Michael and other MTV-era rock stars.
Gone are the egg breakfast with the much-loved crispy hash browns, replaced by rows of New York-style pizzas, served by the slice til 2 a.m. Looking at all the bar-hoppers strolling along outside from his bar’s window, Vasilios Polimenakos said the diner that his parents bought in 1985 needed to adapt to the changing demographics. Ballard is not the low-key neighborhood from two decades ago, he said. Breakfast, Vera’s big money generator, did not attract as large a crowd during the weekdays as it did a decade ago, he said. Ballard is a lot more vibrant with a younger scene, he said.
In line with those observations, there are now Holy Mountain and other craft beers on tap at Vera’s, along with craft cocktails. You can get cheap pizza slices ($3.50 for cheese, $4 for pepperoni). Retro pinballs line the back wall. The business model, Polimenakos believes, jives more with the new Ballard. He even offers a gluten-free pizza-dough option. The best deal, though, may be the shot and beer for only $7 during happy hour (Tuesdays-Sundays 4-6 p.m.).
Tuesdays-Fridays 4 p.m.-2 a.m., weekends noon-2 a.m. (Vera’s plans to open on Mondays in the near future); 5417 22nd Ave. N.W., Seattle; verasballard.com