The Hi-life, Ballard

Corned Beef Hash: Excellent

Rest of the food: Excellent

Coffee: Unknown, pallet overload from 2 previous cups

Location: Downtown Ballard

Service: Good

Corned beef Price: $11.75

Coffee Price: $3.20

This one got a little out of hand. I think a mixture of booze and Hunter S. Thompson documentaries may have bled into this review.

TL;DR version;

The Hi-Life in Ballard is a great restaurant and well worth the trip. The Corned Beef Hash was house made and one of my favorites. The restaurant itself is in a 100 year old fire house and has been tastefully redone with dark, hardwood everything. I highly recommend making the trip for any meal.


Note to reader: The following should be read in the style of Hunter S. Thompson. If you don’t know who that is, you should probably start by watching ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vagas.

I got out of my 96 explorer parallel parked amongst the 15 year old Subaru’s and new Priuses (Prii, Prius’?).  I was out of place amongst unkempt beards, perfect coifs of hair, long sleeve flannel shirts with rolled up sleeves, exposed tattoos of evergreen trees and Filson western cut wool vests.

Ashamed of the cup of coffee I was holding with the corporate logo printed on it, I headed straight for one of the local micro roasters on the corner to pick up an 8 oz cup of black swill in a plain white paper cup with a sticker of their logo stuck haphazardly on the side. I was still out of place with my clean shaven face, baseball cap and navy blue polo but I felt better holding that cup of bitter mud lovingly made in a Chemex by a heavily pierced and tattooed, androgynous barista.

I moved on. Through the streets of Ballard I came across several closed streets with white plastic canopies lining them. Each had a vendor lovingly assembling their wares be it organic free range happy vegetables, cage free artisan bread, fresh roasted hatch chili’s, homemade soap, etc. It was a farmers market and a comforting sight.  I felt at home amongst the salt of the earth farmers, craftsmen, baker and artisans.

The feeling was short lived. A pang, a low rumbling hunger pang took hold. Looking down the street, a sign simply stating “EAT” catches my attention. As I got closer I could see that it was on an elevator shaft or maybe a hose tower above a beautiful brick building, an old fire house.

The large garage doors that once enclosed the engines replaced with blond, swinging wooden doors. The place, The Hi-Life. A hipsters paradise. A rotating menu, a bar with cocktail names scrawled on a mirror behind it.  Drink names featuring fall flavors, puns and provocative Orwellian doublespeak bullshit. Drinks like Chai Rye, Pear-ly Sober, the Knotty Sailor, Manzanarita, Bacon Bloody Mary and Bourbon Spiced Cider. It made me sick, but I put my head down and ignored it. I was here for breakfast not poorly named hipster mixed drinks.

The waitress was kind with little to say. Handing me the menu she said one word, “Coffee” with an upward inflection. I responded, also one word, “Please”. I studied the menu. “God damn-it” I thought to myself seeing the first thing on the menu. Every restaurant has to have at least one on the menu. Every year when the leaves start turning it shows up. Pumpkin. In this case, pumpkin pancakes. I ignore it and move on.

The rest of the menu is fairly standard for this type of place. The type, slightly upscale, hipster heaven.

They try to be different by having the same shit as the other hipster restaurants. Migas, Chilaquiles, biscuits & gravy, Croque Madame. But then I see it, what I came here for. Corned Beef Hash.

The waitress returned with my coffee, this interaction as brief as the previous one.
Her, “Ready?”,
reply “yes”,
Her, “whad’ll ya have”,
reply “corned beef hash”,
Her, “poached egg alright?”,
reply “I’d prefer scrambled?”, I stated as a question as if it was up to her, as if I was pleading, not wanting to go off the script.
Her, “sure”.

Reaching the limit of my social ability and being taxed by the conversation, I once again put my head down to avoid eye contact with any other individuals and mitigating any potential for further conversations. I put my nose in my phone as is the social norm with my generation.

The food arrives along with another meal placed next to me as if there was another to show up. I was not expecting company. I was nonplussed. I did not order a second meal, at least, I don’t think I did. Questioning myself now I wondered, ‘could I have, would I have?’. The waitress returned embarrassed and asked “you didn’t order that did you?”, I shook my head and the second meal disappeared and so did my worries. Not today early onset dementia.

I tucked in. Delicious. Its more than I hoped for. It was good, very good. Corned beef perfection. What appeared to be baked or possibly boiled potatoes, 1″ cubed. Onion, diced, grilled to perfection. Beef, pink, not from under cooking but from the sodium nitrite used when curing. When all three and the seasoning are mixed then pan fried in what I presume would be butter, they make nothing short of perfection. The scrambled eggs, good. And according to their own menu “served with fancy toast”, also good.

I was happy. Happier than I could ever remember.

The waitress brought me out of my euphoric State.

“All done?” she stated as if I was a child, knowing full well by the sight of my clean plate that I was. “Yep”, I replied.

I paid. $16.39. Not a bad price for perfection considering the neighborhood. I’ve paid more for much worse hash. I left a healthy 20% tip.

As I walked back to my truck in the chilly, early October air, I was slowly losing the culinary high I had just minutes before. I missed it. I missed the yuppie bar and the hipster cocktails, the pretentious patrons that surrounded me sitting in the bar, the patrons with their unearned sense of self-worth. The self-righteous bastards. I miss them and their cruel, mocking laughter.

I get in my truck and make my way back to the safety of the east side. The sterile dystopia filled with wealth that far surpassed mine. Another place I do not feel I belong but I have never felt like I belong.

Someday, I will return to the hi-life and feel whole again.

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