Ballard’s Viking Tavern closed, at the age of 53, on May 1, 2013. I was sad to see it go. There were the obvious things I loved about the Viking: It was close to my home. Visitors could tie their dog up outside and keep an eye on it through the large picture window. Sometimes those same dogs could sneak into the bar with impunity. It had bar stools and vinyl booths whose authenticity mocked the doofus hipsters who found it all ironic. You could get a drink for $5 or so. The pulled pork sandies were so delicious, and made more so by the pickle spear on the side.
Those were the obvious loveable bits. The less obvious was it being a friendly, unpretentious, and inexpensive place in a neighborhood that is beginning to struggle on two of those counts. I will give that Ballard is still a very friendly neighborhood. I love my neighbors. But it’s become expensive and a bit pretentious. No longer a welcome place for the working class people who settled it for many long decades, while Ballard was home to fishermen, builders, shingle makers, and all manner of skilled workers. You know—the people who know how to make the things and fix the things that make our comfortable lifestyle possible.
Full disclosure: I’m one of the yuppies who moved into this neighborhood and made it more expensive for everyone. Three years ago, I paid way too much for my tiny and adorable house. Before that, I was a renter in Ballard.
Sidenote: With that mea culpa on the books, I’d like to partially redeem myself by sharing that I unyuppified myself a bit by quitting my stressful and joyless corporate gig last year. Like a smoker who quit the habit before dying, I naturally bore all and sundry by encouraging them to quit their corporate gigs also.
But if you’re one of those who doesn’t have a white collar job, or wishes you didn’t, you might be feeling squeezed out by high housing and entertainment costs in Ballard. The Viking was a remedy to that. Just a fun place to relax and talk to friends and strangers, without spending a ton.
If you’re in the mood for the Viking atmosphere, I’m happy to say there are still a very few places left in Ballard to cater to you. (And, readers, if you know of more, list them in comments!):
The Sloop: I love this place. The fish fry is pretty darn ok. As is the one-liter Sloopersized beer. Although the Viking can’t be replaced, this is a good alternative.
Vera’s: An old school diner with all the foods you’d expect. Lots of regulars seem to come here for breakfast.
Ballard Smoke Shop: Both a diner and a dive bar. Theoretically, you could come for early breakfast and stay to drink all day. The place only closes from 2 am to 6 am.
Like all good things, the Viking lives on in memory.