I’ve noticed a comforting cadence to Ballard. Early in the morning there are homeless and elderly milling about. Then the bike commuters take over – until they get pushed out by the moms in track suits who push strollers. Around ten, the business people venture out of the buildings for coffee, or lunch. (If this was Old School Ballard, they’d be heading out for their mid-morning beer – but none of the bars are open at this time anymore.) After the lunch crowd heads back to work, the kids who are skipping school to smoke pot show up. At some point, the overly dressed “Is-she/he-the-one” daters start arriving on the scene. Get me away!

We’ve been hanging out on Ballard Avenue, which is bar-after-restaurant-after-bar, and home to our nine-year-old holiday pub crawl. Some of those bars claim to cater to the old fisherman and regulars, but most are now yuppie hangouts and great spots for a 21st birthday slosh fest. That said, I live in a neighboring community that is totally lame for nightlife and, though it absolutely kills me to say it, Ballard is home to my daughter’s third favorite restaurant, and me and my lady end up here most nights when we get a chance to get out without the kids. (Except on really special nights, when we will make the drive to Renton’s Rainforest Café.)

From my desk at Hovie’s, I can see the fishing port where some of the Deadliest Catch ships are among the thousands that dock here. I can almost see one of my favorite tourist spots in Seattle, the locks, where you can go cheek-to-cheek some awesomely large free range salmon, as they fight their way up the stairway to heaven – to spawn (Yay!) and die (Shit).

Ballard does have a well-designed library (a design win), but as I look out the window from my desk I see loads of recently built ho-hum condo buildings (a big fat design loss). They have changed the neighborhood’s feel. The young and yuppy have moved in, and their boringly average buildings are now lording over the once iconic community. The locals hate them, the design-centric folks despise them and, since they’re overbuilt, the real estate agents can’t sell them. If you want a tour of what went wrong with the housing boom, look no further. Then again, I’m all for density and if these buildings we’re built with any sense of design and style I’d likely be on a long waiting list to get in.

That’s how I’m seeing Ballard now. I really do like it. I buy all my music here and it has lots of options for some great food and a pint, but it also used to have my son’s favorite breakfast spot and bowling alley. Those are now empty lots, waiting for the next phase of well designed Ballard to begin.

At every new place we’re parking our laptops we’re going out to as many local eateries and watering holes as possible, not because we are thirsty, just to get the vibe. (Really.) Here’s our running list for Ballard:

The Viking
Noble Fir (3)
Kings Hardware
Lock and Keel
Old Town Ale House (3)
The Loft
The Copper Gate (Boobies!)
The Smoke Shop
La Isla
Hatties Hat
The Sunset Tavern
Bal Mar
Mike’s Chili Parlor

Cafe Fiore
Cafe Verité
Cugiro Cafe