The Hi Life Ballard
- THE GOOD: best biscuit and gravy ever!
- THE BAD: slim parking and long wait.
- THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Ballard Seattle.
Fire Station No. 18
As a member of CHOW Foods, a Seattle-based restaurant chain that proudly incorporates Seattle neighborhoods’ unique eateries, The Hi-Life, CHOW’s Ballard location, brings traditional comfort foods with Pacific Northwestern influence–in a fire station!
Though Fire Station No. 18, originally built for horse-drawn fire engines, no longer serves the city, its statuesque silhouette, in beautiful, high-quality brick massing, remains solid after over 100 years. The building, preserved by Historic Seattle, is a designated Seattle Landmark and a member of National Register of Historic Places. It holds quite a presence in the Ballard neighborhood, and makes The Hi-Life worth at least one visit.
Located at approximately 20 minutes North of Downtown, Ballard bustles for a residential neighborhood.
Hidden Parking Lot
Parking, or the lack of, is an important consideration for visiting Ballard. Street parking should be free on weekends but fills up quickly, especially if the Sunday Farmers Market takes place. There is a hidden parking lot behind The Hi-Life that few know about. Please see map for directions:
Like the streets of Ballard, The Hi-Life bustled with hungry customers.
After waiting for 20 minutes–though we were told 15–our kids went nuts! They’re two and four, and like to climb. They climbed into strangers’ booth at around minute-20. Then again, where else could they have gone? The wait area was an inadequately small space, with just a few chairs. Families or big parties will be uncomfortable, so the lesson we learned is to avoid a long wait by either dining early (around 8 – 9 a.m.) or after the brunch rush.
Once seated, service buzzed in lightening fast.
Staff rushed to serve and made us feel important. They catered to the kids as well, by providing crayons and paper. This is the type of service I look for in a neighborhood restaurant. Glad I found it at The Hi-Life.
The atmosphere was comfortable and casual.
Impressive how the restaurant transformed a cold, historical fire station into a warm, vibrant space that feels inviting to both single people and families.
Hi-Life’s Menu is quite extensive.
It includes all three meals, plus happy hour, desserts and gluten-free items. Even the kids’ menu appeared lengthy. I neglected to research online beforehand, and took a while to study the choices. Luckily, our server knew the menu inside out, and recommended a delicious-sounding brunch called the Not-So-Early-Bird Breakfast of biscuit and gravy with eggs ($6.50). She also recommended an extra order of bacon and a side of Crushed Red Breakfast Potatoes, because my husband and I opted to share.
One thing to note is that kids’ drinks have no lids. It wasn’t a problem for us but may be for others.
Fluffy buttermilk biscuit, steamy from the oven and smothered with sausage-filled gravy, arrived with eggs, bacon, potatoes and fresh coffee. It was a delicious sight, and I couldn’t wait! Tilted my fork sideways and sliced the biscuit open: as each layer was being slivered through, the biscuit bounced back to form, retaining a perfect texture. Then, gravy glided through the fresh crack like lava from volcano.
The buttery biscuit paired perfectly with savory gravy. Each bite melted in my mouth. The gravy also served as a dip for eggs and potatoes. My husband commented on the bacon–that they didn’t drown in grease and were plump, crispy and satisfying.
If you visit The Hi-Life, at least order the biscuit and gravy. In my opinion, they’re a MUST.
Finally, I’d like to mention the Lady’s Room.
Cleanliness of a restaurant’s restroom illustrates the establishment’s care for its customers. The Hi-Life may be in a historic building but the lady’s room is well-kept and newly renovated. The stalls are small but the restroom itself is spacious, and toilettes don’t have plumbing issues.
There is a basket of free tampons by the sink–a small gesture that contributes to Hi-Life’s inviting feel. It suggests that customers are guests, and should be treated as such.
The reason why I consider The Hi-Life one of the best brunch in Seattle is because of the combination of warm atmosphere, historic setting, bustling neighborhood, excellent service and satisfying food. It’s a down-to-earth place with down-home food that anyone can enjoy.
Yes I liked The Hi-Life. Yes I would go back. I hope you do too.
THE HI-LIFE BALLARD
5425 Russell Avenue Northwest
Seattle, WA 98107
Dining Room Hours
Sun – Thu
Fri – Sat
Everyday – Bar Only
Tuesdays- All Night Happy Hour
3-6:30pm & 10pm-close
For more information, visit The Hi-Life Ballard.