A Taste of The Tropics at Hotel Albatross

Set sail with spirited tiki drinks and kicky street food at this Ballard hangout
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Ever since Coleridge’s famed “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the albatross has been seen as an unwelcome weight. But Hotel Albatross, on the west end of Ballard’s Market Street (2319 NW Market St.; 206.566.6181; Facebook, “Hotel Albatross Ballard”), is so full of exuberant and spirituous fun, it quickly alleviates any burdens.

But, first, know it’s not a hotel. Located in the space formerly occupied by an outpost of the Mexican chain Azteca, Hotel Albatross is a bar collaboration between Zach Harjo (who owns Ocho, next door) and Keith Bartoloni and Andrew Church (who own Hazlewood, down the street). It’s a good-size space—with tall bar tables, dark wood booths, regular tables and a long wooden bar—that fills up and fairly rocks with young hipsters and neighborhood folks.

The whole spot has a bit of a sea vibe, without getting near tacky. The drink menu reflects this the most, featuring well-crafted (these aren’t sugary messes), tiki-themed hits picked by the owners and bartenders, who all have fallen in love with rum. The Missionary’s Downfall ($9) is a prime example, boasting rum, peach brandy, pineapple and fresh mint. It’s blended, which often leads to a sloshy jumble, but here the result is smooth, layered, fragrant and delicious. Drinks are served in a range of glasses, as well: ceramic parrots, coconuts, various stemmed numbers and, if ordering the Puka Punch for two (a lush combination of rums and tropical fruit juices, $23), a pineapple.

The food menu, including tortas, pinch buns, dulce and more, veers toward the exotic, with an Asian-Mexican slant favoring street-food favorites. The Korean deviled eggs ($6), soft-boiled eggs topped with fried jalapeños, onions and a zingy mayo, paired perfectly with the herby and fruity drinks. And the green onion pancakes, with Kewpie mayo and fermented black beans ($5), were crispy, gooey triangles of joy. The Albatross kitchen also distributes delights directly to the sidewalk, via a window opening on to Market. With such a swell selection, even the Ancient Mariner would leave smiling. 

A.J. Rathbun (ajrathbun.com) has written 10 home entertaining books.