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GSS: Matador & Hi-Life


Yesterday was May Day and the first day of the Great Seattle Shake! R and I kicked it off with a jaunt to Ballard to check out The Matador and The Hi-Life.   I’d been meaning to get to both of these places and this was just the kick-in-the-pants I needed!

A quick reminder about The Great Seattle Shake:  May 1 – 22 (Sunday – Thursday); 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm; 23 restaurants in and around Seattle; $15 for two cocktails & one appetizer.  Note:  We noticed last night that Matador included  the tax in the $15, while Hi-Life added it to the $15.  Not a big deal but it does make a difference of more than a $1.

We started at The Matador at 7:00 pm sharp.    When we arrived the bar was packed.  We managed to scope out a place and bellied up to the bar.  The Matador’s cocktail offerings for this event included two margaritas and a Mojito.  Since I can’t drink tequila my choice was easy!  R tried the House Margarita.  We were served by two very attentive bartenders – I love that!  I’m sure that one of them "owned" us but both kept checking in to see if we’d made a decision and what they could do for us.  From the list of appetizers we chose Fish Tacos. 

My Mojito was delicious – a little lighter on the mint than some places serve them but that was okay – and refreshing.  R’s Margarita was good, nothing special, but a decent drink.  While waiting for our tacos we munched on chips and salsa.  The tacos arrived in short order and boy were they delicious!  Pieces of blackened halibut (piping hot, too!) topped with pico de gallo and sauce in flour tortillas.   While enjoying our "meal" we noticed that they have an interesting Happy Hour, too.  It runs twice a night, 4 pm – 6 pm and 10 pm – 1 am.  There are a dozen menu items for just $4. 

I loved this place and I will defintely be back for more very soon!  Also, the Matador owners are opening a new place in West Seattle called Toreador.  Not sure if it’s open yet (my notes say Spring 2005)  but I’ll be watching for that, too!

Next, we walked the few blocks to The Hi-Life for our second round of the night.  The Hi-Life is in the building that used to be the Ballard Firehouse.  Let me try that again.  The building originally was a fire station for Ballard, and then became the Ballard Firehouse, a music venue that also served some food.  At one time, every local band who was anyone at all played here and they also hosted national acts now and then.  It was a fun place but always dark and a little hard to see where you were going!

The transformation from Ballard Firehouse to The Hi-Life is pretty amazing.  What once was a cavernous, dark room is now an oh-so-tastefully lit, cozy space with lots of booths, brick walls and an open kitchen.  It took R and I some time to reconcile "what was" with "what is" – "Now, the stage would have been there, right?"  When we entered, the bar was nearly empty but the restaurant had several full tables.  We sat at the bar and positioned ourselves so that R could see the Sonics game on the nearby screen.  We checked out the Great Seattle Shake menu and both decided to order their Apricot Fizz, house apricot infused vodka with a hint of tuaca and a splash of soda, and for our appetizer a Grilled Lamb Skewer. 

The apricot infused vodka (as well as several other infusions) sits in big bottles at the back of the bar, providing art as well as beautiful flavors.  The bartender poured some of the infusion from the spigot into our glasses and then added the tuaca and soda.  The drinks were very fruity and flavorful.  I liked it but probably wouldn’t order a second just because these were a bit on the sweet side and I’m more of a sour drink person.  One is good, two would put me over the sugar edge.  Our lamb arrived and they had thoughtfully divided it for us onto two rosemary branch skewers.  It was tender but I thought the taste of the marinade was just a little strong.  It came with a serving of white beans that were done to perfection!  (Actually, R added a little salt but I liked them as they were.) 

As with its sister locations, The Hi-Life has a quarterly rotating menu.  They are currently serving foods from Paris and on May 18th the focus shifts to Barcelona.  Like The Matador, they have a Happy Hour.  Theirs runs daily starting at 3:00 pm, running until 6:00 pm with menu items for $3.  (3 o’clock, 3 hours, $3)

The Great Seattle Shake has done its job and got me out to a couple places I haven’t been before but will definitely be back to again!  The Matador was my favorite but the Hi-Life is a good bet, too. 

Our next GSS night is planned for Thursday.  (I know it’s Cinco de Mayo but we’re going to try to avoid that…) We’re headed out for the Frontier Room, Bada and Belltown Bistro – maybe we’ll see you there!

Other GSS entries: 

The Matador
2221 NW Market
Seattle (Ballard)
(206) 297-2855


The Hi-Life
5425 Russell Ave., NW
Seattle (Ballard)
(206) 784-7272



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