Where North Eats South

The secret of Scandinavian barbecue sauce? Guinness.

When you walk into a bar of Norwegian nomenclature in a historically Scandinavian neighborhood, the last thing you expect to see on the menu is really tasty Southern barbecue. But that's exactly what The Viking in Ballard delivers—out of what they claim is the state's smallest kitchen, no less.Opened in 1950 where commercial Ballard gives way to its more residential enclaves, the low-slung Viking is the sort of place where salty old men drink indoors when the sun's out, whiling away the day—no work, all play. Back when the Copper Gate was a certifiable rat trap with nicotine-stained curtains, it combined with the Vike to constitute a pretty formidable one-two punch of blue-collar inebriation along 24th Ave. But like so much of Ballard, the Gate's been transformed into a sleek, retro-chic sort of place. The Viking, meanwhile, is having none of that.As hole-in-the-wall dives go, the Viking's interior is gorgeous. It is narrow and well-scrubbed, with vinyl booths, vintage ceiling fans, a shiny wooden bar, circular bar stools mounted to the floor, and a shuffleboard table in back. In the cramped men's bathroom, a long, elementary school-style urinal allows the well-lubed to virtually piss on the floor without missing the pot. Too bad they don't have powdered soap to boot.When the state liquor board relaxed its standards to allow hard booze in bars featuring only microwaves, a handful of joints (the nearby Tractor comes to mind) began serving microwaved barbecue sandwiches at exorbitant prices. The legalized racket here is they don't actually sell any of these sandwiches, but get to sell hard booze (cha-ching!). When, a few years ago, I first noticed that the Viking was serving barbecue sandwiches, I thought they were exploiting this loophole as well. Boy, was I wrong—they take their smoking very seriously.The two go-to sandwiches at the Vike are the Numbers One and Two, hamburger buns filled with tangy brisket and pork, respectively. The Viking gets its meat down the street at Better Meat, and includes ingredients such as Coca-Cola and brown sugar in its sauce, according to bartender Rob Moscovitz, who adds a drop of Guinness to the mix when he plays chef.The Viking staff smokes its food (including ribs and potatoes; they smoke everything here) daily, then refrigerates it—hence, the high usage of the bar's two microwaves. Its Sloppy Joe is called a Sloppy Sven, and the chili is quite good. But make no mistake about it: The Viking is still a bar for drinkers, by drinkers. The food is there to soak up the Rainier. The fact that it happens to be very, very good is just frost on the big red beard.mseely@seattleweekly.com

 
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