Hattie's Hat has come full circle. No, it's not back to its emulating its first 90 years as a dingy hangout for chronically thirsty longshoremen fresh off the graveyard shift, girding for a fight. Rather, it's fallen well off downtown Ballard's fickle vanguard and landed in a comfortable place reminiscent of its mid-'90s rebirth as a hipster-friendly dive with tasty, down-home food.
HATTIE'S HAT 5231 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-0175, BALLARD
Still separated from the dining portion of the establishment by a "brawl wall," the scene at a recent weekday happy hour could just as easily have occurred during the peak of Pavement's popularity. A crew of construction workers lined the bar, placing coasters atop their beers during frequent smoke breaks (granted, in the '90s, they could have smoked at their stools). A table of 30-somethings ordered a round of whiskey shots backed by Olympia tallboys, and the bartender had to summon a manual when asked to mix a Negroni. While she executed the drink properly after boning up, a highfalutin cocktail bar Hattie's is not.
While trendier establishments have sprouted around it over the better part of two decades, Hattie's subtle genius has been to tweak its template just enough to stay current without sullying its dive-diner DNA. Even when Hattie's switched majority owners from Dan Cowan to Max Genereaux a couple years ago, the changing of hands was cut cleanly from the mentor/protégé cloth.
Genereaux's played with Hattie's menu—a little. And the most impressive addition is something quite small: a single smoked rib, available only during happy hour (4–7 p.m. and again from 10–midnight) for $1.50 and all day Wednesdays for a buck. With the meat falling off the bone, the solo rib is the perfect portion for the patron not wishing to fill up before heading home for dinner, but not wanting to fall down either.
"It's one sweet, smoky beefsicle that doesn't know that it's selling cheap, like Lindsay Lohan," says Ballard-based scribe Geoff Carter, making one wonder why Hattie's doesn't open an after-hours mobile operation that sells only ribs.