Brimmer & Heeltap bar

Our Best-Kept Secret


The main and adjoining building that Brimmer & Heeltap occupies have a beautiful history that our team cherishes. And, if you’ve never dined in our detached garden studio then you have got to put doing so at the top of your summer to-do list. When Brimmer & Heeltap proprietress Jen Doak first laid eyes on the one-hundred-year-old 400 square foot structure sitting just behind the restaurant, she saw much more than an old, dusty dry storage space. She saw wedding ceremonies and family gatherings. She envisioned an open-air space where the restaurant’s neighbors could flock to in the summertime. She pictured a fire pit where her team could gather after a long night to share beers and laughs under the moonlight.

In spring 2015, after months of renovations, Brimmer & Heeltap eagerly welcomed guests to its expanded three-part garden patio and newly polished private studio. In the years since, the restaurant has hosted dozens and dozens of special events in this space; from birthday celebrations to holiday parties and everything in between, the garden studio has served as a year-round backdrop to gorgeous gatherings. During the summer, when it’s not being used for winemaker dinners, wedding receptions, and private brunches, the B&H team opens the garage door to the studio, creating a dreamy, open-air patio experience. There’s nothing we love more than serving our guests in this part of the restaurant on a warm summer evening.

Now that a few summers have gone by it’s amazing to think that this space wasn’t available to dine in until fairly recently. Brimmer & Heeltap’s garden patio and studio have been listed as among the best in Seattle; it’s a well-kept secret that is made all the more beautiful by its various thoughtful design features and Jen’s incredible green thumb. Marian Built and Sean Sifagaloa of KRFTWRK helped bring this space to life by lending their respective craftsmanship and keen eye for design to the process of turning the previously unused dry storage shed into a place where people could happily eat and imbibe. Local ceramics artist Larry Halvorsen has been equally instrumental in helping transform this garden oasis with his gorgeous sculptures.

Of course, the most cherished part of our garden patio is all of the neighbors, friends, and regular guests who fill this space every spring and summer and have just as much love for it as we do. It is our sincere pleasure to serve you, especially when it’s al fresco in the garden.

As the weather forecast continues to tease us with the promise of sunshine and warmer weather, we’re excitedly gearing up for our third summer of outdoor dining in the garden and studio. We look so forward to sharing patio season with you.

Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster

Brimmer & Heeltap Team Member Q&A with Bartender Kate Mcmahon

Kate Mcmahon has been on the Brimmer & Heeltap team as a bartender and server since last spring. Originally from New England, Kate loves the beautiful Pacific Northwest and stays active outdoors with friends and her pup Maggie. She’s also very fond of drinking beers at local breweries and honing her tiki drink-making skills behind the bar. She’s got a knack for soccer, knowing where to find all of the best dive bars, and making genuine connections with her guests. Always laughing and up for an adventure, Kate is a wonderfully kind, big-hearted, and talented member of the Brimmer & Heeltap team. You can learn a little bit more about her in this Q&A.

What is your go-to cocktail to make when you’re trying to impress someone?

KM: Hmm…When I want to impress a bar patron, I usually just pour a good whiskey…but with LOTS of flair.

What spirits and ingredients have you been most drawn to when crafting special cocktails lately?

KM: We've been into making our own ingredients for the bar from shrubbery to Worcestershire sauce for bloodies to Cynar falernum. Hopefully guests appreciate all of the thought and effort that goes into that. If that doesn't do it, I resort to lighting things on fire. 

What is your favorite part about making tiki drinks? How did you first get into/inspired by tiki-style drinks?

KM: Tiki drinks?! I don't like tiki drinks, who told you that?! I think it was me trying to escape winter somehow and imagining myself on a tropical beach somewhere, anywhere, sipping island booze and feeling so relaxed - and wanting others to feel that way when they drink tiki vibes. That's why tiki bars were first invented, to transcend. It's better than nothing, right?

Where are some of your favorite watering holes around Seattle?

KM: Grizzled Wizard in Wallingford, Pacific Inn in Fremont, Duck Island Ale House in Green Lake, Essex (is that still Ballard?) and the Independent Beer Bar in....Everett. 

What differences have you noticed about Seattle vs. Boston bar culture?

KM: Boston drinks more! I don't think Boston is really into Duck Farts (I think they originated in Alaska and didn't catch on out there) or Touchdowns - cocktails that is. Millennials really seem to like Touchdowns, and Trash Cans. Kill me. 

Kate also says that “It's inspiring how many breweries and distilleries exist these days...obviously if they're putting out good product, the more local the better…get it while you can before Trump reinstates prohibition.”

Be sure to say hi to Kate on your next visit to the restaurant. Better yet, ask her to make you a tiki drink!

Embracing the Seasonal Shift: Fall Cocktail Edition

Brimmer & Heeltap Bar Manager Brian Hibbard muses on Autumn, nostalgia, and his brand new cocktail list. 

Brimmer & Heeltap Bar Manager Brian Hibbard muses on Autumn, nostalgia, and his brand new cocktail list. 

You know those times you feel memories being formed in an exact moment? Driving down the coast with your windows down, salty air blowing your hair around while you listen to dream-pop music (okay maybe that’s just one of my recurring fondest) becomes an imprint in your mind, and you feel it. Or the time you experience a newness in life: maybe a newborn, a new job, a new love, or a move that allows new breath and feelings you haven’t felt in the longest time prevail throughout your body. Or maybe it’s smaller: an inspiring conversation, a plate of food that you can’t stop thinking about, a reunion where your nearest and dearest are all in the same room with you.

Seasonal change offers these natural twists and turns; we can feel the vibrational shift and choose to embrace it. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s magic, sometimes it's energy that allows for us to create new ritual and new experiences. Fall is an important time for me. I was born and raised here in the Pacific Northwest, and Fall meant rain finally, post-season baseball, wearing layers, last minute camping trips, and foolish road trips to god knows where because hell we’re young and why not?

I recently put out a new cocktail menu to represent and embrace this seasonal shift. Part of the beauty is the we-ness of it all. We all have different tastes, interests, triggers of happiness, and the question remains: how can we create this tangibly in our food and drinks? A few weeks ago we sat around the bar and tasted through these new cocktails. Listening and observing my lovely crew’s reactions and feedback to these drinks is one of the many reasons why Brimmer & Heeltap is a special place. We all have a certain piece, an insight, a suggestion, a thought that makes up these recipes.

Cardamom, rosemary, lavender, sage, allspice, nutmeg, apple…these are all elements of the new menu. While not all of these are specifically Fall flavors and aromatics, for myself and the B&H team, these represent something that we love about the fall and carry a sort of nostalgia. It represents staying cozy, drinking boozy cider with friends, leaves changing color and falling, seasonal beer and planning Halloween costumes. Incorporating these flavors and smells, for example, means more to us than presenting something that is simply delicious. It’s presenting the opportunity for reflecting on good memories and creating new ones.

My mom has a quince tree in her yard, so I’ve been experiencing the delicious, unique flavor and recipes of quince for quite some time. Lucky me, Brimmer & Heeltap has two quince trees right out front that were full of this thick and intense fruit. You’ll find the Lucky Quince-idence on the menu featuring a homemade quince shrub from those trees along with some rye whiskey, white rum, elderflower, and bitters. Another one of my personal favorites is the Market Drop Kick. Combining Brandy, Ramazzotti, Campari and Curacao, this is a big drink - hence Drop Kick - that lingers in a way that will bring up several different flavors while you enjoy it. Allspice hits your nose right from the get go, and serving the cocktail over a large ice cube allows the flavors to meld and come through more and more as the ice slowly melts.

There are many more fantastic new cocktails to try, so come hangout! Ask your kind and knowledgeable server or bartender to share their excitement about the menu with you and let’s choose to drink well and be cozy together. 

Blog Author: Brian Hibbard 

A Neighborhood Place

At Brimmer & Heeltap, we adore our neighbors. Familiar faces fill our dining room throughout the year, including folks that used to frequent Le Gourmand and now see us as a new home away from home. We’re a place to gather and break bread, a community space, a comforting respite from the day-to-day - and we’re in great company. One of the things that informs so much of our identity as a restaurant is the neighborhood we’ve made home in. Ballard – West Woodland more specifically – is rich with small businesses that care deeply about their craft, and about being neighborly.

On our little corner of Northwest Market Street we’re a stone’s throw from Slate Coffee Roasters and Veraci Pizza, two fantastic locally-owned businesses that many of us frequent. Brunch-lovers from the Veraci team have come by for a meal before starting their workday, and we’re often the first place Slate’s incredibly talented baristas will stop by for a drink at their day’s end. We’ve even collaborated with Slate to create beautiful coffee-infused scotch, joining forces to make something truly special to enjoy after a meal at the restaurant. These folks are our patrons, but they’re also our friends.

We love collaborating with Slate (and drinking their delicious coffee!). Image via  Facebook. 

We love collaborating with Slate (and drinking their delicious coffee!). Image via Facebook. 

Stoup's beautiful beer garden is an amazing neighborhood gathering place. Image via  Facebook . 

Stoup's beautiful beer garden is an amazing neighborhood gathering place. Image via Facebook

If you wander just a few blocks west of Brimmer & Heeltap, you’ll begin to stumble upon an array of truly phenomenal breweries, many crafting beer that we serve nightly on our menu at the restaurant. Stoup Brewing, Reuben’s Brews, Maritime Pacific Brewing Co., and Populuxe Brewing are some of our very favorite breweries in Ballard, and all of them are within walking distance of the restaurant. Lucky us! Ballard now contains more breweries than any other neighborhood in Seattle, so it only makes sense that we would serve many of the same brews that our neighbors already cherish. Right now we’ve got a selection of beers on tap that are exclusively from our wonderful neighboring breweries.

Earlier this month, West Woodland, Ballard, an organization that seeks to “connect neighbors, raise awareness & build community in order to improve the quality of life for those who live, work, & play” in this unique pocket of Ballard, announced the winners of the inaugural Best of West Woodland Neighbor’s Choice Awards. Doing so not only helped shine a spotlight on the many terrific small businesses that thrive in the West Woodland neighborhood, but served as a reminder that there is truly a wealth of exceptional places to drink, dine, and gather in our area. We are honored to be named as West Woodland’s Best Restaurant in 2016; with neighbors like Stock, Café Bambino, the Ballard Food Bank, The Dray, Stoup Brewing, and many others making the Best Of list too, we’re prouder than ever to be part of this thriving neighborhood.

It’s always the people that make a restaurant such an exciting, vibrant place to work and gather, and we owe so much of our success to our neighbors that inspire us through their craft, and the guests that keep coming back for more. We’re part of a living, breathing local ecosystem here in West Woodland, and that’s just the way we like it.

Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography, unless otherwise specified. 

Breaking the Ice

New techniques, flavors, and ingredients are being used at Brimmer & Heeltap this summer, and not just in the kitchen. Getting our guests excited about trying something unexpected is one of our very favorite things, and, lucky for us, there are many things to get excited about these days thanks to our fantastic bartenders.

Ever curious and passionate about libations, B&H bartender Nick Barkalow has extensively researched and tested new techniques as a way to continue elevating the bar program at the restaurant. Such care and time spent innovating our offerings has resulted in a list of phenomenal new cocktails, including one standout dubbed the “Clear Cut.” Inspired by Dave Arnold’s James Beard Award-winning book Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail, Nick set out to create crystal-clear ice cubes, a task that is surprisingly complicated. Suddenly, a drink that would normally take 2 minutes to make takes over 48 hours; elevating a process as simple as freezing water in order to enhance the entire cocktail experience is one of the things that makes Nick such a fantastic bartender.

Nick's "Clear Cut" cocktail.

Nick's "Clear Cut" cocktail.

Have you tried Nick’s “Clear Cut” cocktail yet? A beautiful thing to behold, at first glance it looks like nothing more than a clear spirit filling your glass. After a moment though, you’ll notice the sharp edges of a large square ice cube – hand carved and clear as crystal – floating among a balanced combination of gin, Salers, Pisco, Lillet Blanc, and bitters. It is the perfect cocktail to sip on as you begin your meal, and can also stand alone if you fancy a cocktail experience sans food.

Of course, this is just one of a handful of new drinks Nick has created just in time for summer. “My summer menu reflects what I would want to drink if I was sitting on the patio enjoying our famous steak tartare or our incredible duck fried rice,” Nick recently told Seattle Magazine of his food-friendly, imaginative cocktails. The “Porch Reviver” is another standout. A play on the classic “Corpse Reviver” that utilizes mezcal, Cocchi Americano, Ancho Reyes, and lime, this cocktail embodies Nick’s idea of a great summertime drink in all of its smoky, citrusy glory. 

Ryyan hard at work stirring something delicious. 

Ryyan hard at work stirring something delicious. 

These cocktails are fantastic to sip on before and during a meal at Brimmer & Heeltap, but we suggest trying Nick’s take on espresso to really end your night on a high note. Inspired by the idea of an after-dinner espresso, our bartenders have been infusing scotch with a rotating selection of fantastic coffee beans from Seattle-based Slate Coffee. The 24-hour infusion creates a delicate flavor profile that evokes espresso in a completely inventive way. Served with a side of soda water to cleanse the palate, this after-dinner drink option is truly not to be missed.

Summer isn’t the only time you’ll find thoughtful, creative techniques elevating beverages behind the bar; ongoing projects spearheaded by our bartenders are giving us lots to look forward to year-round. A house-made eggnog recipe that utilizes tequila, scotch, and dry sherry was recently perfected, batched, sealed, and is now being aged for 5 months. We can’t wait to taste the finished product this coming holiday season when it will be ready! Our Bloody Mary, tested and tweaked with great care by our brunch bartender Floyd Bender, is another cocktail that takes hours and hours each week to prepare. The homemade Worcestershire sauce alone takes 5-7 days to develop its funky flavor, Floyd says, not to mention the homemade pickles, freshly made tomato-based mix, and the careful execution of the cocktail itself each weekend during brunch.

Floyd spends hours each week perfecting our Bloody Mary recipe for brunch. 

Floyd spends hours each week perfecting our Bloody Mary recipe for brunch. 

Do carefully prepared ice cubes make cocktails taste better? How could we make awesome Worcestershire sauce in-house? What if we infused scotch with some of the best coffee beans in the city? How can we inspire our guests to get as stoked about mezcal as we are? It’s the questions that our bartenders continue to ask – and the creative, playful answers they come up with – that make sitting at the bar such a treat. Come in soon for beautifully executed cocktails and the chance to geek out on libations with some seriously talented bartenders.


Blog Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

Saving the Best for Last

“Dessert is probably the most important stage of the meal, since it will be the last thing your guests remember before they pass out all over the table.” – William Powell

Summer is a magical time to work in a restaurant. The kitchen is hotter than ever, and the dining room is brighter. Our guests visit us more regularly and tend to stay later, their conversations around the fire pit dissolving into the warm night air as their glasses hold the final sips of wine. It’s a time when Seattle’s weather is volatile, and our seasonally-inspired menu changes constantly based on what ingredients we can get fresh. Unpredictable and ever-busy, Brimmer & Heeltap’s crew adapts to this lively season with great care.

With so many random seasonal elements creating a deeply energetic atmosphere each night, there is one consistent thing we can all take comfort in: dessert. I love peering out into the dining room to see guests delight in the final sweet bites of their meal, eyes closed as they slowly savor each bite. If you haven’t ended your meal with us on a sweet note lately, you’ve got to come in and try the bold, inspired desserts we’re serving this summer. Here’s a taste of what you can look forward to on your next visit:

Nick’s Slate Coffee-infused scotch

If you prefer to drink your dessert, you are in for a wonderful treat from behind the bar. Inspired by the idea of an after dinner espresso, Brimmer & Heeltap bartender Nick Barkalow has been infusing scotch with the high-quality coffee beans we’ve come to love from our neighbors over at Slate Coffee. The 24-hour infusion results in a soft, subtly smoky and flavorful finish to one’s meal. Served with a side of soda water, this after-dinner drink option is one that is not to be missed.

Koji Rice Sorbet

Chef Mike Whisenhunt’s koji rice sorbet served with toasted rice powder is a light, refreshing way to end any meal, or to enjoy as a wonderful intermezzo. Koji is a cooked rice that has been infused with a naturally occurring fermentation culture, and can be found in many ingredients and even beverages including sake, miso, and rice vinegar. This sorbet is a perfect example of Chef’s love of playful flavors and unexpected twists on more traditional recipes.

Spiced Chocolate Cake

Served with a luscious chocolate buttercream frosting and spiced cocoa crumble, this chocolate cake is the stuff that chocolate-lovers’ dreams are made of. Rich and comforting with a surprising, subtle use of savory spices, this cake is a fantastic way to end a meal. Enjoy it with a glass of the Cocchi Barolo Chinato for a truly balanced, phenomenal dessert experience.

Almond Panna Cotta

Sous Chef Dallas Dziedzic’s almond panna cotta is the pièce de résistance of our summer dessert menu. With elements that alone are crunchy, creamy, tart, and sweet, the sum of its parts is a whimsical, dynamic dish that is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat. A perfectly executed almond panna cotta sits beneath layers of blueberry caramel sauce and rice crisps rendered purple from beet powder. A candied egg yolk sits atop these violet layers and is meant to be broken over the other components as a way to marry the unique, powerful ingredients. Creating something classic like panna cotta and innovating it by adding unexpected, fantastic elements is one of the things we love to do most.

We can’t wait for you to indulge in our playful, delicious desserts on your next visit. Even if you’ve already had a cookout at home, there’s no better way to end a summer evening than with something sweet paired with a cocktail or glass of wine at the bar. It’s okay to save the best for last, after all.

Blog Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

Morning People

Chef Mike Whisenhunt's hot puffed rice served with sweet, warm coconut milk and fresh mango. 

Chef Mike Whisenhunt's hot puffed rice served with sweet, warm coconut milk and fresh mango. 

Mornings just got a lot tastier in Ballard, you guys.

After months of extensive menu testing, crew training, and intense planning, Brimmer & Heeltap has officially launched its brand-spanking-new brunch program. We are so pleased to announce that we are now feeding the hungry masses not one, not two, but THREE mornings every week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Can I get a hell to the yeah!?

If you’ve ever been to Brimmer & Heeltap in the evening, you know that the space itself possesses a very special, animated quality. From the excited, laborious clangs and clinks coming from the open kitchen, to the lively chatter of friends coming together to nosh on Chef Mike Whisenhunt’s signature menu in the adjacent dining rooms, there is a very present sense of joie de vivre that invigorates each of us that works here. It’s what makes this job such a delight.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we opened our doors to welcome guests to dine with us for brunch for the first time earlier this month. Would that same sense of playfulness and energy be present during the daytime, I found myself wondering? Neighbors, friends – I am so happy to report that being at Brimmer & Heeltap in the morning is just as wonderful as it is at night. Spring’s early light floods the main dining room in the most incredible way, and spills into the nooks and crannies of the restaurant, reminding me what a truly unique and beautiful space it is. The kitchen crew is hard at work preparing the thoughtful, dynamic, boldly-flavored food that our regular guests have come to know and cherish. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingles with the fragrant blooms of the garden, and a wonderfully serene feeling washes over our little corner on NW Market Street.

Not one to ever dabble in the ordinary, Chef Whisenhunt’s brunch menu is a deeply satiating combination of sweet, savory, and umami flavors, unique textures, and complex combinations of ingredients. The Dungeness crab salad with smoked fingerling potatoes and lemongrass green goddess dressing has been met with great praise by guests, as has the giant lemon pancake served with seasonal berry syrup, a menu item that absolutely lives up to its name. His hot puffed black rice, served with fresh mango and warm, delightfully sweet coconut milk, is the grown-up Rice Krispies you never knew how much you needed. The thick-cut bread slathered with house-made jam and peanut butter frosting is ridiculously tasty. The slab of bacon is out-of-this-world good.

Thick cut bread, toasted to order and slathered with housemade jam and peanut butter frosting. 

Thick cut bread, toasted to order and slathered with housemade jam and peanut butter frosting. 

Our fried duck leg and Belgian waffle awaiting a hungry diner. 

Our fried duck leg and Belgian waffle awaiting a hungry diner. 

The "Italian Panache" - a delightful combination of Carpano dry vermouth, lime, grenadine, and egg whites. 

The "Italian Panache" - a delightful combination of Carpano dry vermouth, lime, grenadine, and egg whites. 

If you love brunch as much as we do, you know that a good cocktail can be the best way to kick off your weekend, or quell your hangover. Our list of brunch libations showcases an array of vermouths and is a thoughtful, fresh complement to the bold flavors you’ll find coming from the kitchen. During our opening weekend we delighted in seeing so many friends and regular diners sitting at the bar sipping sweet coconut milk and tasting our refreshing, unique brunch cocktails for the first time.

Now that our brunch kickoff weekend has come and gone, we are more excited than ever to share mornings with you. We are looking so forward to seeing friends come and spend their mornings drinking and dining on our garden patio together. We can’t wait to see moms, dads, and their little ones trying new foods and flavors together for the first time. We’re so stoked to serve our fellow cooks, servers, and bartenders on Friday mornings before they start their long work weekends. Perhaps more than anything else, we are so excited to share this new, delicious side of Brimmer & Heeltap with you. So come in soon, and come hungry.

Brimmer & Heeltap now serves brunch weekly on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays from 9am-2pm. You can reserve your spot for this weekend here.

Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

The Summer of Hibiscus

Brimmer & Heeltap's wonderful crew member Nicole Hardy waxes poetic about hibiscus-infused cocktails.

Brimmer & Heeltap's wonderful crew member Nicole Hardy waxes poetic about hibiscus-infused cocktails.

They say once you notice a trend it’s already over. Which I hope is not the case, in the case of hibiscus-infused cocktails—though at first I had serious doubts. I saw hibiscus twice in two weeks on different bar menus, and groaned—still scarred by the year of the pomegranate. Fully dreading another food craze about to take over the world: hibiscus cupcakes, with bacon sprinkles! Hibiscus infused ganache for your cannabis brownies!  

I’d have never ordered a drink as floofy as a Hibiscus Sour without some serious prodding from Max the bartender at Maggie’s on the Prom in Seaside—a restaurant I found only because I was walking on said Prom. It was there, and it was beckoning, with its outdoor tables overlooking the beach.

Gin, Chambord, fresh lemon juice and house-made lavender honey syrup. Sure, it sounded good, but so many specialty cocktails are syrupy. And this one had syrup in it.  

“It’s the first sunny day of spring,” Max said. “Trust me.”

I resisted: I’m a dedicated drinker of bourbon, I said, and suspicious of any cocktail featuring more than three ingredients. But eventually, he convinced me. Max was handsome, and persistent—as so many bartenders are. He was also correct: it was the first sunny day of spring. A time when gin is virtually irresistible.

It was the deep shock of magenta, though, that really won my heart. And with every sip, that cocktail got better. The lavender! The honey! Just enough to balance the tart burst of lemon. The floral taste and scent perfectly complemented the gin, and I could’ve stayed in that chair, drinking Hibiscus Sours all afternoon. I would’ve, had I brought more than $20 when I left for my walk.

And since then, I’ll admit I’ve developed a little obsession. Though I’m far too lazy a bartender to infuse anything. Luckily, a quick internet search led me to hibiscus tea cocktails. A drink easy enough even I, lifetime fan of the three-ingredient drink, could manage to make.

Also, it’s fun to have an alternative to margaritas or sangria—my usual summer go-to, when hanging out with friends in the backyard or at the beach. This pitcher cocktail—gorgeous, refreshing, easy—has already been the hit of the season. One note, though: you do have to plan ahead a bit. The recipe is easy, but takes a couple hours to chill.

Combine a cup of sugar in three cups water in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil until the sugar is dissolved, then remove the pan from the heat, and add six hibiscus tea bags. Let the tea steep for 5 minutes, then take out the tea bags, return the pan to the heat, and cook, until the liquid reduces by half. Chill it for another hour, and add it to a pitcher along with a cup of orange juice, a cup of tequila and half a cup of lime juice. Throw in a sliced lime, a sliced orange, and a bunch of fresh raspberries. Let it chill for another hour, then serve your cocktail over ice, topped with club soda.

Finally, get ready to be very, very popular.

If you’d rather be drinking cocktails than making them, you know where to find us! Pull up a seat at the bar or on the patio and we’ll craft you something seasonal, boozy, and delicious!

Author: Nicole Hardy

Images: Will Foster Photography