At night, Ballard turns into a party. It might not be a rager, but still - people hop around all the bars and pubs on Market Street or Ballard Avenue with the determination of Dora The Explorer. Most of the bars in the neighborhood work for a casual hangout, but few of them actually stick out. Especially since trying to get something good to eat with your drink is like playing a sad game of buffalo-wing roulette.
Rupee Bar is here to change all that with their lineup of Sri Lankan and Indian bar snacks. From the second it opened, it became the standout bar that Ballard was missing all along.
You can stagger mix-and-match plates at any bar, but here, it’s not nachos and sliders or planks of charcuterie and cheese. The menu is made up of little dishes ranging from fried bites to curries - there are crispy shrimp shells you can eat like Pringles, roasted tandoori cauliflower, naan with a ton of dipping sauces, spiced fried chicken with an incredible amu miris green chili aioli, and panko-breaded mutton rolls filled with ground lamb served with creamy tomato sambol. The drinks go really well with the food, but stand alone if you want to just come here for a coconut Old Fashioned, rum-based cocktail with roasted banana, or star anise-infused gin and tonic.
Our biggest complaint about this place is that the portion sizes don’t always warrant the prices. Everything here is under $13 (including the cocktails), and at first glance that might seem like a great value. For a few dishes, it is - the tangy and refreshing puffed rice salad comes in a big heap, and the passionfruit love cake is the size of an oversized muffin for $6. If you’re with three other people, though, you pretty much have to order nearly the entire menu to walk out satisfied. And if you’re with even more people, you also might have trouble getting a table. But this place is best experienced with a smaller group anyway.
There are so many Ballard bars where you can get burgers, onion rings, and stuff covered in shredded cheese. Rupee Bar’s the place to have a bunch of buttery naan with your drink instead. You don’t need to weave your way through the maze of pubs and breweries to have a great night out in the neighborhood - skip the Ballard bar crawl and spend a couple of hours at Rupee instead.
Paying $4 for a personal serving of puffy bread brushed with ghee is necessary. Ration it well, because you’ll want to eat some plain and some dunked into the various dips and sauces that are available to order.
Papadum is a paper-thin, crispy flatbread, and Rupee Bar’s seeded version is the best in town, especially as a vehicle for the lentil curry or tomato sambol. Our only gripe is that one single sheet, which can easily be finished in approximately five seconds, is $3, and at many Indian restaurants in Seattle, a basketful of them are free.
If you’re looking for a light, cold, and refreshing bite to go with your cocktail, the bhel puri is a great idea. It’s a salad with puffed rice, vegetables, and tamarind topped with yogurt and sev (think rainbow sprinkles, but made of chickpea flour). It’s a perfect dish if you don’t want to commit to a full meal.
On a cold night, these stewed lentils hit the spot with an Old Fashioned.
This is one of the best things you can snack on with a cocktail. Filled with spiced ground lamb and breaded in panko, it’s great with the creamy tomato sambol that comes on the side.
You don’t get a ton of shrimp for $10, but if you’re in the mood for seafood, get these. You’ll get some prawns coated in a delicious-but-not-actually-spicy chili oil and some battered and fried shrimp shells, which you should eat like a potato chip. They’re great.
The marinade on these fried chicken bites is tangy, the crust has a light crispness to it, and the aioli infused with amu miris (a type of green chili) is so outstanding that it should replace all uses for ranch.
If you like cauliflower, you’ll be very into this tandoori version with sweet currants and an excellent eggplant puree.
This fish has a crispy sear on the outside and sits in a delicious creamy yellow curry sauce. Be sure to save some of your naan to mop up the curry.
We prefer the seafood and fried stuff over the ribs, but they’re still very tasty. They’re tender, covered in crushed seeds, and come with an herby scallion condiment that steals the show.
Some people’s idea of quality alone time is taking a bubble bath, or watching a loop of parkour fail videos. But our idea of quality alone time is sitting at the bar with a cocktail eating this almond-y cake stuffed with tart passionfruit curd and topped with fluffy whipped cream. Don’t miss this.