One of the dishes on the menu is the tender pulled-pork sandwich that comes with coleslaw and many sides, which include fresh Brussels sprouts sauteed in butter and shallots.
Bitterroot BBQ: 'We want people to be full and happy'
Earliest this year, Ballard’s newest barbecue joint opened on the corner of Ballard Avenue NW and NW Vernon Place, and the smell of sweet, roasting meats can be smelled from the street.
The meats are free-range, the vegetables are local, and the atmosphere is perfect for enjoying Bitterroot’s intentionally all-American fare.
“We wanted to do something more casual, more street-food focused,” said Co-owner and General Manager Hannah Carter.
Open seven days a week, with a happy hour that rivals some of Seattle’s best, the restaurant promises that you will “leave full and happy,” according to owners Grant Carter and Hannah Carter.
With 10 years’ experience in the industry, Hannah Carter said she and her husband are “passionate about barbecue.”
“My husband grew up on [braised beef,” she said of one of their popular menu items. “He’s been feeding me those for years.”
With a twinkle in her eye, Hannah Carter confessed of the braised beef sandwiches, “It’s one of the things he swooned me over with.”
Now, as the head chef, Grant Carter is serving up such menu items as “The Cowboy Killer” and “A Whole Chicken.”
On occasion, a foot-long (or larger) slab of meat is drawn from the kitchen on one of Bitterroot’s cafeteria-style metal trays.
“In our food stylings, we focus on large plates,” Hannah Carter said.
Bitterroot’s beef and pork are acquired from Oregon coops Painted Hills and Carlton Farms, companies dedicated to high-quality and natural products, according to their websites.
Years before establishing themselves in Seattle, Hannah Carter said she and her husband spent their summers fly-fishing Montana’s Bitterroot River.
Now, the name of the river is becoming synonymous with good barbecue.
“When opened, [Grant and just had our ten year anniversary, and so [opening the was an appropriate start to the next decade of our lives together,” Hannah Carter said.
But the first few weeks after opening their doors to hungry Ballard foodies were more than they anticipated.
“We were really anticipating opening a lot slower than we did,” Hannah Carter said. “We ended up having to hire a bunch more staff and bring in a lot more food. We kept running out.”
But according to Foursquare user Ruxpin O., “this place has already worked out any kinks.”
Like many local barbecue establishments, Bitterroot serves succulent barbecue-style dishes that make mouths water.
But unlike many of the popular barbecue pits, Bitterroot focuses on table and beverage service instead of ordering at the counter.
“Our focus is service-driven. We do table service and we focus on our bar as well,” Hannah Carter said.
At Bitterroot, guests will get consistent, quality barbecue in addition to friendly service, which can be scarce in Seattle, Hannah Carter said.
The establishment boasts an upscale urban minimalist quality, paired with the homey feel of recycled wood and sweet aromas from the kitchen.
The front of the house (open to all ages) is artistically lined with painted chain-link fences and reclaimed wood in a chevron style.
Johnny Cash and June Carter harmonize in the background to classics such as “It Ain’t Me, Babe” and “Jackson.”
A descending hallway opens up to the back bar, stocked with 51 American whiskeys.
“We’re trying to stay American focused, which goes with barbecue,” Hannah Carter said. “We don’t do any scotches or Irish whiskeys.”
Bitterroot’s cocktail menu utilizes intriguing novelties such as smoked grenadine, roasted pineapple and bacon, and kangaroo jerky.
House-made sauces for the meat and sandwiches range from spicy to savory to sweet.
Sides such as Brussels sprouts, grits and cornbread with honey butter are three dollars.
Remaining consistent with the seasons, Bitterroot will adapt its menu to what is seasonally available.
“We’re super excited for corn to be coming into season,” Hannah Carter said. “Our corn on the cob is ridiculous.”
Watermelon, asparagus, fruit salads and “all the other tasty things that go with barbecue” can be expected in the coming months for Bitterroot, according to Hannah Carter.
Four-and-a-half years in the making, Bitterroot, its owners and their succulent dishes are here for the long haul.
“We love the vibe of the people here,” Hannah Carter said of Ballard residents. “They’re fun to serve.”
“It’s really straight-forward,” she said of Bitterroot. “Fresh, seasonal — we want people to be full and happy.”