The Dock St Burger, along with Bad Albert's, has risen from the ashes to deliver mouth-watering goodness to customers' tastebuds.
Bad Albert's is back again, but with the same old neighborhood vibe
“Your seat’s ready for you.”
These are likely the words you’ll here upon entering Bad Albert’s if you were an old regular. Until last year, the neighborhood bar and grill settled the spot on the corner of 5100 Ballard Ave for 17 years, under the direction of old-time Ballardite Steve Katsandres and more recently the twin brothers Cory and Shawn Rockey.
It was last year when the Rockey brothers got in an investor dispute with a business partner. The Rockeys couldn’t settle on a deal to buy the investor out, which led to the closing of Bad Albert’s and the opening of the short lived Tailgater’s Sports Bar and Grill.
In the end, Shawn and Cory approached the Tailgater’s owner again and were able to buy him out. It was a peaceful resolution, they said, and there were no hard feelings.
Katsandres, who is doing some consulting for the newly reopened Bad Albert’s, said the most disappointing thing was failing the customers.
“It was a hard swallow for all of our customers to not have it there during that time,” Katsandres said of the time that Bad Albert’s was gone. “It was a tradition for the neighborhood and to not have it all of a sudden, it was a disappointment for our guests.”
For those wondering, little will be changing. Bad Albert’s, which softly opened on Friday, Sept. 6, will have a limited menu until it’s grand opening in a couple of weeks. When the Ballard News-Tribune arrived this morning, Katsandres and the Rockey brothers were still frantically talking and running about, trying to bring everything together.
In the meantime, some of the regular meals can be found on the menu. And for Bad Albert’s veterans who can’t find their favorite meals, the cooks might be willing to acquiesce to a customer’s desires. Just ask.
Of course, the mainstay Dock St Burger is back, seemingly bigger than ever. Katsandres said it’s handmade and made with fresh ingredients. Seasoned ground chuck, homemade sauce, lettuce, red onion, tomato, white cheddar, a touch of ketchup (“Whether you like ketchup or not, it makes the burger perfect”) and fresh icebox pickles, all on a classic sesame bun.
The Dock St Burger hasn’t changed one bit since Bad Albert’s opened over 17 years ago, Katsandres said.
“Its consistency that’s what it is,” Katsandres said. “There was a guy who came in on opening night (last Friday) and he said ‘I love the burger’ and I said ‘It’ll taste the same 15 years from now.’”
Owners also said that they have the best eggs benedict in all of Ballard, even all of Seattle.
Cory and Shawn also made sure to lavish credit on their head chef, Marco Abrego, and the kitchen staff.
“Best kitchen staff in Ballard, hands down. No joke. I’d put them up against anybody,” Cory said.
Them’s fighting words, of course, but it goes to show that the Rockeys run the joint with optimism and a supportive attitude.
But more than the food, Bad Albert’s will be run the way it’s always been run: By creating relationships with the customers.
“This place has always been service, then food, and then drinks. And I still think this is the same priority setup,” Cory said. “This is a community bar, like Cheers, everyone knows each other. It doesn’t matter how busy it is, there’s always lots of banter back and forth between customers that didn’t even come in together.”
Bad Albert’s has a lot more neighbors on Ballard Ave than they did when they first opened up, but that isn’t a concern for the owners.
“We’re not even worried about what’s going on Ballard Ave, we’re worried about what goes on in these four walls and keeping it a neighborhood bar,” Shawn said. He added that they were by no means against the other, “more hip” restaurants on the Ballard Ave strip, but rather that they were all for working with them as a kind of team.
As for coming back, the emotions are high and positive for Katsandres and the Rockey brothers.
“It feels very good, it’s amazing actually,” Cory said. “Because of the support. That’s what it’s all about for us. It’s not about making the money -- of course that’s a bonus -- but it’s about being accepted into this family that is Bad Albert’s.”
“Albert has six more lives,” Katsandres said, wryly.
Bad Albert’s is open seven days a week: Sun-Thurs, 7 a.m. – 12 a.m., Fri-Sat, 7 a.m.-3:30 a.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, they’ll be serving an early morning breakfast. Bad Albert’s will continue their tradition of playing music a few times a week, with some familiar Ballardite musicians such as acoustic guitarist Bill Chism, electric violinist Peter Lee Johnson and jazz musician Ed Taylor.
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