In a chaotic and busy summer for new restaurants, Ballyhoo managed to quietly open their doors this September. It was a strategic move, they wanted to get their sh*t together before the general public found out and I’ll admit that I almost forgot about them in the midst of everything else going on. I started hearing reports from friends about the cocktail program and all initial reviews were coming back positive. So after waiting a couple months, I finally stopped by with some friends and see if it lived up to the hype.
Over the last month, I’ve visited Ballyhoo twice and both on the weekend. In each case, I managed to grab a parking spot in their large lot (although I specifically avoided going during First Niagara events). While the outside of the old Malamute building hasn’t changed much, the inside was impressively redesigned. I instantly felt comfortable when I walked in. On both visits I grabbed a seat at the bar with my friends and felt like I could really hang out for a while. From the hip lighting fixtures to the fantastic selection of whiskey, I knew it was my kind of bar.
Even though owner Tim Stevens is known for his cocktail background in San Diego, I was really interested with their selection of beer. It’s not a large list, they offer twelve beers on draft, but it’s wonderfully curated. They really offer a selection of beers that are hard to find in the area. On both visits I grabbed an IPA from the list and was pleased each time. On my first visit I also tried one of their ‘jam cocktails’. You simply pick a liquor type, pick a flavor of jam and the bartending staff does their thing. I ordered bourbon and let my bartender that night pick the jam. She chose red currant and added some juice. It was a sweet but strong cocktail, better then I would have guessed. My brother Tommy ordered two cocktails that night and he enjoyed both although there was some difficulties with the staff. After trying to make his first drink for a minute or so, the bartender was not pleased and just tossed everything out and started again. Tim has said in interviews that his staff is a little green and over time they’ll expand the cocktail menu as they become more experienced.
On my second visit, my buddy DJ and I decided to order something from the kitchen. The menu is small, they offer five house-made sausages ($8), several sides ($3) and an ice cream sandwich ($4). I ordered their TJ Dawg, a pork and bacon dog that was topped with pico, crema and cotija cheese. The grilled roll was a little large and made eating somewhat difficult, but I thought the creamy cheese and toppings went well with the sausage. The house made pickles were a great touch. While my dog was tasty, DJ’s Short Round sausage made of Korean Short Rib and topped with kimchi, sambal and pickled veggies was outstanding. The rich, fatty short rib was rendered perfectly and was one of the best sausages I’ve ever had locally. Honestly, all we thought about the rest of the night is when would we go back to order another.
I really appreciate what Tim and his wife Morgan are doing with Ballyhoo. They’ve managed to open up a bar with a progressive and interesting menu (both for drink and food) but also maintain an atmosphere and vibe that fits with the area. It’s only been three months but they’ve already had high profile guest bartenders serve behind the bar and offered very rare kegs on draft. I’m excited to see what they’ll do in the following months to come.