The Walrus and the Carpenter is an oyster bar located at the south end of Seattle’s Historic Ballard Avenue. The restaurant is very hard to find. There is no storefront to speak of – only a small sign hanging from a door that leads to a hallway towards the back of the building. You would wonder how such a place stays in business but the Walrus and the Carpenter is always packed with diners.
The restaurant does not accept reservations, and the line up was an hour long when we got there at 5:15PM. We just put our names on the list and then left to do some shopping. By the time we returned an hour later, our table for five was ready. The room is not very big – seating about 40 people – but has a big open feel to it. There’s a lot of natural light thanks to floor to ceiling bay windows. The bar separates the dining area from the very small kitchen. To make sure everyone can see the oyster shuckers at work, all the seats and tables are elevated to the same height as the bar.
The menu is a single sheet of paper with food on one side and drinks on the other. The Walrus and the Carpenter is an oyster bar first and foremost. Depending on the season, there can be ten or more different oysters to try. They range in price from $2.00 to $3.00 each. If you’re an oyster lover, the Walrus and the Carpenter is your paradise.
While almost everyone comes to the Walrus and the Carpenter for the oysters, the menu includes locally harvested clams, house smoked fish, and specialty meats. They’re served tapas style and are meant for sharing. A full selection of wine, craft cocktails, and beer are also available. We started by trying the smoked trout, grilled Alaskan herring, salmon tartare, prosciutto cotto, and liked them so much that we kept sampling more and more dishes. By the time we were done, we ate through nine dishes and every oyster on the menu!
Dinner for five came to $150 with tax and tips. Extremely reasonable no matter how you look at it. I’m definitely adding the Walrus and the Carpenter to my list of favorite Seattle area restaurants. The place is a bit hard to find but well worth the trip.