The George & Dragon in Fremont is a very fine British pub, well into its second decade of public service, and is commensurately, comfortably banged up. It's home to pint-swilling and broken capillaries and (in season) un-American-football insanity. The ceilings are low, the woodwork is dark, and the feeling is that you could walk out the door, pleasantly jolly from imbibing, and find verdant fields with distant cotton balls of sheep and people in tweed with walking sticks and possibly hounds doing some tromping, or whatever the British word for hiking is. (Ah, yes: rambling. The Ramblers Association "promotes rambling, protects rights of way, campaigns for access to open country, and defends the countryside." Adorable! They shake their walking sticks vigorously at those who would stop the rambling. The hounds bark briefly, nobly, at the would-be stoppers. And they ramble on.)
The Market Arms in Ballard is a new British pub brought to you by the same owner as the George & Dragon (who is, by all accounts, a legitimately British, very fine bloke called John). Let me hasten to say that there is nothing wrong, per se, with the Market Arms: It is just that if you are fond of the George and hoping to find a kindred spirit in the Arms, you are rambling in the wrong direction.
The Arms is (are?) big and spacious—airy, even—with enormous windows and a high-gloss, pale-wood bar. The George got in trouble in 2008 for repeated violations of the statewide smoking ban (three whole years after it was first instituted); everyone at the Arms looks very hale. People are having happy intergenerational pints with their parents, smiling smiles full of good teeth. There are no career drunks here; most appear to work in high tech. At one table, two guys play Magic: The Gathering endlessly—their cards are laminated, lest their eager paws wear the wizards right off them—while drinking refill after refill of Coca-Cola. They drink so much Coca-Cola, it seems impossible that they do not go into hyperglycemic fits. And they play on.
On the walls (unmarred, fresh from a British-Pub-in-a-Box Kit): beer signs, beer mirrors, black-and-white photographs of ye olde England, a few soccer jerseys, a large Union Jack, and a reproduction ye olde "Rules of the Inn" sign—"NO SKULKING LOAFERS or FLEA-BITTEN TRAMPS." The likelihood of a skulking loafer or a tramp of any variety is infinitesimally, tragically small.
What is ye olde about the Market Arms: the food. It takes forever—maybe something terrible has happened in the kitchen?—then exactly meets pre-gastropub pub standards, which, ye will recall, are low. Owner/bloke John notices something's amiss, though, and circulates telling those who've been waiting that he's buying them a round. In his accent, it sounds extra good.