Food & Drink

Bar Exam

Pub Legitimacy and the Market Arms

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. recommended

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Comments (17) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Was pretty excited to check it out, but waited until World Cup fever was over before I went. Sadly, the Market Arms blows. Way, way too loud (it's basically a big box with wood floors, walls, and ceiling, it seems to amplify everything). It's way too crowded. The beer list is small and boring, though they have at least one good rotating tap. The food was unmentionable. Some sort of artichoke pesto dip, with a solid block of mystery cheese over it. We were advised by the waitress to "stir in the cheese before it cools and turns into a brick". Alas, the warning came too late.

Head over to the Old Pec or the George and Dragon itself. The Market Arms is officially dead to me.
Posted by Beerdrunk in Ballard on September 17, 2010 at 9:43 AM · Report this
Karlheinz Arschbomber 2
Both places are cold, uninviting crap destinations. Dozens of better ones in Fremont and Ballard.
Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber on September 21, 2010 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Fnarf 3
It IS way too loud. Slayer could be playing a set in the back and you wouldn't even hear them in the front over the howl of conversation. Seriously, it's like leaning into a Rolls Royce RB211-22C jet engine at full thrust in there. Too much glass, too much bare wall, too much floor.

In a real pub, the floor would be covered with a an eye-searing carpet designed to absorb decades of spilled beer, blood, piss, guts, and food without showing a mark, because the pattern already looks like spilled beer, etc.

The beer is lousy too, but that's true in all American pubs. No proper taps at all. There's is worse than usual though. That's probably because they have to rocket it out of there so fast.
Posted by Fnarf on September 21, 2010 at 12:54 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 4
Does anything stay in that location for very long? Seems like that landlord is going to be looking for another tenant soon.
Posted by keshmeshi on September 21, 2010 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Mandrake's was in the location for 19 years prior to the Market Arms moving in.

So to answer your question, yes.
Posted by Whaa? on September 21, 2010 at 1:59 PM · Report this
Fnarf 6
And the Market Arms is packed to the walls every night, so I don't think they'll be going anywhere soon.
Posted by Fnarf on September 21, 2010 at 2:02 PM · Report this
kitschnsync 7
Yeah, I stopped in there to check it out and have a bite to eat.

I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to have a conversation with my date, and left the place before we were even served water.
Posted by kitschnsync on September 21, 2010 at 2:15 PM · Report this
gnr8r 8
That place seals the deal with Ballard becoming the new Belltown. Douchewaffles everywhere! RUN!
Posted by gnr8r on September 21, 2010 at 3:04 PM · Report this
Unless you feel like shouting at whoever you're with, don't bother with this place!
Posted by MarryMolly on September 21, 2010 at 4:41 PM · Report this
Lose-Lose 10
I've tried this place a few times, only once "successfully", and as a result every subsequent attempt, I've found myself asking, "do I really need to be here?" If I'm here to watch the Sounders, there are dozens of other options (these days, every bar in Ballard, though I'm fond of the Stepping Stone). If it's for other footy, pickins are slimmer, but worth the jaunt (to, say, the Dray, or the G&D). If I'm looking for a drink, why not... anywhere else? If its grittiness, there's the Slope. I want a brit themed night? Olde Peculiar. And if I'm hungry, I say to myself: "GET OUT OF THIS PLACE IMMEDIATELY!!!" I just can't imagine why any place would embrace English cuisine. It's simply fucking atrocious (not to mention slow). And their beer selection sucks (yo, Limeys, the days of "American beer is like sex in a canoe: fucking close to water" is over. It wouldn't hurt you to carry a decent domestic brew; many are actually better than that swill you serve...)

Ok, I'm glad I'm not the only one.
Posted by Lose-Lose on September 21, 2010 at 4:46 PM · Report this
Only go if you enjoy shouting a lot. And shouting "WHAT?" repeatedly.

Srsly. :/
Posted by MarryMolly on September 21, 2010 at 4:48 PM · Report this
Womyn2me 12
I have gone at lunch, mostly to get a strongbow (on tap) and the food was not very good. and VERY loud even when there couldnt have been more than 20 people in there.

Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on September 21, 2010 at 7:29 PM · Report this
Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded.
Posted by on September 22, 2010 at 12:23 AM · Report this
I've had a burger and fries there a couple times at lunch and it was good.
Posted by Burger and Fries on September 22, 2010 at 3:45 AM · Report this
George and Dragon feels legitly "british" to me, as does, weirdly, the Canterbury Arms.

but most of Seattle's "british pubs" have ceilings that are waaay too high, prices that are waaaay too high and, well you see where I'm going with this.
Posted by gi on September 24, 2010 at 12:50 PM · Report this
The night we went, there was only one server taking/delivering orders to the entire packed place. After 45 minutes, we were finally served really bland–even by English standards–pub grub. Not in a hurry to go back.
Posted by Gene1 on September 26, 2010 at 7:12 PM · Report this
I went here on Sunday afternoon and loved it. Had a pastrami and swiss sandwich and potato salad. Bartenders and kitchen staff were very friendly. Little bit pricey, the beer I usually get for $4.50 was $5.25.
Posted by Nellie on April 5, 2011 at 9:25 PM · Report this

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