5425 Russell Ave NW
Seattle, WA (map)

phone 206-784-7272

Housed in the beautifully renovated Ballard Firehouse, Hi-Life serves a delicious breakfast and daily brunch, and perfectly good dinners, too. Highlight of the a.m.: fancy French toast, two huge slices of crusty and thick Essential Bakery bread soaked to the core in yummy, not-too-sweet vanilla custard and cooked to a crisp, deep golden brown. Highlight of the p.m.: well-wrought brick oven pizzas. And don't skip happy hour (daily 3-6:30 pm and 10 pm-close), featuring an array of $4 menu items.

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Housed in the beautifully renovated Ballard Firehouse, Hi-Life serves a delicious breakfast and daily brunch, and perfectly good dinners, too. Highlight of the a.m.: fancy French toast, two huge slices of crusty and thick Essential Bakery bread soaked to the core in yummy, not-too-sweet vanilla custard and cooked to a crisp, deep golden brown. Highlight of the p.m.: well-wrought brick oven pizzas. And don't skip happy hour (daily 3-6:30 pm and 10 pm-close), featuring an array of $4 menu items.

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I'm notoriously bad at complaining about food in a restaurant and will usually just suffer whatever it is that I'm served. That all changed one night at Hi-Life. My wife and I ordered a variety of dishes and every single one of them was absolutely devoid of any flavor (ok, maybe I tasted pepper in the salad). It was the equivalent of eating textured protein. Overcooked fish, bland dishes that are billed as spicy. Oy. They ended up comping all our food. I sat in amazement at the utter incompetence of whoever prepared the foods. Perhaps it was just an off night since I've had decent food there previously (happy hour dishes and brunch) and have enjoyed other Chow Foods restaurants. Even if it was a random night I will be avoiding the place for dinner for a good long while.

Posted by Tim K. on May 16, 2007 at 2:33 PM | Report this comment

I guess I'd have to say that there are other Chow Food places I like better. But, food and memories are linked and all I will ever remember about the Hi-Life is going there during breakfast hours while my wife was just starting to go into labor. My wife wanted something on the lunch menu and the waitress, taking pity on her, bullied the chef into making a turkey sandwich at 9:30 in the morning.

Posted by Paul on May 17, 2007 at 5:44 AM | Report this comment

Their shtick is their rotating family-style menu. Unfortunately these dishes tend to be waaay overpriced for the experience. Note to owners: cooking a bunch of the same type of food, not having to arrange it on a plate with sides, and only having to bring half as many plates to a table should reduce the prices. Their food is highly inconsistent in both form and quality but their happy hour is a good value.

Posted by dirge on June 5, 2007 at 12:33 PM | Report this comment

I admit I really like Chow Foods. And HiLife the other night was the best meal I've had at one of their places. Service was great even outdoors when it was crowded on a Saturday night. And the mojito and steak salad were a great combo and very very tasty. I'll be going back pretty frequently.

Posted by Yvette on August 11, 2007 at 2:42 PM | Report this comment

There's at least one dish, usually more, that is not right at a Hi-Life dinner. Often it involves salt. Salt-cod croquets; so salty to be almost inedible . You're supposed to soak the fish for a LONG time first, until it is no longer salty. Mac & cheese; clearly unfamiliar with Marcella Hazan's imperative to put a fist full of salt in the big pasta pot; their noodles are totally unsalted and bland. We try Hi-Life every 4 months or so. Have something mediocre, for a hefty bill, every time. Then forget, and repeat the experience 4 months later. The wait staff is generally nice, the space is great. But the food is very mediocre for what they charge.

Posted by ejamadoodle on November 8, 2007 at 1:14 PM | Report this comment

I thought it was just me! Everytime I go there the service is great! But something is ALWAYS wrong with one of the dishes: -Corn Fritters so not done in the center, it's cold runny pancake batter in there. -Grilled Cheese sandwiches grilled in rancid oil, (maybe it's the grill, they checked the oil once) instead of buttering the toast. -etc. I only go here occaisonally because my 5 year old daughter loves watching practice at the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school upstairs, which happens around dinner time. The only thing worth eating is the pizza, which I have to say is good. Endolyne Joe's is the same ownership, I believe it's the best in the chain. I've enjoyed the 5-Spot as well. I'm giving HL 1 star because these others are consistently good, why can't the one in my neighborhood be decent? Ditto the comment on the large plates - I've never tried one, but based on past history, I'm not shelling out $60 on a crapshoot.

Posted by calbuzz on March 1, 2008 at 1:16 PM | Report this comment

I find their food surprisingly good given the largeness of the menu and the rotating focus. The wood-fired pizzas are always good. The increased focus on small plates is nice because they tend to be excellent (roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese sammich slices, right now, don't miss them).

Posted by leek on March 29, 2008 at 5:47 PM | Report this comment

The place was really neat. I love the old fire house building. I had heard good things about the Chow restaurants but my experience at the Hi-Life was not good. I ordered my dinner, 10 minutes later the waitress came back to say they were out of whatever I ordered. My next option was also out. What kind of restaurants runs out of a couple things on their menu? They weren't that busy. And so my 3rd choice turned out to be terrible. I'm not sure how you screw up chicken wings but they managed. As much as I love the fire house building I won't be going back to this restaurant :( sad. I wanted it to be my new favorite place.

Posted by Ballard Girl on May 6, 2008 at 10:40 AM | Report this comment

The building was gorgeous, the atmosphere was pleasant, and our server was sweet. The speciality drinks were good, if a little weak. The dessert great, and was by far the best part of the meal. The main course, however, but completely unremarkable and cost twice as much as it should have. We ordered off the "Catalunya" menu, the special Spanish fare, and chose the $31 pork dish that our server said served 2-3. First, it really serves about 1.5 (and to be fair, I'm comparing that to 5-Spot). Second, it wasn't that good; the pork itself was bland, the sauce was fair, but was served sparingly, and the potatoes were basically home fries you would expect in a basic skillet. Third, what is "Catalunya" about plain pork, mild sauce, and home fries? A complete waste of $70...

Posted by DC on May 23, 2008 at 11:36 AM | Report this comment

Once again, I get dragged to the Hi-Life because a) it's in the neighborhood, b) we are starving and there is a huge line at Senor Moose's, and c) I've forgotten in the 6 or so months that have lapsed since my last visit how completely unimpressed I am by breakfast there. There was no wait for a table on Saturday; in fact, there were a number of EMPTY tables, so why would 2 orders of eggs, potatoes, and bacon take an hour?! The coffee cake was dry and bland, the eggs were over easy and runny, not over-medium as I had requested, the breakfast potatoes were so spiced up with that nasty herb blend they use that I couldn't even eat them, and everything was cold. When I told the server why I couldn't eat the eggs she said she could have gotten me more if she had known. Yet how would she have known when she not once came to check and see how the food was?! I will NEVER waste my $16 on a cold, crappy breakfast at the Hi-Life again. If it were possible, I would give it negative stars. Ballard deserves better.

Posted by csea on June 16, 2008 at 10:53 AM | Report this comment

You haters are on crack. This place is money. Granted, a little pricier than it should be, but I've had nothing but success at this joint. Pizzas are always great. Drinks are great. Their seasonal menu is absolutely interesting, original, and amazing. The last time I went, I had this dish from Barcelona. It was an ENTIRE chicken and it was incredible. Im not sure what happened to you trons... I love it there. In fact, Im gonna go again tonight...

Posted by The Goods on September 13, 2008 at 9:22 PM | Report this comment

I'm glad the last reviewer defended this place, because I have nothing good to say. Can't figure it out- why does this suck? I have no answer. I'm at a loss. Server was nice last time at least. Food sucked. Nuff said.

Posted by jfljoe on April 29, 2009 at 7:12 PM | Report this comment

Server didn't know the first thing about the beer list

Fried mozzerella comes in the shape of Italy????

Bathroom is across the floor, up a few flights of stairs

Bill is a lot bigger than it should be.

Who cares.

Posted by UberAlles on June 16, 2009 at 11:40 PM | Report this comment

I have been going to the HighLife at least once a week for the last 3 years. The staff are very friendly and happy to make substitutions.. in 3 years I have only sent back one thing, the onion soup was too salty for my taste. I've only been to the Sunday Fried Chicken dinner once and was not impressed, but overall it is one of my favorite places to go for lunch, happy hour, and occasionally dinner. If you've had a bad experience, I urge you to give them another try. Brad and Robin and Lori and Katherine are all fun, I've even met some of the kitchen staff and always have fun there. The best "deal" on the lunch menu it the BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato on great bread) and it comes with fries or a salad, or both for a little extra. I have never been able to finish it and often take a friend to split this HUGE and delicious sandwich with. Their wood smoked burger is also excellent, especially served medium rare with Swiss cheese & sauteed mushrooms. The restaurant is in the former home of a 1911 fire station with huge wood doors, brick walls, and a generally fun atmosphere. I highly recommend it!

Posted by Great Cook on August 24, 2010 at 9:20 PM | Report this comment


Posted by JULIANA on December 24, 2011 at 1:40 AM | Report this comment

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