King's Hardware—the bar in Ballard just opened by Linda, of Linda's Tavern on Capitol Hill—is very much like its crosstown sibling. Questions of authenticity are beyond moot; both establishments are faux old West, an illusion carried out in obsessive detail in both locations. If you've spent any time at Linda's, walking into King's foments a strange confusion in the mind, a very specific, ontologically unsettled state. It's like a dream you'd have about going to Linda's, a dream in which reality is randomly reconfigured. Everything's shifted, space itself seemingly collapsed, expanded. The style, the atmosphere, the very light (from very similar faux-wagon-wheel chandeliers) has been bottled at Linda's, released into King's. Staff: equally hip, cute, and kind. Jukebox: equally excellent. So what's the difference?
Taxidermy: The beautiful, baleful buffalo who oversees Linda's may be MIA, but the dead animals are more profuse in number and diverse in species at King's. Here, beasts of the sea and the air decorate the walls as well as our hooved and pawed friends. In the last category, the stuffed small cat (Lynx? Bobcat? Labels would be helpful) that leans oddly on its elbow in a corner of Linda's has a doppelgänger at King's; here he or she lives above the bar. It's an inexplicable tableau: petite mystery feline, ersatz pine trees, and some crushed Rainier cans imprisoned behind chicken wire. White-trash zoo? A small scene from the corner of a bad dream?
Gaming: Like Linda's, King's possesses one pool table. Unlike Linda's, King's has Skee-Ball (cost: 25 cents; beware of getting in the way of pool players, at close quarters and possibly territorial) and Donkey Kong. Rejoice!
Outdoor seating: Capacious at both. Smokers, NB: While Linda's offers an enclosed smoking section, King's relegates those desirous of a cigarette or cigar to the sidewalk sans beverage. ("Retarded," one King's patron opined.)
Food: While the menu at Linda's is more varied, both establishments serve quite decent burgers (King's motto: "CAN'T BEAT OUR MEAT"), fries, and so forth. Noteworthy at King's: the After School Special, a burger with peanut butter and bacon, and the Wedge, iceberg lettuce with so much blue cheese and bacon that it achieves escape trajectory in terms of the salad category.
Clientele: Several glaring differences are immediately apparent at King's, namely: presence of a group of men aged enough to have gray hair, presence of a black man wearing a white dress shirt and pleated slacks, absence of white belts, far fewer visible tattoos. (Glaring similarities to Linda's: seemingly mandated presence of one patron wearing Sonic Boom T-shirt and one token gay couple.)
Lavatories: At Linda's, unrepentantly divey. At King's, reuse-lumber spiffy, adjoining an entryway, guarded by an "Employees Only" sign, to the (also new, also replicant) Rudy's next door. Through the portal, barber's chairs line up in the dark, an eerie, misplaced annex to a surreal, displaced dream.
King's Hardware, 5225 Ballard Ave NW, 782-0027.