Percy's and Co. takes its old-timey name from the men's shop that once occupied its 1898 Ballard Avenue building. The space, according to its new owners (who also own the Cha Cha, Ace Hotels, and Rudy's Barbershops), housed a speakeasy during Prohibition. Running the bar side of things are two local guys recalled from a New York City "apothecary bar," and they are apothecarying at Percy's, too, which means "infused spirits, fresh purees, and beneficial tinctures," the last of which may be added free of charge to any cocktail to assist with "Female Balance," "Brain Power," "Libido," "Complexion," or "Energy & Immunity."
You would be forgiven for lacking the energy for, and wanting immunity from, this whole concept. When Percy's opened not too long ago, the owners said that they did not want people to think they were "doing a period piece." That was patently absurd—Percy's is nothing but, with its marble-topped bar, glossy black paneling, exposed brick, seven semicircular booths with seven heavy wood-framed mirrors, glowing globes of light up near the high ceiling, and glass case (only one, though) of taxidermied birds. More recently than Prohibition, the space was the Old Town Alehouse, a Ballard staple for approximately 17 years, and a place that was old-fashionedy in its own right, though in a much lower-key way. As cranky as you might be about the changes in Ballard, you have to admit that this particular bit of renovation time-travel looks and feels absolutely great—especially right now, with tasteful fir boughs decking the hall and a huge wreath with small red berries and pinecones hanging over the bar. Percy's is an idealized version of a classic holly-jolly pub, stately but filled with a happy din. (And it is filled; get there early if you want a booth.)
Despite the potential for overthinking, Percy's cocktail menu also contains greatness. A drink (unfortunately) called Thyme's Up, with thyme-infused gin, fresh Bosc pear juice, and house-made sour mix, garnished with a sprig of thyme, was excellent, with the sour balancing what would've been too-sweet pear, and the thyme adding freshness and interest. Two other herb drinks were almost as good: a dill-infused vodka soda with sour mix and fresh dill for garnish, and a cilantro-infused gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber. If anything could convert dill- or cilantro-haters, it might be these—they were subtler than they sound, fragrant and crisp and refreshing. The sage-infused bourbon clashed, however, with the grapefruit juice in a drink called Herrick Helper (possibly named for 17th-century English poet Robert Herrick?). The Wild Ones—basil-infused tequila, orange liqueur, strawberry puree, fresh rhubarb, and sour mix—sounds like a hazardously good version of a strawberry margarita. Cocktails run from $7 to $10, which, in this day and age, isn't too bad.
There's also a full menu—more of a restaurant one than bar food, though those seated at the bar one night gravitated toward the very tasty pork dip sandwich with sweet onion marmalade and wilted mustard greens ($10). Dave Lamping, who helped make Re:Public so good, is running the kitchen here, and there's a lot to love on his local/seasonal menu. A baby-gold-beet salad (all beets should be baby gold ones!) with watercress and hazelnuts was saved from beet-salad boredom by a quantity of airy, creamy, whipped house-made ricotta ($8). A Fuji apple and endive salad ($11), though, suffered from bitter endive and a fight of strong flavors between its bits of smoked salmon and blue cheese.
Salted cod fritters ($7) were perfect bar snacks, panko-fried orbs that weren't too greasy or too salty, with lots of potato to balance out the fish and a nicely smoked aioli. You get enough of them—portions here aren't dainty, as in a big dish containing a superlative confit chicken leg (lots more than just the drumstick), a ton of wilty mustard greens with the right amount of vinegar, and plenty of baby potatoes ($14). The bits of chicken that fell into the greens' pool of mustard jus and soaked there were fantastic. Sautéed gnocchi were like little pillows of cream cheese, they were so rich and good, and they were ideally balanced by crunchy bits of cauliflower, oyster mushrooms, and a simple, sparing brown butter ($18). Braised short rib with potatoes and pickled peppers ($17) was not as exciting, but still a proper big, wintery supper for a manly pub setting. Slices of seared albacore tuna felt like really venturing out in this context, and while the preserved lemon and red-onion-marinated chickpeas with them tasted great, the chickpeas were a little on the hard side instead of creamy ($12).
Both desserts on offer—bittersweet chocolate pudding with bourbon caramel and hazelnut crumble, and caramelized bananas with rum toffee sauce and warm banana bread ($6 each)—were as good as they sound.
Service is not flawless—the place is busy, and sometimes it seems like they're struggling to keep up. You might languish with an empty drink in a booth for a while, and if you order four dishes at the same time, they might all arrive within four minutes of each other. At the bar one night, one bartender was entirely personable, while another was peremptory and less than attentive. But Percy's is so handsome, you might not mind.