Bad Albert's Tap & Grill
5100 Ballard Ave NW,
Mon-Fri 11 am-midnight, Sat-Sun 9 am-2 pm.

If Bad Albert's Tap & Grill, out by its big bad self at the south end of Ballard Avenue Northwest, has ever struck anyone as just a little too rough sounding to check out, I would suggest perhaps mentally substituting a less-threatening name instead. Something warmer, more familial. Maybe… oh heck, I don't know… how about Uncle Snuggly's?

See? Nothing scary there. Okay, maybe a less-retarded name is in order, but the point is, nobody's bad at Bad Albert's: The staff is friendly, and the regulars are, uh, regular. What's more, for a bar, the place is unnervingly clean.

Even more disarming is the care put into the menu. Consisting largely of what could be called bar food (although there's also breakfasts on weekends), everything's got a little something special: The coleslaw's got a nice sprinkling of dill; the black bean soup has big pieces of bacon and is served with a dollop of sour cream (and fresh pepper, if you want); sauces are homemade. The Dock Street Burger ($8.50 for the works, including bacon and Vermont white cheddar) is juicy and stacked, and the Ballard Avenue Cheese Steak ($8.95) is a wonderful mess. And then there's the fries. You get a great pile of them with your sandwich, and in this case "pile" is a good thing. They're hand cut, they've still got the peel on, and they're fried to a nice golden brown. Eating them prompts this weird blissed-out/pissed-off reaction, like, "Gee, I love these… These are how French fries were meant to be… Why the hell don't more places make a decent French fry?"

Any bar whose French fries are good enough to make patrons fly into moral outrage can't be all that bad, I don't care what the name.

Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer: Jan 13-Feb 14 at Bagley Wright Theatre
Part theater, part revival, and all power, this one-woman show will have your head nodding and hands clapping!