Palate Pleaser: Bitterroot BBQ


Buckle up – I hope you’re hungry.

Bitterroot BBQ (5239 Ballard Ave.) in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood does BBQ right. And there is lots of it.

Bitterroot is the creation of husband and wife team Grant and Hannah Carter. The cozy BBQ joint is named after the Bitterroot River in Montana, where the two used to fly fish together after meeting at the University of Montana.

At Bitterroot, meats are smoked using the dry rub method in Bitterroot’s Ole Hickory Model SSL, which can hold 90 racks of ribs, 60 pork butts or 500 pounds of brisket. The flavor of the meat is impacted by which wood is used In Ole Hickory – the Carters pay tribute to Bitterroot’s Pacific Northwest setting by using Washington apple wood.

Diners can choose catfish, a whole or half chicken, brisket, pork belly, house-made links, pulled pork or baby back ribs. Can’t choose? Commit to the “Cowboy Killer” – half a chicken, brisket, baby back ribs and pulled pork, with three sides. I tried the ribs, and the smoky flavor and texture were different from any other ribs I had ever tried. Dripping with the tastiest BBQ sauce I’d ever had, the smoked meat on the bone was perfection. If you like to experiment with different flavor combinations while you eat BBQ, there is a tray at each table offering four sauces – sweet, spicy, vinegar and Carolina mustard.


And what about sides? Your succulent BBQ can arrive accompanied by braised greens with bacon, Brussels sprouts, glazed root vegetables, creamed spinach, baked beans, cast iron cornbread, coleslaw, or (my favorite!) cheddar grits. Most of the sides are vegetarian, so if a plant-based diner is part of your crew, there will be plenty to keep them busy! Your table will definitely need at least one portion of Bitterroot’s mac and cheese - start with the creamy base, and you are entitled to two additions, such as bacon, caramelized onions, sliced hot links, English peas, roasted red peppers or smoked jalapenos (again, plenty for vegetarians).

Sandwiches are served on a Tall Grass Bakery pretzel roll with coleslaw and pickled carrots. You can try pulled pork, beef or chicken, house-made hot link or a burger with bleu cheese and caramelized onions. For more a more in-depth exploration of their sandwich possibilities, check out sister restaurant Mammoth in Eastlake.

Happy hour is offered Monday through Friday from 3:00PM to 6:00PM, and 11:00PM to 1:00AM every night. There are rotating draft beers, wine, a creamed old-fashioned (bourbon, vanilla simple syrup and black walnut bitters) and a “Montana Manhattan” (bourbon, infused sweet vermouth and bitters). Happy hour bites include hush puppies, hand-cut fries and pulled pork nachos (careful – this one will ruin you for other nachos forever!). There are also flights of double-barrel whiskey to try, and a whole list of cocktails from the regular menu – careful, vegetarians, some of these are spiked with bacon! Everyone else, knock yourself out.

The best part? You can enjoy Bitterroot’s BBQ outside of Bitterroot. Orders for up to 20 people can be delivered by Caviar. Orders for more than 20 people can be provided by Bitterroot’s in-house catering, including Tailgate Packages - spreads are enough to feed 8 – 12, and come with meats, sauces, coleslaw, mac and cheese, pretzel buns, utensils and – of course – handi-wipes. You’re going to need them!


5239 Ballard Ave.

NW Seattle, WA 98107