A Day (or so) In: The Pike Place Market
Note: This post is the first of an intermittent series focused on experiencing the full and authentic flavor of specific Seattle neighborhoods. What to do and see, where to eat and drink, and other details are organized in itinerary form, with an eye to keeping it affordable.
Granted, the Pike Place Market is not a neighborhood, officially, but it certainly should be. The Market is the epicenter of Seattle for tourists and residents alike. Perched in a stellar setting over Elliott Bay in downtown, it is central to all of the city. Just about everything one would need for daily living is found in this historic, patinaed landmark. Produce and flower stalls, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, breweries, cheese makers, and ethnic grocers abound (as do local craft stalls and the more generic souvenir shops). There are restaurants, shops, services, and apartments. There is even a health clinic, a senior center and a daycare facility in the greater, 12+ block labyrinth of the Market.
Checking in: There are two places to consider staying at the Market. For those traveling on the proverbial shoe string, the HI-Seattle Hostel is a real bargain. This clean, and secure hostel is right in the lower part of the Market and dorm beds start at $25 per night. For those with more leeway in their budget, the bed and breakfast, Pension Nichols, offers the best value for ambience, location and amenities. (It is also, by the way, pet friendly!) Rooms start at $120 per night for double occupancy.
Start your day at the Market with a hearty oatmeal or egg-&-bacon breakfast at the Soundview Café. It is a cafeteria-style diner with one of the best views in town. A counter seat at the west wall proffers a sweeping vista of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains (on sunny days). This place is frequented by locals, and the café even has an area for folks bringing their own brown bag meals.
Then, walk all the calories off by exploring the main drag of the Market, Pike Place, and the adjacent walking street, Post Alley. Take pictures, listen to buskers (there is a fabulous A-cappella singing group that is often in front of the original Starbuck’s shop), take in the stunning view from Victor Steinbrueck Park at the north end of the market, and do a whole lot of tasting and window shopping. Some of my favorite haunts include: Sur La Table (the original shop), The Souk, DeLaurenti, Metsker Maps, Left Bank Books, Market Spice, and Raven’s Nest.
On a nice day, shopping for picnic groceries for lunch at the park is a fun option. If you do, check out Beecher’s Cheese and the deli counter at DeLaurenti’s for some nice additions to your basket. If the weather is less than accommodating, there is a myriad of small lunch spots and take out counters to choose from. You can find humbow to yeeros, piroshky to pizza. These are your most affordable options. For great food and ambience at reasonable (but not cheap) prices, try Maximilien Bistro for GREAT salads and french onion soup or, Matt’s in the Market for fabulous seafood. During tourist season, you may need a reservation for either.
Fueled up again, now head “Downunder” to the lower levels of the Market. You will find a playground of unique, kitchy shops, like Market Magic, F & J Great Western Trading Co., and Holy Cow Records. Let yourself get lost in the maze of shops. Any shopkeeper will help you find your way out.
For dinner, head to the bar at the Pink Door. This whimsical, romantic little Italian joint is a favorite place for Seattlites to meet up with friends. If it is summer, try to snag a table on the patio. Their antipasti menu is very reasonable as is their house wine. For a treat, try their blue martini called “Parfait Amore”. Later in the evenings there is usually live music and sometimes a fabulous cabaret.
If you want to keep going, just across Post Alley from the Pink Door is Kells, an Irish (surprise-surprise) restaurant and pub that also has live music on the weekends.
And if you want to keep going in the wee hours, Le Pichet stays open until 2am, serving French Bistro fare, good espresso and wine.