Locally known simply as "The Market", the Pike Place Market is truly a special place. Locals and visitors actively use the market year round as a place to visit on the weekend, explore with friends, and to buy fresh produce or amazing fish. I personally love visiting The Market and usually walk through at least once or twice a month, and even more when the weather is nice and I have an excuse to visit. I also have a long history with the market: I got one of my first haircuts at the barbershop (It is still open) on the lower level and I've been regularly visiting the market for over 20 years. It's a constantly evolving place that has appeal for nearly anyone. It is easily one of the top "do-not-miss" attractions in Seattle.
However, the treasure that is The Market today was almost destroyed in the 1960s. In 1963, the "Pike Plaza" development was proposed for the site. It would have been a complete urban renewal of the market, clad in concrete, and focused primarily on business and the automobile. These developments were in style at the time in Seattle: We lost a Carnegie library that was replaced by a modern building; Our train station underwent an underwhelming transformation and was recently restored; I-5 cut through the city like a hot knife; and much more was planned to make Seattle more adapted to the future as it was seen from then.
The Pike Place Market was meant to live on in a new building in the Pike Plaza development, but the budget called for a parking garage that was many times more expensive than the new market replacement. It was also argued at the time that the vendors were what gave the market character and that the buildings don't matter (never mind that the vendors evolved with the buildings). In 1971, the market was saved from such a dramatic and complete revision by the public, who voted to renovate instead of devastate. Instead, the buildings were renovated and restored with an eye on historic preservation. The result is one of the most famous and popular public markets in the US. But what about the market today? Keep on reading after the break!
The first stop has to be the famous Pike Place Fish Market of "flying fish" fame. The crowd pleaser here is that when you buy a fish, they throw it from the display to the people behind the counter. There they clean it and pack it ready to go. Everyone who visits the market will pass by this stand and most people are in the know about the fish throwing (crowds can gather).
Even if no one is buying, there are samples of fresh smoked salmon and every 15 minutes or so, one of the salmon there take flight. If you buy a fish, they'll be happy to give you a bit of a show. What's even better is that Pike Place Fish Market now carries only sustainable seafood.
The next stop on the tour? We'll briefly drop by the public view by the Sound View Cafe (follow the sign in the picture above) on our way to a brand new chocolate maker in the market.
From here, we continue "down under" and into the market, where we find the new Indi Chocolate. The owner and chocolatier of Indi Chocolate left a job in IT to pursue her passion, which led her to the Pike Place Market (by way of Honduras where she sources her cocoa beans directly). She opened her doors less than three months ago and makes some beautiful, pure dark chocolate along with cocoa butter skin products and lip butter. This is a place to drop by, meet the owner, and hear about her adventures in Central America.
Emerging back to the surface, we are now at about the middle of The Market. Further down the concourse is a wide array of day stalls with everything from hot sauce to hand made jewelry to T-shirts. You'll also see flowers everywhere in the market, especially in the spring when the tulip festival is happening in the Skagit valley. However, our next stop is down the street at Pear Delicatessen.
At the original Starbucks, you will likely run into a line out the door. It is one of our attractions, but the fact is that it's just a Starbucks on the inside. The only thing here is that they have a special Pike Place Market mug that can only be purchased here.
Immediately after you turn the corner by the hanging chilis, you'll see El Mercaso Latino. This is a great little ethnic store with empanadas to tempt you and a treat from South America: Argentine alfajores (which I discovered my love of last year when visiting South America). This is the only place that I know of in Seattle to buy them (although they are pricey).
If you sign up for an app called LevelUp with this link, when you pay using the app you'll get $5 towards your meal. No strings attached (except having to sign up with the referral).
After you're done there, continue on to the next street. You'll get a great view of the sound (one of the most popular photo spots) and be right by our next destination: Cafe Farvahar. Persian cuisine is delicious and offers some very interesting flavor combinations. I am still trying out the cafe, but so far everything I've had had actually been pretty good. They opened in August of 2012 (replacing, sadly, my favorite Russian cafe), but I am looking forward to them growing their offerings. You'll meet the owner (and his mother) here and the recipes are obviously from the family. Very tasty.
I've marked that route on my map here.
The Pike Brewing Company has decent enough food (although are you really hungry after eating through The Market? I think not) and a number of high quality beers to try. There is plenty of seating and happy hour offers good deals on food and drinks.
That's it! This is just one possible walk through The Market and there is still plenty of stuff that was left out. It is well worth doing a second loop through the Market on the main level to see even more things, including all of the fruit and vendors (I've marked that walk on my map as well as Walk #2). Check out the map here!
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