Seattle Living

New in Town: A Beginner’s Guide to Pike Place

Plan ahead for a proper introduction to Seattle’s beloved market

By Ariel Shearer January 28, 2020

"Seattle, Washington, USA - June 17, 2011: Customers walking through Seattle's famous Pike Place market.  The market is the oldest, continuous operating market in the United States and contain vendors such as local farmers, artisans, and other merchants."

New in Town is a blog series dedicated to exploring Seattle anew. Every week I’ll highlight a place, person or thing I’ve uncovered on my mission to experience all Seattle has to offer. Read last week’s installment here.

On my very first trip to Seattle, back in 2017, I landed bleary-eyed on a Saturday morning well before reasonable weekend waking hours. I rode the light rail from the airport to Westlake Station and lugged myself to bustling Pike Place Market, wheelie bag and all. After waiting in the Piroshky Piroshky line for too long, I ate my sweet and savory pastries while overlooking the Sound from a ledge outside the Four Seasons, for lack of a better plan.

I’ve since learned the errors of my ways, which is why I’m sharing a few spots I like to visit when I make a trip to the market for a date day (solo or otherwise), or when friends or family visit from out of town. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but a primer for people who want to stop by the market for a few hours and come away feeling they’ve experienced a proper taste of what’s on offer. For me, that looks something like a hot beverage, sweet and savory snacks, some great views, craft browsing and beer.  

First off, you need your coffee. While many opt to wait it out in an inevitably long line at the original Starbucks, I’ve been in love with Ghost Alley Espresso (near the gum wall) ever since my colleague Daria brought me during one of my first weeks at the magazine. You might wind up in a line here, but once you’re inside, it almost feels like your own personal café (note: no tables, just a small counter with a few stools). The ultra-friendly baristas turn out rich lattes in funky flavors like salty nut (with hazelnut and caramel) and turmeric mocha.  

With caffeine in hand, head directly upstairs to Daily Dozen for a bag of mini doughnuts. Follow your nose, be sure to bring cash, and stick to the freshly fried flavors. (Plain or cinnamon-sugar are safe bets.) There’s usually a line here, but it’s OK because you have coffee! For something a little more savory but still snackable, head across the street to Mee Sum Pastry for BBQ pork or curry beef hom bow (soft, sweet buns filled with flavorful, marinated meat). If you are still committed to Piroshky Piroshky, there’s another location just a few blocks away on Third Avenue where I’ve never seen a significant line.

Take your snacks and what’s left of your coffee and walk down Pike Place toward Virginia Street. Cut through the craft section of the market and you’ll come across a patio with ample seating—a much better spot for snacking while enjoying Sound views than what I’d found on the fly. If it’s raining, there’s indoor seating in the atrium not far from Daily Dozen.

Once properly filled with carbs and coffee, check out some local artist work in the crafts market. I love Twyla Dill’s crocheted lace jewelry (currently at the market Thursday through Sunday) and Mark Conover’s vibrant metalwork earrings. In winter months, a bouquet of dried flowers from a nearby vendor is money well spent to cut through the gray. If your vision of a great Pike Place visit includes seafood (mine does not), Matt’s in the Market is a reliable option for prime views and a great catfish sandwich (according to my team of seasoned seafood eaters).

When you’re about ready to tap out, head back to the patio and down the stairs to Old Stove Brewing. It’s an unfussy brewery with big shared tables, pub food and generous water views—a perfect spot to recharge and reward yourself for a successful Pike Place visit. 

How do you fill a perfect day at Pike Place? Contact senior editor Ariel Shearer at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @arielshearer.

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