A Visit to Seattle’s Pike Place Market
It kinda grew on me…
Established in 1907, Pike Place Market is one the oldest public farmers’ markets in the country. Until somewhat recently, it wasn’t really a place I went. Like many Seattleites, I actively avoided it. It’s loud, crowded, touristy. It took some time, but I’ve come to love it… during the right time of day… if it’s not raining… when it’s not cruise ship season.
What’s the deal with the fish?
Once and for all, let’s get to the bottom of the fish tossing which has always been a real WTF for me. Word on the street is this tradition began when fishmongers grew tired of walking around the table and back each and every time a fish was ordered. It was like 100 steps per fish and our lovely friends in the orange waders concluded that throwing the fish to one another was more efficient. It certainly draws a crowd, but personally I’d rather add those steps to my daily Fitbit count, but that’s just me.
Rachel the pig has been the mascot of the market since 1986. People like to pose with her and kids love to climb on her. We always make sure to fold up a few dollars and deposit them in the coin slot on her neck. She rakes in about $7500 annually which supports the market’s social services.
The original Starbucks?
I’ll admit, when I first moved to Seattle in 2011, I waited in the outlandish line for the “I’ve been to the aboriginal” bragging rights. I fully expected to get in and realize that it’s just a Starbucks like any other, but it retains it’s heritage. The hardwood floors feel old - in a good way. Many of the shop’s materials are repurposed from local goods, like the slate from a high school that is used along the bar. Now, I don’t want to break your heart, but the truth is, it’s not actually the original. The shop’s current address at 1912 Pike Place is technically the second location, as the true first Starbucks was on Western Avenue from 1971-1976, but let’s not get hung up on technicalities.
The market’s main arcade is the most crowded, but it’s important to explore the “down under” as it’s called. The market gets exciting when you really dig in and, if you look, you’ll make all sorts of weird and interesting discoveries.
Wind your way down through the lower corridors. There’s a magic shop with an Elvis fortune telling machine. Danny fancies himself an amateur magician and stops in to chat with magician Jonathan Friedman who is always happy to demonstrate a trick. Continuing through the maze, there are antiques, oddities like Russian dolls of Judy Garland and John Lennon, a coin shop, gems and geodes, and I love the comic store, Golden Age Collectibles. While not a comic book reader myself, they have movie scripts, a huge selection of Funko POP figures, and novelty items like Bea Arthur refrigerator magnets. The Vonnegut-heavy Lamplighter Books is one of my favorite Seattle bookstores. They also have a nice array of David Sedaris, books about the Beatles and rock n roll, and a decent used selection.
Where to Eat
The Athenian is a classic and it’s right there in the heart of the market. The restaurant has a gorgeous water view and their steamed clams are a favorite. Even if you’re not eating, stop in and see where Tom Hanks parked his keister during filming of Sleepless in Seattle. (In case you’re wondering, you can only see the famous house boat from the water on Lake Union.)
Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar feels like a locals’ secret. I don’t even think they have a website. Located across Pike in the Soames-Dunne building near Starbucks, Emmett’s is a solid oyster bar free from the throngs of people you’ll encounter elsewhere. Market Grill, on the other hand, is right there in the main channel. Their blackened salmon sandwich is Zagat-voted best sandwich in the state. Their chowder is good too.
Pike Place has so many unique photo ops. The money shot is obviously the iconic Public Market sign. There’s also sweeping views of the Puget Sound and the Great Wheel at the Waterfront. Don’t forget the Gum Wall down in Post Alley. The city had nearly 2 tons of gum cleared away a few years ago, but it’s back. It’s super gross, but looks cool in photos.
Pike Place Market is an icon of the Emerald City.
Sometimes the best adventures are right down the street.