A Market's First CenturyIn 2007 the “heart and soul of Seattle” celebrated its centennial. What better reason, then, to make a pilgrimage to Pike Place Market? Whether it's your first trip or your 100th visit doesn't matter; there's always something new in store at this true city institution.
The market owes its existence to consumer outrage over the high cost of produce. In 1906 the price of onions increased tenfold, and in response city councilman Thomas Revelle proposed the creation of a public street market that would bring together customers and King County's farmers. On the morning of Aug. 17, 1907, eight piled-high wagons pulled up to the corner of 1st Avenue and Pike Place. Everything was sold by noon, and the first market building opened for business that November.
Exploring is more fun without a planned itinerary or a long list of what to do; just follow your eyes (and nose). Three useful tips: First, street parking spaces are more precious than gold; walk, take public transportation or use the Public Market Garage at 1531 Western Ave. (open year-round; rates vary seasonally). Second, come early (by 8 a.m.) for the best selection and to avoid crowds; lunchtime is good if you just want to be part of the wandering hordes. Third, there are restrooms in the Sanitary Market building, at the north end of the Main Arcade and on the downstairs level at the south end of the Main Arcade.
The market is perhaps best known for its fresh produce, fishmongers and bakeries. A good location to dive in is the Main Arcade's south entrance right off Pike Place; look for Rachel, a bronze piggy bank and the market's unofficial mascot, standing beneath the landmark neon “Public Market Center” sign and clock.
At Pike Place Bakery you can drool over cinnamon buns, coconut cream pies and slices of Black Forest cake before admiring the displays of fruits and vegetables at the produce stands and the rainbow colors of fresh-cut bouquets of flowers. The guys at Pike Place Fish Market entertain shoppers with a steady stream of wisecracks while flinging whole king salmon and other fish with abandon. And speaking of entertainment and fun things to do with friends, musicians, magicians and street buskers all do their performance thing on busy street corners and quiet spots under the arcades.
Mouth-Watering Places to Eat
If nothing else, Pike Place Market will stimulate your appetite. For a quick hunger fix, pick up a bag at the Daily Dozen Doughnut Co., 93 Pike St. These made-to-order mini delights, dusted with cinnamon or powdered sugar, dipped in chocolate or showered with candy sprinkles, are irresistible. Almost as much fun as devouring them is the loud popping sound the paper bag makes when one of the staff snaps it open with a flourish.
Breakfast and lunch at local restaurants like the Soundview Café come with a view. The window tables look out over Elliott Bay and Duwamish Head, the northern tip of the Alki Peninsula, to the distant Olympic Mountains. On a rainy day, have a warming bowl of clam chowder and a couple of pieces of ciabatta bread (to sop up every last bit) while watching fog banks roll on the water.
The Crumpet Shop, 1503 1st Ave., specializes in the popular English snack. Similar to an English muffin (it's also round), a crumpet is softer and spongier textured, and its porous top begs to be slathered with butter, strawberry jam or orange marmalade. Pair your crumpet with one of the shop's pre-steeped tea selections.
Belly up to the teeny-tiny counter at Three Girls Bakery (1514 Pike Pl.), another one of Seattle's delicious places to eat, where you can get an awesome meatloaf or pastrami and corned beef sandwich. Then get in line at the equally tiny window and order to-go cookies, pastries, loaves, croissants and one of the bakery's specialties—German-style, oven-baked pretzels.
Explore DownUnder, the three-level maze below the Main Arcade. Shops sell everything from incense, jewelry, books and antiques to vintage comics, magic paraphernalia and old travel posters.
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