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Best Of The Pike Place Market

January 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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(Photo by JOHN G. MABANGLO/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo by JOHN G. MABANGLO/AFP/Getty Images)

Pike Place Market is a place of business for farmers, artists, craftspeople, merchants and musicians. The mascot is Rachel the pig; she stands under the famous Market Clock at the corner where Pike Street meets Pike Place. The Market is an historical district and one of Seattle’s most popular attractions for visitors and locals. Here’s a little peek inside this vibrant scene in downtown Seattle, overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to the west.

Historical Walking Tour
(206) 684-2489
www.seattle.gov/tour/historicdistricts/market

Located west of the downtown shopping center, Pike Place Market is said to be the “soul” of Seattle. Since 1907, this public market has prospered and struggled, was saved from demolition in the 1960s and was finally established as a 17-acre historic district in 1971. Explore the market online before you go, or take along a downloadable map prepared by HistoryLink for the City of Seattle. The Market is open 19.5 hours a day, 362 days a year. The Market is only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Buskers
13 locations throughout the Market

You’ll find a wide-ranging variety of buskers (“Busker” is an English term for street performer) at the Market, performing with instruments and tools ranging from spoons, whistles and puppets to violins. But due to the historic nature of the Market, you won’t see horns, percussion or amplified music. There are 13 locations throughout the Market where performers can entertain shoppers for an hour at a time. Painted musical notes mark the sidewalks where they stand, and the number painted on the note corresponds to the number of performers that can play there at one time. All Market performers are required to purchase an annual permit for $30.

Gum Wall At Unexpected Productions’ Market Theater
1428 Lower Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 587-2414
www.unexpectedproductions.org

Quirky, interesting, gross and disgusting are some of the adjectives used to describe the Gum Wall, located in lower Post Alley at Pike Place Market. Reminiscent of a Mark Tobey painting, the Seattle Gum Wall also makes a colorful backdrop for funky portraits. The tradition started in the 90s when patrons waiting in line for an Unexpected Productions’ Market Theater improv show stuck gum to the wall. The wall was cleaned (but not removed) in 2013 because the gum had spread 40 feet past its border. The theater’s weekend Improv Happy Hour is spontaneous, edgy and bargain fun. To find Post Alley, kiss Rachel the pig (corner of Pike Place and Pike Street), then go down the stairs to your left.

Pike Place Market Crafts Line
Western side of Pike Place in the Main and North Arcade
www.pikeplacemarket.org

The Pike Place Market Craft Line began more than 40 years ago and now represents 225 local and regional craftspeople. The crafts market changes daily and is one of the largest and most diverse in the U.S. Stroll through the arcade and meet the artisans behind the work on display. Hear about the artistic process, the materials used and the craft applied to each and every unique piece.

Shops DownUnder
Lower levels

Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle boasts “nine acres and many shops to explore. Find anything from games and toys, to books and maps, art, magic, antiques, clothing, jewelry, leather, pottery and many other unique handmade crafts.” One of the best areas to explore is the Main Arcade DownUnder. To find the DownUnder, head to the clock (corner of Pike St. and Pike Pl.) and find the nearby stairs (to the right of the fish stall) that lead to the three labyrinthine lower levels, “down under” the Main Arcade.

Ventures: Gifts for Good
1501 Pike Place, Suite #521
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 508-1342
www.washingtoncash.org/ventures

Ventures is one of Seattle’s most unique and inspiring gift stores, located in Pike Place Market on the mezzanine level below the main arcade. Behind each locally produced item at Ventures, you’ll find an aspiring entrepreneur working hard to turn their dreams into reality. Come shop and make a difference today. Ventures is the “retail incubator” of Washington C.A.S.H. (Community Alliance for Self-Help). The store showcases handcrafted products from program participants and other local and low-income entrepreneurs.

Metsker Maps Of Seattle
1511 1st Ave.
Seattle WA 98101
(206) 623-8747
www.metskers.com

Metsker Maps has been a fixture in Seattle for over 60 years, but only moved from Pioneer Square to Pike Place Market in 2004. It has maps of all types, shapes and sizes: flat, folded, laminated, topographical, globes, wall maps, astronomy maps, satellite images, historic and antique maps, nautical charts and atlases. It also has map-themed gifts, puzzles, games and flags. Plus, it has a selection of travel books with an emphasis on outdoor recreation in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a one-of-a-kind store that’s not to be missed.

Starbucks Coffee Original Store
www.starbucks.com

The obvious choice for coffee is the “original” Starbucks store in Pike Place Market at 1912 Pike Place. However, what most guide books fail to tell you is that this is not the original Starbucks. The original location at 2000 Western Avenue no longer exists. The building was demolished in 1974 and that store moved to its current location two years later in 1976. Because the Market is an historic district with design guidelines, the store retains its original look today, including the chain’s original brown logo. To complete your visit, we also recommend the Starbucks Coffeehouse at the entrance of the historic Market. The design of the much larger 1st and Pike shop evokes the warm heritage of the first store through its hardwoods, furniture and lighting. The coffeehouse is a LEED Gold energy conservation project.

Bakeries

It’s impossible to recommend one must-see bakery because Pike Place Market has several. Our general recommendation is to go with a friend and wind your way through several haunts, sharing bites at each one. Several spots along 1st Avenue each feature a different type of nosh. Caffé Lieto at 1909 1st Avenue features southern biscuits with fixins. Sample the handmade creations at Seattle Bagel Bakery at 1525 First Avenue. And head to the Crumpet Shop at 1503 1st Avenue for traditional English griddle cakes. Along Pike Place, you’ll pass several popular spots worth a visit, including Mee Sum Pastry, Cinnamon Works, Piroshky-Piroshky and Le Panier.

Restaurants

Pike Place Market boasts over 30 restaurants where you can taste the best of the Pacific Northwest as well as cuisine from around the world, including French, Italian, Irish, Mexican, Spanish, Bolivian, Cuban, Cajun, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Chinese. Market chefs source the freshest, locally grown, regionally sourced and produced food for their menus. There are cafes, delis, sandwich shops and fine dining restaurants open for breakfast through late night, so you can find something to satisfy your taste buds any time of day.

Wine Tasting in the Historic District

There are several great places to taste and buy Washington wines in Pike Place Market: DeLaurenti Specialty Food and Wine at the corner of 1st and Pike, The Tasting Room at 924 Upper Post Alley (next to Kell’s Irish Pub), Pike & Western Wine Shop at the corner of Pike Place and Virginia and Market Cellar Wine on Western Avenue behind the Market. Let the congenial staff at each of these stores educate you about the state’s award-winning boutique wines. At 12 million cases, Washington is the second largest premium wine producer in the United States, growing more than 30 wine grape varieties. The three leading white varietals are Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The three leading reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

Carole Cancler is a freelance writer covering all things Seattle. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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