USA: Seattle #3 Pike Place Markets

After a long morning going to, and through, and back from the Boeing Assembly Plant, we were somewhat on the hungry side. So in search of lunch, we left our bus in 2nd Avenue, two streets above the famous Pike Place Market and began the down hill walk.

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Pike Place Market is not small! It’s a whole ‘community’ down the hill from the CBD, near the water but not on the water. When it was opened on 17 August 1907, it would have enjoyed being by Elliott Bay, but now a very busy motorway roars its way between the markets and the waterfront. Now, bridges and steep steps give access to the waterfront.

Last time we were in Seattle, we took the market ‘taste tour”; an excellent way to experience the market. This time we just wandered and enjoyed the ambience.

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Photo courtesy of Google Maps

I said Seattle was hilly! We walked down Stewart Street to get to the market, but Pike and Pine Streets are just as steep. On our right as we came down the hill, we walked by Stewart House, built in 1902, so predating the markets. It’s now a home for low-income seniors, one of the community projects run by the Pike Market Community Foundation. I was fascinated to learn more about the Foundation’s work as we wandered through markets.


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There are several entrances to the long market ‘halls’. This is the main one. In front are the ‘tables’ where local farmers can sell their produce. Inside are the permanent stall holders. Back in the early days, the only cover was for the customers. The farmers sold their produce from their wagons on the street. At its peak, nearly 600 farmers sold their produce here. It was then, and is still, the main fresh produce market in Seattle.

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At the main entrance and under the iconic clock, there’s a life size ‘piggy bank’ called Rachel which collects money for the Pike Market Foundation. Rachel is beloved by the locals and tourists alike. Rubbing her nose… and popping in a donation, is said to bring good luck! And the donations bring practical services to the poorer people of the area. Some of the money is used for ‘Market Fresh Coupons’ which allow people to choose fresh fruit and vegetables directly from the farm stands at Pike Place Market. The coupons are used just like cash. Farmers and producers are compensated for all Market Fresh Coupons redeemed, so it is a real win-win for poorer people and farmers alike.

Near the main market entrance is a place that’s affectionately called the ‘Gum Wall’. People who attended the Market Theatre, in years gone by, were asked to leave their gum outside… better on the wall than on the pavement, I would say!


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A large area of the market floor is tiled with ‘named tiles’, some dating back as far as 1985. During restoration work, nearly 55,000 tiles were laid to honour donors who helped to pay for the much needed work. They show the pride locals have in their market.


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The tiles make a very special flooring for the millions of feet that walk these aisles each year. This is just a small part of a market hall that runs almost three city blocks.


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One of our favourite areas in the hall is the flower market. Such colour and perfume!


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Mixed bunches are always popular… these in early July full of summer blooms.


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I also loved the fungi stalls… so many different varieties. These are morchellas, true morels. I’ve never tried these honeycomb like morsels. So how do you use them, I asked. The response was ‘keep it simple’.

Wash and slice the fresh mushroom longways into quarters. Soak in large bowl of salt water for a couple of hours.. but not for too long or they’ll go mushy. Soaking kills and removes any little ‘critters’ lurking in those honeycomb ridges and holes. Drain and dry.

Now for the fun part. Use a zip lock bag for mess free work (or use a bowl) to coat the morels in a mix of wheat flour and rice flour. (Apparently, the addition of rice flour helps to make them crispier.)

In a frypan, melt butter (preferably… a better taste than margarine). Don’t overheat.

Gently saute mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste. Eat and ENJOY. I’ll try it.


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Other mushrooms that were unusual to me were the Maitaki (Grifola frondosa.) These are polypore mushroom that grow in clusters of gray-brown caps at the base of trees, particularly oaks. The clusters, that can become as large as 100cm, grow from an underground tuber like structure about the size of a potato. They may grow in the same place for many years. Maitaki mushrooms are very often used in Japanese cooking.


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I do know about Shitake mushrooms and will probably never use them in my cooking. Although I know that many people use them, some people, like my sister, are allergic to them. I will never forget a night at a hotel at Sydney airport where we were spending the night prior to an early morning flight to Europe. We ordered our dinner and were really enjoying it, when, to my horror,I noticed my sister’s cheek around her eye begin to swell…and swell… and swell. We had no idea of the cause. We sent for a doctor who called the kitchen to ask about the ingredients in our meal. Shitake mushrooms! An injection and a good night’s sleep and the swelling went down. Thankfully, we were able to board our plane and enjoyed our holiday!  So… no Shitake mushrooms in our food.


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We had arrived in Seattle at cherry time! On offer were the delicious golden, sweet Rainier cherries grown so well in Washington State. They are the result of a cross between Bing and Van varieties and first came onto the market in 1960. Seattle is famous for them.

Cherries are also the heart and soul of the ‘Chukar Cherries’ stall that has been selling yummy chocolate covered cherries and other delights at Pike Markets for 20 years. You can try before you buy! They are totally addictive. And yes, they ship them home.


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Apart from fresh fruit and vegetables, quality meat and deli goods are on sale. It always makes me wish I had a kitchen in town to take some of these offerings home to try.


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King Crab legs have always been a favourite of mine.  We didn’t buy these, but chose to try one of the home made sausage cafes. Good… but I still prefer crab!


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One thing Seattle City does well, apart from its market, is the way it composts food waste. No longer are scraps wrapped in plastic or paper and put in the bin. Each home has a bin for food and garden waste that’s collected by the city and turned into compost.

Food left over here in the markets is not always thrown away. The community has a food bank to help the poor and an ‘economy area’ where day old food can be sold cheaply. And to the left of the main central hall is the La Salle Building which contains two fine dining restaurants. But that’s not all that’s in there. The building also contains the Pike Market Senior Centre which serves nearly 50,000 meals a year to low income seniors.

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Photo courtesy of Google Maps

There are several other areas of the market below the main hall selling crafts and collectables and some clothes. Other areas are not under the main roof but in buildings in Pike Place and in side streets. On the right in this photos is the Corner Market… yes its on a corner… where all sorts of things are sold.


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In one shop in this area we found a tea shop with some appropriately styled tea pots!

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Further along in Pike Place is the first ever Starbucks Coffee shop. When it opened in 1971, Starbucks sold only coffee beans. Then in 1987, the store was taken over by Howard Schultz.Then, the store began to sell espressos. Now Starbucks stores seem to be everywhere… except  in Australia, although there are some where American tourists gather. But in general, Australians were not enamoured of Starbucks coffee and many of the shops that opened here soon closed down. We prefer the Italian style of baristas.

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Photo courtesy of Google Mapss

Where the markets finally come to an end, it’s good to rest and enjoy views over the bay from Victor Steinbrueck Park. There are plenty of places nearby that sell good lunch food and it’s pleasant to enjoy the sunshine… that is, of course, if it is not raining!


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Seattle is not called the Emerald City for nothing.


Photo courtesy of Google Maps

It was not raining when we were there… the city was sweltering through a heat wave, the worst they’d had for many decades. We were pleased to find some shaded alleys to wander along as we made our way in a zig zag fashion back up the hill to what is, for some odd reason called Seattle’s ‘downtown area’!  It’s not! It’s definitely the UP HILL area!

It was good to get back to the hotel after a really good day at both the Boeing Assembly Plant and at Pike Place Markets. T’was time to rest up for another big day ahead.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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