When I began to outline blog details about our recent visit to Seattle, it was much too long. So, I have decided to create a series which I will call “Sampling Seattle” where I focus on one area of the city at a time. There is just so much to do in Seattle, and honestly there are many areas that we were not even able to visit on this trip. But, I am happy to say that we did dive into some of the hot spots. To start it off, I am focusing on the Downtown area with a focus on Pike Place Market.
If I only had one day in Seattle, I would head Downtown.
Especially for a first visit, be sure to check off the iconic stop at Pike Place Market. And, even though I have had our first — we will be back. You can’t visit Seattle without checking out the action here and grabbing a bite to eat. Plus, there is so much to do in Downtown Seattle otherwise.
The nine-acre Market opened in 1907 is accessible to all ages. It is free to visit and open daily. Along with the Space Needle, it is one of the most photographed destinations in the city. As a National Historic District, the market is home to more than 250 businesses, 100 farmers, 200 arts and tradespeople, and that does not even include the hundreds of locals and tourists alike who visit the market daily. It gets very crowded, so I would recommend a visit early or on a weekday — or just make sure your patience tank is full.
We almost stayed in the Market area. I originally reserved a room at Inn At The Market, which is highly rated and customer adored, but it was at the top end of our budget. Instead, we swapped to a stay in the Seattle Center at Maxwell Hotel where bicycles were complimentary and the price tag more affordable. While we were only able to check out the Inn from the outside, the hotel looked lovely, especially the rooftop terrace that allowed for people watching, water views, and easy access to the Market. I would definitely like to revisit a possible stay there in the future.
I had read so many great things about the Market, so we made it a priority and visited the Market on our first day. In fact, we took the light rail from the airport to Westlake Center and did not even go to the hotel first. We explored with backpacks as soon as we landed. A short walk from the Westlake Center light rail stop, the views coming down the hill looking at the market with Elliott Bay behind are memorable. And lucky for us, we arrived to gorgeous weather. It was a Saturday so it was packed. We did a quick sweep through the main area and I loved it immediately.
Pike Place Market is the heart and soul of the city.
In one afternoon, you can experience the diversity of Seattle from one location with the gorgeous flowers (oh, the dahlias), the abundant seafood, along with arts and a variety of culinary offerings reflecting the many cultures of the city. Pike Place Market is a sight to behold. At the same time, we also quickly decided that we preferred to come back another day when it would be a little easier to navigate. Plus, we were hungry and ready for a drink after the flight. I knew that I wanted to sit down and I knew that I wanted a view.
Originally I had planned for us to go to The Pink Door for dinner or a late night burlesque show. The Pink Door is an Italian restaurant and cabaret located along Post Alley. It is known for having a vaudeville vibe at night with trapeze and aerial performers dancing above you as you eat, as well as a late night burlesque show that gets good reviews for a sexy night out. But once I saw the patio, I changed my mind and decided it was a daytime stop. Luckily, they had a table available but reservations are encouraged. It was pricey by our standards, so we shared a salad and a side of meatballs along with drinks. My drink came in a vintage World’s Fair glass and a warning that stealing it would add $40 to our bill. It was very cool, but I was not about to “lose it” in my purse. I would certainly recommend a stop here, and look forward to returning again for a sultry show too.
As we still had room in our belly for more bites, I lead us to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese next. Beecher’s claims the title of “World’s Best Mac and Cheese” and so while I try to keep my dairy intake down due to allergies, I just had to make an exception for that! It is a really fun place to visit as they have windows to view the cheesemaking kitchens. It is a counter system and the options are simple and creamy. As you dine at the bar-style area, seated on a milk can for a stool, you can watch the cheesemakers at work. So the experience is wonderful as a stand-alone, but then take a bite of that rich goodness and forget about the calories for one little side. I am not sure if it is the world’s best, but it is pretty darn good.
I am usually the iPhone navigator but the sites, sounds and smells of this area deserved our full attention and so we just wandered once our stomachs were full. We did a bit of exploring along the piers, including the obligatory stop at Ye Old Curiosity Shop, but they were much too touristy for our tastes. We witnessed a lovely view of the Ferris wheel where we took one of our favorite images from the trip. And we people-watched. During our visit, the annual Hemp Fest was in full swing nearby and there were more than the average number of people in the area. However, following the Hemp Fest crowd lead us to an unexpected find.
I absolutely loved Olympic Sculpture Park and would highly recommend a stop. A shuttle driver told us that new building developments are required to give a percentage of their budget to the Seattle Museum of Art for public art. I could not find any research to verify that, but the commitment to public art is obvious throughout the city. It is everywhere and it is awesome, adding a unique vibe to the city around every corner. But the sculpture garden is a haven for some of the best of the city’s public art, in addition they offer great public programs. During our visit, there were free drawing lessons for families and we had just missed free yoga. There was also a great area for film screenings or outdoor concerts. Check out the Summer at SAM schedule, it is a great place for tourists and locals alike. Unfortunately, we did not make it to the Seattle Art Museum, and choose this outdoor satellite site instead, but it is also in the area.
From Downtown we actually walked all the way to our hotel in Seattle Center, but for our return visit on Monday we took the Monorail from Seattle Center to Westlake Center. The Seattle Center Monorail provides a quick, inexpensive trip between downtown Seattle and the Seattle Center. A round trip ticket is $4 and terminals are located on the upper level of Westlake Center. Though we did not explore Westlake Center, it is known for the Nordstrom’s flagship store, an old-school department store. But on this particular day, I was more excited about eating than shopping.
Matt’s In The Market was the culinary highlight of our trip.
Sometimes you see rave reviews and photos and think it will be impossible for a place to live up to the expectation, but Matt’s In The Market absolutely delivered and exceeded our taste bud hopes. Located on the third floor of the Corner Market Building, it is a little hard to find. But the restaurant not only has a stunning upper level view, it is also an intimate space away from the crowds and bustle. This meal was our splurge meal, but to keep it fiscally tame I had a lunch reservation. I loved our lunch meal, but next time we will save some more and do dinner, so that we can also explore late night in the area. But on this Monday lunch, we had our absolutely favorite meal with a view of the market below. For the appetizer we debated between the deviled eggs or the carmelized bacon dip with homemade potato chips. The eggs would have been a little healthier, but this was vacation so we went big. I still want to try those eggs, but this bacon dip is rich and heavy and delicious. Get it. To lighten up our meals, we split a tuna sandwich and salad. All very good. But get the bacon dip. And of course we partook of their lovely wine and cocktails. You need a reservation here and they only take them a week in advance. Do it, and get the bacon chip dip.
Since our first visit on Saturday had been so very crowded, we decided to have another pass at the market on a weekday. It was a little less crowded — a little. Summers in Seattle are obviously an international destination as we saw all skin colors and heard different languages as we walked. It is also a photographer’s heaven – everyone has a camera from the professional style to smart phones. We took a moment to watch the fish throwers, browsed the mouth-watering food stalls, had a freshly fried donut, explored the warren of shops downstairs and fantasized about having a kitchen to make the ultimate meal.
Before leaving, I had one more stop. Piroshky Piroshky was a must-do based on a recent article that named the top food destinations in the United States. Piroshky Piroshky is a Russian Bakery opened in 1992 that has already gained international attention for their savory and sweet Piroshkies. Their handheld pies integrate Russian recipes with a Northwestern spirit. We had a little wait, shorter than the Saturday version, to get inside the small shop where they not only sell the pastries counter style, but also handmake them from scratch. Each piroshky is hand molded. We shared a Smoked Salmon Pate Piroshky, which was absolutely delicious. We should have gotten two — it was that good.
We did not make it to the notorious Gum Wall, though we saw it through a window looking down. We had drinks at two other notable stops, The Tasting Room, where we enjoyed local wines, and Zig Zag Cafe where we had OK pizza and wine. I think next time we will try their high-end cocktails. While we did pay homage to the Original Starbucks store with two walk-bys to check out the line, it just did not feel worth it to wait. The coffee tastes just as good right down the street at any of the other locations or coffee vendors in the city.
The Downtown places that remain on my list include Serious Pie for pizza, Radiator Whiskey for cocktails and gourmet grub, and The Can Can Room for burlesque. We also did not make it to the Seattle Central Library. Many regard the angular, highly contemporary Seattle Central Library (1000 Fourth Ave) as the finest example of modern architecture in the Pacific Northwest. Next time, I hope to cross some of those off and revisit some of our top picks as well.
Seattle, you had me at first taste.