The Soul of Seattle

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by stvchin on November 15, 2009

They say that everybody that visits Seattle must visit Pike Place Market. Started in 1907 as a place for farmers to sell their produce without middlemen to drive up prices, Pike Place Market has become one of the premier tourist destinations in Seattle. It’s not just a place to shop for cheap bulk produce anymore, but a place to experience, dine, and experience what Seattle is really like.

Pike Place Market is centered around Pike Street, and 1st Avenue. I suggest parking a few blocks back, since parking is very hard to come by the closer to the Market you go. The traffic is also horrendous once you’re directly in front of the Market on Pike Street. The blocks aren’t that long, and a very easy walk to the Market.

A big fat, happy looking bronze pig statue greets you at the corner of Pike Street, as it turns right alongside the market. I’m unsure of the meaning, but I think it’s akin to the bull on Wall Street mixed in with the meaning of happy gluttony, as there’s plenty to eat at the Pike Street Market. We took a wrong turn down a ramp to Post Alley, which turns out to be "Bubblegum Alley." It’s a bizarre, yet colorful work of art formed by thousands upon thousands of people sticking their bubble gum to one of the walls of the Market.

Back on the main track, we wandered into Pike Place Market itself. There are many small food stalls, produce stalls, flower stalls, and other curious marketers you’d expect to find in a farmer’s market. One stall I immediately keyed upon was the Daily Dozen Donut Company, which had a long line in front of it. You can buy freshly made miniature donuts by the dozen (hence the name) which are tossed in powdered sugar, sugar and cinnamon, or nut sprinkles. I chose the cinnamon and sugar. There’s a small little automated donut machine with a hopper which dispenses donut batter in little ring shaped forms into a tub of hot fry oil. The donuts drift towards an automatic flipping device as they cook, and eventually onto a conveyor belt which lifts them out of the hot oil. The staff grabs your dozen donuts and mixes them with your choice of topping and shakes them in a paper bag, which is yours to keep. A bag of a dozen small donuts cost only $5. They’re very delicious.

We went to Pike Place Fish Market, which features the famous fish toss. The Fish Market is immediately behind the fat pig statue. When somebody buys a fish, the workers will throw the fish from one of the displays outside the stall into the stall, where they keep the scale. Once weighed, the fish is thrown back for wrapping. The fish toss happened quite quickly, so I wasn’t able to get a chance to snap a photo of the fish in midair. A few stalls later is another fishmonger who does a similar toss, but with lobsters and crabs.

The rest of the market consists of many other shops, food stands, restaurants, artistic ventures such as glass blowers and jewelry stands. One notable place was the Pappardelle’s Pasta stall, which had dozens upon dozens of different kinds of dried pasta, including chocolate spaghetti noodles. We tried a sample of the dried pasta, and while it wasn’t very good, we could only wonder what it would taste like if it were cooked properly.

While the buildings on the opposite side of Pike Street are not technically part of Pike Place Market, they’re considered part of the experience. Across the street is a Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, where you can watch them make cheese from huge vats of milk curds, and buy the cheese in their market or have it grilled up in a panini sandwich. I ordered a ham and cheese panini, and believe me, the fresh cheese makes a great difference. Near it is Starbucks number ONE. The very first Starbucks is a pilgrimage for some, as evidenced by the full house inside. I noticed that there was a Pike Place blend, the barrista said it’s sold only at this Starbucks.

All in all, the Pike Place Market is a great place, with plenty of people exuding great energy. There are plenty of things to keep you occupied. Pike Place Market is a sensual experience, with plenty of colors and textures to keep you visually stimulated from all the food, produce, flowers, and art. Wonderful aromas of food, fresh donuts, flowers, great dining, and bustling sounds of people around the Market. I’ve read that the Pike Place Market is called the "soul of Seattle," and it certainly does fulfill it’s role as such.
Pike Place Market
85 Pike Street
Seattle, Washington, 98101
(206) 682-7453

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