After a skirmish with our car over a busted fuel injector, my family’s arrival into Seattle at 4:30 pm left us with an hour and a half to explore one of the most famous public markets in the world. For some, this daunting task would produce a sweaty mix of frustration, stress, and defeat. But the spirit of BlinkPacking sprung to life as I whizzed my family of three through the labyrinthian corridors of Seattle’s colorful Pike Place Market, where purveyors of fish, coffee, produce, craft, and tchotchkes layer on the charm and lure shoppers into their stalls of wares.
If you too are bestowed with an unfortunate schedule, I hope these discoveries will help you enjoy an immersive market experience, even if you have less than two hours to explore.
Tapas, street style
Most tweed-jacketed market visitors sip wine and munch crustaceans while seated at tended tables on waterfront patios. Sounds nice, but these gems of finer dining cost a shiny penny or two (thousand). Opt instead for an appetizing stroll through Pike’s lesser known corridors for a munch here, a nibble there, a bite of this, a sample of that. A supper of braised pork skewers, cha siu bao (barbecued pork steamed buns), salmon empanadas, yellowfin sushi, spring rolls, seafood chowder, and orange chicken shish-kebab will cost you less than one supper at any of the market’s uppity nosheries.
A world of produce, one nibble at a time
Why buy when you can try? White peaches. Bosc pears. Blueberries the size of volleyballs. Mammoth mangoes. And of course, world-famous Ranier cherries are yours for the sampling. Amble stall to stall for bite after juicy bite of the freshest produce to ever hit your taste buds, and pay nothing for the pleasure of it. Warning: only those with an ironclad determination will walk away sans purchases — I left the market with a bushel.
The half-geniuses, half-magicians working the Pappardelles Pasta stall sell paper satchels of freshly minted linguine as fast as throngs of patrons whoosh past. There are many who craft excellent examples of this Italian favorite, but Pappardelles purveys a veritable rainbow of pastas, both in color and flavor, that create an array of possibilities for the creative chef. Varieties like basil tangerine, chipotle black bean, lavender, and even dark chocolate await shoppers with more exotic taste, while classics like lemon herb, toasted onion, cracked pepper, and roasted garlic remain the standbys for more conservative shoppers. A half-pound will set you back five dollars.
Flying fish for sale
Whether you fancy the freshest Pacific salmon or prefer the meaty claws of the dungeoness crab, it is all on ice at this dockside bazaar. And no one is more famous for their approach to seafood sales as the Pike Place Fish Market, where the fishmongers quite literally hurl the completed orders over the counter, much to the delight of camera-wielding spectators. No stranger to the needs of tourists, any purchase may be packed to go; the fish market even offers airplane-safe containers.
A chewy alleyway
One favorite site for delightfully odd photos is an alley under the northern portion of the market, where thousands of chompers have thumbed a patina of retired gum onto its sturdy brick walls. Adjacent to this famed gum wall is an angled, cobblestone walk papered with a historical quilt of flyers, stickers, posters, and braggers from nearly every event, concert, fair, and spectacle in Seattle history. Your Facebook status update will never have you looking more fascinating and hip.
On the side
If you manage to work your way through the market in record time and still have a few minutes to spare, spend the time experiencing a taste of Seattle in the blocks surrounding the market. Sip a latte at the world’s first Starbucks Coffee. Down a scoop of gelato at Bottega Italiana, Take in a view of the skyline and the sound from the Seattle Great Wheel. And stroll along the waterfront for a smorgasbord of local color — street magicians, musicians, and painters busking for a handful of dollars as the setting sun cools itself in the mirrored Puget Sound.
My family is currently traveling around the USA in a 10 foot Shasta Compact travel trailer from 1969. We are currently camped near Seattle, Washington and headed toward Yakima. Keep it right here for tales from the journey, and please also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nothing keeps us motivated more than the encouragement of hearing from our readers, so please keep in touch by commenting below. Thanks!