On the Road is a series in our Beyond section that focuses on the most unique, interesting places outside city limits. Come along with us and explore the amazing institutions, restaurants and parks that make our travels well worth it. This edition of On the Road is by Chicago foodie entrepreneur Cynthia Kallile.
After a weekend in Seattle and a much needed and long overdue visit to Pike Place Market, I’m absolutely convinced this market is by far the best in the U.S. Yes, other cities boast of their year-round markets – New York’s Union Square Greenmarket, Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco, even Chicago’s Green City Market. And while these and others throughout the country are excellent, there’s something one-of-a-kind about Seattle’s Pike Place Market. As the website states, “It is a special community within the heart of Seattle’s downtown. More than the city’s beloved public market, Pike Place Market is a vibrant neighborhood comprised of hundreds of farmers, craftspeople, small businesses, and residents.”
It’d been 20 years since visiting Seattle last, so I was eager to return to the market after a few days of neighborhood strolling, a boat cruise on Lake Union, a trip to Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery, stops at local breweries, and a dip of the most delicious vegan ice cream I’ve ever eaten. (Being an ice cream purist, I was simply blown away by Frankie’s Brown Sugar Vanilla.)
Yet none of those delights compared to the sensory overload I experienced when we finally arrived at Pike Place Market. I’d forgotten how simply wonderful it is. From the multitude of produce stands loaded with locally grown vegetables and fruits, to the vendors offering samples of Rainier cherries and peach slices, to the fishmongers, I was giddy. I get like that whenever I’m around produce and beautifully displayed meats, poultry and fish. Crowds were gathered in front of the freshly caught fish, and workers clad in their boots and overalls were busily tossing out big slippery fish to the passersby. The buckets and bouquets of fresh flowers seemed to go on endlessly, while the cheese-sampling booths were surrounded with people eager to try their favorites.
The beauty of this market is the variety. Not everyone is interested in produce and meats like I am. Cheeses, vinegars, syrups, salts, herbs, and spices are available every day. Need a hand-woven scarf, a T-shirt with silk-screened Seattle lore or outfits for the kids in your family? Stroll the many levels of the main and north arcades to find the perfect handcrafted gift like jewelry, pottery, candles or custom-made notecards.
My only disappointment was that I was leaving Seattle that afternoon. As much as I was ready to plunk down some cash for fruit, those gorgeous radishes and perhaps a whole fish glimmering in the sun, I had to be restrained by my niece and nephew. If only we’d planned this excursion earlier in the weekend. Nevertheless, I was able to pick up some nonperishables and scarf down my first-ever piroshky from Piroshky Piroshky, a Seattle favorite. We stood in line, and it was definitely worth the wait. This tiny spot, just up the street from the original Starbucks, features savory and sweet specialties. And are they delicious! We shared a few stuffed with potatoes, cheese and bacon. I also had a taste of freshly made Greek yogurt from Ellenos and topped that off with a cup of steaming hot Storyville coffee. While the original Starbucks was tempting, I knew I had to sip coffee from another Seattle landmark – one that wasn’t available in Chicago.
Though my swing through Pike Place Market was a whirlwind, it was long enough for me to verify that this public market is truly an adventure for all ages and the best our nation has to offer. Some may not agree, and surely other farmer’s markets won’t, but this Chicagoan stands firm!
Cynthia Kallile is the founder and owner of The Meatloaf Bakery™ and an enthusiastic foodie. Her creative meatloaf recipes wowed customers across the country for seven years and are offered today via Meatloaf By Mail. She cooks, writes and loves to talk about her experiences with ingredients, techniques and delicious outcomes.