It’s a myth that Pike Place Market is nothing more than a tourist trap -- Seattleites travel there weekly for delicious food, the freshest produce in the city, and hard to find specials (like foraged truffles). It’s also huge and unable to be fully explored in just one day. In reality, it takes years to learn all the intricacies of this famed farmers market. The key to mastering the art of Pike Place is knowing where to go, what to skip, and most importantly: what to take home. From secret gardens to cult phenomenons, here are the hidden gems of PPM to help you get the best bang for your buck when it comes to braving a busy day around Post Alley.
Hidden a few floors below the fish stands is James Beard Award-winning test kitchen and recipe content producer, ChefSteps. Created to help us all cook smarter, ChefSteps has built a modernistic test kitchen and production studio to film the videos that have made Grant Crilly and his team famous. On any given day, you can peer into the large, hillclimb facing windows and watch the ChefSteps team sous vide a leg of lamb or deep fry everything at their disposal. Though you can’t stop in at a moment’s notice, the staff hosts special events and meet and greets semi-regularly. ChefSteps is located three floors down from Pike Place Fish Market -- either head down the stairs to the right of the fish, or loop around Post Alley, pass the gum wall, and head down the stairs from there.
There’s a secret garden hidden on the southwest roof of the market. Once a 2,000sqft empty patio, the space has become a community gem. Every inch of the garden is designed with, and around, materials from the market, and also features a tool shed and mini library. All of the garden upkeep is done by volunteers and the food grown there is donated. The space is open to the public daily, from dawn to dusk, providing a sanctuary amidst the bustling tourists below. Just grab your favorite to-go food from a vendor downstairs (the new Dot’s Butcher & Deli location perhaps?) and enjoy it amongst the flowers.
Pike Place is a haven for sweets lovers -- locals and tourists alike flock for candied piroshky, Chukar Cherries, and sugared donut holes. However, the best kept secret of the Market is Indi Chocolate. Though it’s nearly impossible to find, Indi is a photogenic space serving up sustainable and delicious chocolate. Don’t leave without the 50/50 Indi cacao nibs and coffee. How do you find Indi Chocolate, you ask? Get ready for a bit of a search. These are the directions on Indi’s website: “Come visit us on the 5th floor in Pike Place Market, below the fish throwers and down the ramp from Uli's Sausage. Follow the 'lower floor' sign down the ramp and [Indi Chocolate will] be at the bottom of the ramp on your right side. We are located next to Ventures and the Miniature Car Dealers, close to the Sound View Cafe.” Good luck!
Hiding behind the fishermen playing catch with their catches is one of the best butchers in Seattle. Don and Joe’s is full of friendly staff who are no less than experts at the craft -- they will break down full animals for you, grind meat, and trim your brisket just as lean as grandma used to make. It’s also the go to place for all of your less-than-usual needs like Rocky Mountain oysters, honeycomb tripe, and every type of fresh game bird.
SP’s location in the central arcade requires commitment to get to. Thus, many newcomers miss it completely, and end up sticking to the edges of the market maze to find their produce. Visiting Sosio’s means cutting through a sea of people from either end of the market, but it’s worth it for arguably the best peaches you’ve ever had. Not there for peach season? No problem. Sosio’s boasts the best collection of foraged and local mushrooms the market has to offer as well as juicy, deep red cabernet tomatoes.
Let’s take it back to to the mid ‘80s when Heaven’s Gate was just a social club looking to board a UFO and not an infamous cult that ate some bad applesauce while rocking pairs of matching Nikes. For whatever reason, Heaven’s Gate purchased a floor tile as part of the 1985 fundraising campaign for Pike Place market. A hefty donation left Seattle with a piece of the peculiar group and it lives in the main arcade, near the long line of produce stands.
DeLaurenti’s tiny store is loaded with specialty and gourmet products. At any given moment, there are dozens of bodies searching through the rows of beautifully handmade pasta looking for the perfect pairing, or they’re crowding the counter to talk cheese with the knowledgeable staff. However, just up the stairs, to the left of the prepared food case, there is a true Seattle gem. The DeLaurenti wine department is well-known and loved by oenophiles across the city for its impressive collection of Italian wines and a subtle focus on small producers. Ask for help and pick out the perfect bottle from the stores 1,800 item collection -- or stop by on a Saturday from 2- 4pm for the weekly tastings DeLaurenti hosts for the public.
White Horse Trading Co.
White Horse Trading Co. may not be the best kept secret in the market, but its dark exterior and mysterious vibe give it a private feeling unfamiliar to the rest of Pike Place. This is the kind of spot you learn to relish in a time of too many options -- the White Horse only takes cash and only serves wine, beer, and Pimm’s Cups. How do you find it? Search for the white unicorn sign that marks the entrance -- there’s no other indicator.
This retail shop hiding on the back side of the market features the oddly charming work of two Seattle artists and everything you need to get crafting at home. Whether you’re looking for an authentic and creative gift for a friend, or simply want to decorate your apartment with goods made in The Town, you won’t find a bad option at this funky shop. It’s off the beaten path for typical Pike Place wandering and located on Western Ave, but you can access it from the street directly, or tackle the Pike Place Hillclimb from Post Alley.
Eat Seattle offers chef-led cooking classes that take advantage of one of the most beautiful parts of the market: the Atrium kitchen. This open kitchen near Honest Biscuit, beyond the hustle and bustle of the main drag of vendors, offers a chance to shop, cook, and eat directly in Pike Place. The classes include a shopping trip around the market for the freshest ingredients, preparation, and practical skills for your own kitchen, as well as a chance to feast on your own creations. The best part? You get 10-15% off at all the vendor partners around the market (including fellow hidden gem Indi Chocolate... if you can find it).
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Dylan Joffe lives and writes in Seattle and couldn't be happier about it. You can find her over at dylanjoffe.com.