Pike Place Market
Sometimes your “Set of Drifters” have a hard time categorizing the local attractions we write about. This is one of those times. Is the mother of all tourist destinations in Seattle simply just a “sight?” No, Pike Place Market is also a mecca of some of the best “eats,” “sips” and “goodies” in the city! With the cloud cover cooperating once again with my plans, I headed to the hysteria on my last morning in town, only to find the "tourist hell" much more pleasant and relaxing than anticipated.
Named after the street that houses it along the edge of Elliott Bay, Pike Place Market opened on August 17th, 1907. It is now one of the oldest continually-operated public Farmers' Markets in the United States. In fact, the vast conglomeration of vendor stalls is now listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. (Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that Pike Place also happens to feature the original Starbucks coffee store?)
True, the clichés overflow at Pike Place Market. (How many times has that iconic sign been photographed?) And yet, there is so much more to this joint than just tulips, coffee and wisecrackers tossing fish. Thanks to a seemingly never-ending layout of interior and exterior vendor stalls, there is truly is something for every one of the 10 million visitors who descend upon the market each year! Fresh seafood? Check. Gorgeous flowers? Check. Antiques? Check. Kids clothes, jewelry, and Northwest Coast Indian-inspired belt buckles? Check. The list goes on and on. Too bad I do not know how to cook for the fish and other sea creatures looked simply amazing!
Attempting to assimilate for once, I grabbed a warm and tasty baked good from one of the many cafes and partnered it with a cappuccino for my stroll over to the water’s edge. The breakfast respite was brief, for it was about this time that I got pooped on by a trio of pigeons roosting on a nearby Native American pole! Alas, my time at Pike Place was cut short. I rushed back to the hotel to clean up, check out and head to the airport!
Pike Place Market is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 Am until 6:00 PM and Sundays from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM. The “Down Under Shops,” an interior mall with even more New Agey Tibetan caps, umbrellas, luggage and crystals is open daily from 11:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Keep in mind that individual shop hours may vary. (For more on the flowers of Seattle, see “goodies.")
Set of Drifters tip: Aside from the many artisans, bakeries and other goodies, my favorite attraction at Pike Place had to be the moody pussycat dressed in an argyle sweater! This cat is apparently a local institution, and though he did not actually talk, his expressions spoke volumes. Many tourists were drawn in by the kitty and paid his handler a few bucks to snap photos of the sourpuss.
Pike Place Market - 85 Pike Street, Seattle, Washington 98101, (206) 682-7453
In case you hadn’t noticed, your “Set of Drifters” love vintage signage. Usually, these relics from the past are connected haphazardly to edifices that have long been deserted, or at the very least, should be. That being said, there are some examples out there of thriving businesses who relish in the fact that their retro emblem is part of what makes their brand special. Seattle’s Burgermaster chain is just such a place. And yes, it must also be reported that your “Set of Drifters” love burgers as well!
Almost in its 60th year, the Burgermaster “drive-in” experience was envisioned by Phil Jensen in 1952. Together with his wife Mary - who handles the award-winning landscaping - Phil has created an environment that delivers quality food to customers who deserve “a better deal.” Visitors to Burgermaster will undoubtedly witness a certain dedication to their meal that is not common amongst more well-known competitors. Now in his eighties, Phil still visits Burgermaster’s five outlets to ensure quality control. My guess is that he’s also on hand to taste some of those extraordinary milkshakes, varieties of which include “Hot Fudge,” “Tom and Jerry,” and “Coffee.” I opted for the special Pumpkin shake only on offer the day I visited in March of 2010, when Mary’s tulips were just starting to bloom.
Meals at Burgermaster will run you about $16 including burger, fries and shake, though its overall excellence makes it still a relatively good value, particularly when packaged in the now almost unheard of concept of “drive-in” dining. The Burgermaster in Bellevue was packed to the gills during my stop on a rainy afternoon near “quittin’ time.” If you are looking for one of the most satisfying “road food” experiences in town, then Burgermaster is your place!
Burgermaster (original location) - 10606 Northup Way, Bellevue, WA 98004, (425) 827-9566
Burgermaster (University) - 3040 45th Street NE, Seattle, WA 98105, (206) 525-7100
While it would have been nice to dine in the rotating restaurant up top the Space Needle on my first night in town, the unexpected dress code kept me at bay. Starving after the trip up and down the 605 ft. tower (see “sights"), I walked randomly through the adjacent neighborhoods for something that looked even remotely appetizing. This is not always an easy feat when the clock is nearing 11:00 PM, no matter how cosmopolitan the city you are visiting may be.
Luckily I stumbled upon Bambino’s Pizzeria on the corner of Cedar and 4th Avenue. Their menu and website try to downplay the restaurant’s ambiance by promoting a traditional Italian approach to pizza making. Sure, the calzones and pies here are extraordinary, the recipes of which have been devised by “guide” Pizzaiola Coelho, a chef who does not even know the meaning of the term “kitchen short-cut.” Come on! The rustic dark walls, large street side windows, and especially the restaurant’s brick oven delights that are served on small personal wooden chop blocks reveal that this dining spot is more hip than it lets on. (True, they do deliver, but don’t let that spoil your impression!)
Bambino’s uses 100% whole milk fresh mozzarella, though other options are available if you would like to concoct your own pie! Set of Drifter Brady loved his "Capricciosa," and would certainly return for seconds! If you are anywhere in proximity to the Seattle Center, Bambino’s is an easily walkable alternative to more tourist-clogged eateries nearby. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM for lunch and then again at 4:00 PM until 11:00 PM for dinner. On Saturdays and Sundays, the restaurant is only open from 4:00 PM until 11:00 PM.
Bambino’s Pizzeria - 401 Cedar Street, Seattle, WA 98121, (206) 269-2222
Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood makes for a pleasant experience, rain or shine… errr, day or night. By day, visitors can shop at one of the many groovy boutiques, or take in a movie at the local art house cinema. By night, a bevy of bars attract both students from nearby “U of Dub” as well as Seattlites looking for a change of pace; Fremont’s relaxed, casual atmosphere welcomes all ages and all walks of life. (See "goodies" for more information.)
During my final rain-soaked afternoon in town, I made the short trip to 45th Ave., starved for a tasty send-off lunch. May Thai immediately lured me in with its ceremonial Thai architecture that, although a far cry from Bangkok’s Grand Palace, was charming in its attempt. The restaurant and bar is spread out over two floors. The upper level even has a terrace for outdoor dining in more agreeable weather. While the exterior appears a bit outdated, the ambiance inside more than makes up for the slight infraction. The lively bar is awash in lush reds and golds, while the dining room soothes with a natural wood frame and familiar, yet elegantly understated, Thai decorative motifs. This truly is a great place to catch up with friends over good food. And lunch was superb! Tom Ka Gai soup was a most suitable antidote for the chill in the air outside and the pumpkin curry rice dish was tasty as heck!
May Thai is open daily from 11:30 AM until 10:00 PM, while the bar downstairs welcomes imbibers from 5:00 PM until 2:00 AM. A condensed bar menu is served until 1:00 AM.
May Thai - 1612 North 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98103, (206) 675-0037