Get up early for a fresh take on this historic Seattle landmark, something that’s easy to do when you’re staying at the nearby State Hotel.
Some people like to stay up late, dragging out of bed to chug coffee before truly waking up. Then, there are the early birds. Count me among those annoying folks who can’t wait to start the day.
On a recent visit to Seattle, that internal alarm clock had me gawking at the magnificent view from my comfy room at The State Hotel. A block away, Pike Place Market glowed like a beacon in the pre-dawn light. As I looked a little closer, signs of activity popped onto the not-so-still life: Delivery trucks pulling up, crushed ice smoothed onto the tables that will soon hold fresh fish, colorful bouquets arranged in the stalls. And best of all, no crowds yet.
For many Pike Place Market diehards, this is truly the magic hour. After a cup of chai and an excellent, house-made pastry in the lobby, I’m out the door, heading to the Market.
The coolest neighborhood vibe
Pike Place Market is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, especially during cruise ship season. Beyond the throngs who sometimes crowd the walkways, this is a neighborhood in the best sense of that word. It’s home to hundreds of residents, many living here for decades.
My affinity for this special place goes back to childhood when my great uncle was a semi-famous busker strumming his Gibson guitar on various street corners. Later, my aunt lived in an apartment that looked out on Elliott Bay and operated a clothing store that eventually fizzled. My cousin ran a restaurant in the 1980s, my brother worked at one of the fish stands. It felt like home, a place filled with memorable characters.
It still does and it still is. There’s the gregarious Chaz at Frank’s Produce and Nate at DeLaurenti, an exceptional Italian deli that opened in the 1940s. Robbie’s the best bartender on the planet and you can find him pouring generously on Thursdays and Sundays at Matt’s in the Market. Robin took over The Crumpet Shop from his hard-working parents a few years ago, his ever-smiling presence keeps drawing customers in. It’s always a pleasure to see Michela creating incredible dishes at Pasta Casalinga. Say hi to Art making Honest Biscuits and Erin crafting bean-to-bar treats at indi chocolate. Plus so much more. Please don’t just come and snap a pic by Rachel the Pig. Give yourself time to properly explore this incredible community.
The most important meal of the day
While the crowds line up for lattes at the “original” Starbucks, I’d suggest instead getting your morning drink on at Ghost Alley Espresso. Mike Buchwald and his wife, Krista, and their crew do fine work and showcase beans from Middle Fork Roasters.
You could line up for a brown bag full from Daily Dozen Donuts or go for fancy French pastries at Le Panier or a grab a breakfast sandwich from Three Girls Bakery.
If you’re looking for a sit down meal, Lowell’s reliably starts serving at 8 while Crepe de France gets a later start, opening daily at 10. For a full list of breakfast options, visit the Market website.
While it’s best known for its succulent roast chicken and exceptional pommes fries, Le Pichet is my favorite spot to go early in the day. Before the lunch and dinner crowds arrive.
The best charcuterie
This classic French cafe/bar was birthed by chef Jim Drohman and his wife, Joanne Herron, in 2000. Many of the menu items go back to the beginning, including the spectacular Gâteau au foie de volaille, aka chicken liver terrine. It’s mild enough to appeal to offal skeptics, its velvety texture a creamy contrast to the rustic baguette that’s specially baked for the restaurant at nearby Le Panier.
The all-day menu stars Le Pichet’s excellent lineup of housemade pâté, cured meats, oysters on the half shell alongside a sausage link and baked eggs. Plus, if it’s not already sold out, the gorgeous quiche that’ll make you wonder how the kitchen manages to pull it off every time. The buttery, flaky crust, the dreamy custard-like filling. Perfect.
Start — or end — the meal with a chocolate chaud, the thickest cup of cocoa you’ve ever sipped. On my recent visit, spring rhubarb was the star of a clafoutis. The tart, pretty-in-pink sign of spring mellowed in the rich pastry. A pitcher of cream on the side made for a simple, homey finish that worked so well.
Meanwhile, back at The State
After a busy morning roaming around the Market, I headed back to the hotel for a food coma-inspired nap. Needed to rest up for happy hour with a friend at Ben Paris, the handsome bistro in the hotel.
The restaurant’s named for the pioneering businessman who ran a cigar shop and lunch counter in the same space many years ago. More recently, before the dramatic debut of the hotel, the corner was known for the powerful fragrance of take-out teriyaki. That’s a distant memory these days.
The menus at Ben Paris manages to check all sorts of delicious boxes from Southern-inspired classics like hushpuppies with pimento cheese and crispy fried chicken to sophisticated seafood creations. The raw scallop garnished in a smoky macha sauce is a stellar standout. The satisfying meatballs made by combining veal and rabbit simmered in a bright tomato sauce resides on the small plates offerings, but shared between two, it might be filling enough to work as a main course.
This might be the only happy hour in the city that offers a tasting menu and how cool is that? Very impressive.