-- PDF version --
by Amy Eaton
There are many great places to eat lunch in Seattle but they often require reservations and have a big impact on your wallet. Thankfully, I work only a few blocks from the Pike Place Market and have gotten into the habit of wandering over there during the lunch hour. The crowds can be dense and the lines lengthy, but at these eateries, things move fast! Most have little or no seating so grab your lunch and take a few minutes to browse through the Market.
Here are my top spots for an inexpensive and handheld lunch.
Pike Place Chowder
1530 Post Alley
I love seafood chowder and most places disappoint but not Pike Place Chowder. Their Seafood Bisque ($6.25 for a medium) has large hunks of cod, salmon, crab and little shrimp deliciously floating in a creamy tomato basil broth. It is thick and rich and wonderful and one of the few reasons I will brave the Market during Spring Break or the summer season. I also love the Seared Scallop Chowder which is buttery and creamy with a good amount of scallops. Go with a friend and split the sampler (4 types of chowder, 5 oz. servings for only $11.95). If you want to be a big spender add in a Dungeness crab roll for $12.95. Avoid the crowds and hit the Pacific Place location on the top floor (600 Pine, between 6th and 7th), very close to the Convention Center.
Mee Sum Pastry
1526 Pike Pl
(at Post Alley)
Walk up to the counter and survey your options. What you see is what you get. If you are lucky, you will get there just as a pan of bao is pulled out of the oven. But no worries if you miss it. This place is so busy that the buns are always warm and fresh. The BBQ Pork Hom Bao are large, maybe 5-6 inches across and the dough is puffy, super fresh with a hint of sugar. I always opt for the BBQ pork filling which is generous with a slight hint of sweetness but I hear that the chicken is pretty dang good too. What the heck, at $2.52 per hum bao, go wild and get two.
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
1600 Pike Pl
(between Post Alley & Pine St)
You might initially be drawn in by the huge vat of cheese the staff is working on in the corner window of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese but stay for the food. Grilled cheese, mac & cheese, fresh cheese, cheese curds; it is all delicious. My favorite is the World’s Best Mac & Cheese (8 oz., $5.02). You can taste the sharpness of the cheese and the pasta is perfectly cooked and holds up well to the cheesy goodness surrounding it. This stuff is decadent and rich. If you want a bit more kick, order the Mariachi Mac & Cheese. I confess I sometimes top off the mac & cheese with the Artisan Breadzel ($2.74), a twist of bread garnished with cheese, lots of garlic and herbs. Then I crawl into a corner and sleep for two hours. The lines get a little crazy at lunch time, but if you stick with the mac & cheese and bypass the grilled cheese sandwiches, you will be in and out in no time.
Le Panier Very French Bakery
1902 Pike Pl
(between Stewart St & Western Ave)
Le Panier is known locally for their macarons, but I come for the fueilletes, a puff pastry tart with a savory filling. My favorite is the Normandie, the pastry is flaky and filled with a creamy chicken and onion sauce. This is a steal at $3.75 and will definitely leave enough room for you to try one of their macarons ($1.75 each) or to move on to another dining spot in the market. Le Panier is always busy but the line moves quickly and the staff are quick and courteous.
1908 Pike Pl
(between Western Ave & Virginia St)
Stop at the window and watch the baker roll out fresh dough for the cinnamon cardamom braid; it smells heavenly. I come here for the Salmon Paté Piroshky. This Russian treat is shaped like a fish, and you can’t miss it in the window display. The dough is chewy and thick and balances out the richness of the salmon paté. This is perfectly sized for eating as you walk back to the conference and I usually finish before I get back to the office. If there is a line, be happy. That means your piroshky will most likely be piping hot! I haven’t tried any of the Piroshky Piroshky sweet pastries but if you do, let me know how they are. The whole apple baked in a puff pastry crust is really tempting!
I have to end with a sixth item, my favorite sweet treat at the Market. As you may have noted, some of my favorite places also offer sweet options, and there are many other places in the Market to indulge your sweet tooth. Mini-doughnuts anyone? But I go for the classic chocolate chip cookie, and I think DeLaurenti’s hits this one out of the park.
DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine
1435 First Ave.
(corner of Pike and First)
DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine is known locally for their Italian food section, fresh cheese and handmade pasta and pizza dough, conveniently ready for you to cook at home. They also serve a brisk lunch trade with everything from pizza to deli sandwiches. However, I come here for the chocolate chip cookie ($2.19). The cookie is the size of a small plate and perfectly crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. The dark chocolate chips are partially melted and you can taste a hint of butter in the dough. Sure they have other cookies like peanut butter and snicker doodle, but who cares? This is the best chocolate chip cookie in town.
View 2013 LAC Seattle Map in a larger map