A Local’s Guide to Pike Place Market
Shop like a Seattleite 🐟
December 15, 2022
The Pike Place Market is one of Seattle’s very most iconic destinations. It’s got the gum wall, the fish-throwing seafood mongers, the Original Starbucks. They’re classics. You’ve seen ‘em, you know ‘em.
But the Market is also home to over 200 shops. That’s an overwhelming number, so where to start? A good strategy on paper is just to wander the grounds and stop anywhere that catches your eye, but the crowds can often act as a current, making it challenging to be aimless. Better to have a plan, and that’s what we’re here for.
@theticketsea 🐟 @pikeplacemarket_official has got the gum wall, the fish-throwing seafood mongers, the Original Starbucks. They’re classics. You’ve seen ‘em, you know ‘em. But the Market is also home to over 200 shops 👀 Let’s go on a local’s tour! #thingstodoinseattle #pikeplacemarket #seattlewa ♬ original sound – TheTicketSeattle
Let’s begin expanding our Market scope by easing away from the world-famous. Here are some locally famous spots you should know about!
#319 Level 3
What kind of store can you expect with a name like Orange Dracula? Well, it’s… a compelling non-sequitur of a store. They call themselves “Woolworths for weirdos,” and the old-timey reference is fitting because they have all kinds of bizarro 20th century-and-earlier ephemera.
Want some creepy Edward Gorey postcards? A kooky costume wig? A mysterious palm reading chart poster? Some spooky tarot cards? Or something altogether ooky, like… an Addam’s Family board game? That’s precisely the kind of goth-adjacent pop culture miscellany you can find here.
On the more substantial end, there’s also a rack of vintage clothing, punky boots, bracelets, and sunglasses. The place is packed. Bring a friend and trade “look at this!” callouts while browsing. You’ll inevitably buy something that will prompt people to ask, “Where’d you get that from?” “Orange Dracula,” duh.
1418 Western Ave
If you don’t know about Paris-Madrid Grocery, it can be a little easy to miss, situated right behind the Market on Western Ave. But this is where to go when you need to take your dinner party contribution up a notch, or if you’re hosting and want to treat your guests to something special. It’s an absolutely exemplary place for French and Spanish food. You’ll find cured meats, tinned seafood, cheeses, cooking oils, pickles, and miscellaneous fancy snacks like chestnut spread, caramelized tomato jam, almond nougat, etc. Ever wanted to try making squid ink pasta? This is where you can get the squid ink.
There’s also an intriguing selection of cookware, especially paella pans. And, as you might guess, wine is very much available here, with plenty of port and sherry represented. Speaking of wine: Paris-Madrid Grocery hosts frequent tasting events. The best way to find out about those is to check in on their blog. They also have an Instagram account, but it isn’t updated as often. Yeah, it’s an old-school approach to Internet presence. But in this case, let’s call it Continental style.
BLMF Literary Saloon
#322 Level 3
The Market has several fantastic bookstores, like Left Bank Books Collective at the street level, Lamplight Books on the Market level, and Lionheart Book Store at Level 4, but BLMF Literary Saloon might have the most quintessential used bookstore atmosphere of them all. It’s a little chaotic, with vertically stacked Jenga towers of books augmenting more neatly organized shelves. But that’s exactly what ya want: the pleasant impression that this place is bursting at the seams with books to discover.
And it sure is. BLMF (which, btw, stands for Books Like a Motherf*cker!) packs a variety of fiction and non-fiction into its small space, serious and not-so-serious. You could find a copy of Song of Solomon, or a Snoop Dogg cookbook. There’s lots of Star Wars and Tolkien right around the corner from the shelves where you’d find a copy of The New Jim Crow, or Men Explain Things to Me. Is that a book over there about Juggalo culture? Ha, yep! What about a goofy yet exhaustive encyclopedia of American breakfast cereals? Yes, but sorry. I snagged that one.
Old Seattle Paperworks
#424 Level 4
You could overlook Old Seattle Paperworks at first glance—but don’t.
How much time were you planning on spending at the Market? Add an hour (or more!), because everything in this place, which specializes in vintage print media, is fascinating. There are mid-century issues of magazines like Time, Newsweek, and (ha) Playboy. Antique propaganda posters! Production stills from the Golden Age of Hollywood! And a library-like collection of old advertisements, sorted by category for enticing browsing: alcohol & cigarettes, cars & trucks, fashion, food & beverage, travel, and wartime.
The convergence of historical interest and visual aesthetic here is a multidisciplinary treat, and you can lose yourself in the best way by perusing. It’s like going to a museum where admission is free, and you can buy many of the exhibits for a mere $25.
Frank's Quality Produce
1508 Pike Pl
Here’s where we’re going to use Pike Place Market like the literal farmer’s market that it is and pick up our groceries. Yeah, you can (and should) do that!
Won’t that be expensive, though? No, it won’t. And Frank’s is a case in point.
You’ll find produce staples here like potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, lemons, et al for around the same price as they are at any of the conventional grocery stores uptown. And they’ll be of better quality. You can also find less common items, like, say, persimmons. And French breakfast radishes. And baby bok choy. Fresh cranberries, too, perhaps? (Or is the canned stuff still having a moment?)
Another big plus here is that you can choose your speed, service-wise. There’s an attentive staff available to answer questions and help you select your items if you want a full-service experience, but they’ll leave you alone if you’d rather fly solo and shop more standard grocery store-style.
It’s a distinctly satisfying feeling to head home with fruits n’ veggies from Frank’s. Scoring some great produce while also checking the “support local businesses” box is a real “have your (carrot?)cake and eat it too” affair. And using the Pike Place Market to source ingredients for a regular weeknight dinner? That’s a local flex. It doesn’t get much more Seattle than that.
Mark is a lifelong Seattleite (ok, Bothell and Seattle) and writes about PNW culture and travel. He doesn’t believe that the Freeze is specific to Seattle or that Seattleites “bring the rain” with them to other cities.