Pike Place Market is not just for tourists! The Market is the beating heart of Seattle's famous food scene, and the best place in town to find a food-related gift, or to have an unforgettable food experience yourself.
To find something for the cooks and food lovers in your life, I suggest exploring the Market and making a gift basket to fit your tastes and budget, or giving them a food experience. I’ve shared lists of my favorite gifts of each type below.
Pike Place Market has no lack of big names that you'll find in every visitors' guide, like the first Starbucks store, DeLaurenti, or Beecher's, just to name a few. But the Market is also a community of hundreds of small shops, artists and vendors whom you can and should meet and learn from. Do more than scratch the surface, and Pike Place Market will reward you with memorable, meaningful gifts that are uniquely Pacific Northwest, even on the strictest of budgets.
Make a Gift Basket
While checking out the shops and vendors below, remember to get yourself a snack, and consider adding something fresh to your basket. I like a loaf of bread (or anything else!) from the charming, century-old Three Girls Bakery, or a seasonal fruit or vegetable from the always-inviting Sosio's Produce. They are just two of the hundreds of vendors you may discover while finding your way to those I list in this edible gift guide.
1) MarketSpice - Variety is the spice of life and spice is the life of any market, so I often begin my visits at MarketSpice. Their spices are the freshest, their custom blends are world class and they offer it all, including herbs and teas, by the ounce. They have many themed gift sets already assembled, such as baking spices, barbecue seasonings or assorted teas, for those shopping in a rush. If you have a minute, ask for advice from the staff and put your own set together, organized by a theme such as African, Asian or French cuisine. Don't be afraid to ask “What's in that jar?” or “How do you use this?” MarketSpice staff are knowledgeable and friendly. They also stock a tempting variety of accessories such as teapots, cups, spice jars, and mortar and pestle sets to properly process and store your teas and spices.
2) El Mercado Latino - “The Latin Market” has the best mix of Latin, Caribbean and Creole spices and ingredients I’ve found in one shop. They are popular for their wall full of hot sauces, and I especially like their selection of tropical dried fruits, juices and pulps.
3) The Souk - If you are looking for Indian, Pakistani or Middle Eastern items, this quaint Market classic has a broad array of basics and a few beloved specialties. Regulars love the Souk’s custom spice blends, which they’ve made for over 35 years, including garam masala and different levels of curry powder. You could pick up a few and package them with one of the shop’s cookbooks.
4) Holmquist Orchards - Their DuChilly hazelnuts are simply the best hazelnuts in the Pacific Northwest, and possibly in the world. This variety of hazelnut is long and has an uncommon sweetness due to its thin skin, and (they say) thanks to the soil of their fertile river valley in the North Cascades. I can still remember my first bite, more than ten years ago — I didn’t know hazelnuts could taste so good.
5) Rachel's Ginger Beer - A recent addition to the Market but with the same sincerity, these are delicious ginger beers, freshly made in Seattle. Flavors vary, using seasonal fruits and even vegetables (a carrot-beet-ginger beer!). Go there in person and sample them before buying. If you give someone a Rachel’s growler, they can refill it at this flagship store or at certain local farmers’ markets (listed on their website).
6) Quality Cheese - This cheese monger has a great balance of options that are both regional and from around the world. Their European assortment is strong in all things English. Ask for something seasonal, such as their springtime soft cheeses with beautiful chive blossoms pressed into them. Cheese lovers will have a hard time leaving this stall!
7) Simply the Best - Their reasonably priced dried fruits, nuts and vegetables are prepared without the use of preservatives and are a perfect healthy snack. The fruits and nuts are also excellent for holiday baking. Just try an apple slice or any sample on offer; you'll be amazed by how good they taste.
8) Bavarian Meats - Of course you can expect the best from their namesake German sausages, cold cuts and smoked meats. Bavarian Meats also carries quality German beers, wines and in the winter, Glühwein. You'll find well-curated shelves of sauerkraut, mustard, European sauces and wonderful chocolates. This is also one place I can count on to have that delicious German curry ketchup.
9) Polish Pottery - Their store is an entertainer’s dream. Even Martha Stewart could find something here. It is full of hand-painted stoneware and beautiful glass, and the hand-embroidered Polish linens are just lovely! They have a nice selection of Polish cookbooks, and they keep plenty of local kitchen items, too. Please go in person; there is much more in the store than is listed on their website.
10) Lamplight Books - This is your best bet for finding a great cookbook on a budget, but Lamplight is not only inexpensive! They have many uncommon books across a wide range of subjects and with an always-interesting local collection. Book lovers should give themselves plenty of time, or be found here when it closes. Lamplight is probably my favorite place for a quiet moment after walking through the Market.
Give a Food Experience
Pike Place Market can be ideal if you want to give an experience that you can enjoy together, or for waste-free holidays. The food lovers in your life will thank you for any of these. I’ve listed just five of the many Market food experiences.
11) Cooking classes at the Atrium Kitchen – These are held right in the Market. See especially the Market to Table cooking class and many seasonal cooking lessons. Check their calendar: they do fill up but there is always something new.
12) Savor Seattle food tour – This is the original Market food tour and they take great care of you, even providing substitutions for vegetarians. Tours include extras such as discounts at Seattle restaurants.
13) Crepe de France gift card – This family-run restaurant has been our own family’s favorite for crepes for more than 20 years. They not only have the best crepes and market-fresh, seasonal ingredients, but also a warm and friendly atmosphere, including a counter where you can sit and watch them make your crepes to-order.
14) Lowell's Restaurant gift card – Lowell’s is a down-to-earth place to have breakfast, lunch, dinner or a drink at the bar, with a view on all three levels. Regulars call it “The Living Room” of the Market partly because of the role Lowell’s played in the Market's history. In the 1960s, this is where Victor Steinbrueck and his fellow Friends of the Market activists gathered to make their plans to save Pike Place Market from commercial development. It's a good gift for someone who likes casual food in a place that means something, and for someone who doesn’t mind a postcard view of the Olympic Mountains and the ferries in Elliott Bay.
15) Food events to benefit the Pike Place Market Foundation – For someone who enjoys variety — and if you can spend a bit more — you won’t do better than sending them (or taking them!) to an event such as Arcade Lights or the Market’s Sunset Supper. Arcade Lights is a sort of night market which includes dozens of samples of food, drink and music. See my photos and blog post describing the very first Arcade Lights at Pike Place Market, which was great fun.
There are so many more food businesses that I support and would love to include here, but this guide would never end. For a few more ideas, I suggest having a look at the Market’s own website for specialty foods.
When you are at Pike Place Market, do also visit the craftspeople and small day stalls, where you will find handmade, food-related gifts such as aprons, cutting boards, serving trays, ceramics and much more.
Above all, have fun supporting the Market, which is frequently called “the Soul of Seattle.” Stop and listen to the buskers, and please don't forget to “feed the pig!” Drop your spare change in Rachel, the life-sized piggy bank located adjacent to where the fish fly. Proceeds benefit the Market’s healthcare, childcare, senior services and food bank for those in need.
Images courtesy of Mohini Patel Glanz.