One recent morning I stepped off the elevator from the parking garage on Western Avenue at Pike Place Market. On the “Market” level, the doors open to a small vestibule with a panoramic view of the west side of the Market, the Ferris wheel and across the Sound, cluttered with hulking cargo ships waiting to unload. It was relatively calm and quiet, save for a young couple giggling together over a paper boat of hot doughnuts.

To the left there’s a skyway that deposits you right in the main arcade, just north of City Fish. The second you open the swinging doors from the skyway to the Market, the atmosphere changes. There’s hustle and bustle in front of the flower stands directly ahead; someone at Mick’s Peppourri proffering a stick slathered in pepper jelly to your left; and across the street was the Triangle Building, where a line had already formed at Mee Sum Pastry, despite it being 9 a.m.

It’s tough to imagine a Seattle without Pike Place Market. Tougher still to imagine the Market as a place that doesn’t warrant a visit. Yes, we cringe about the traffic and the parking. We whine about the cars clogging up the cobblestones, the lines at the Starbucks (where you’ll inevitably hear a local sniff that “it’s not even the original location”), but speak to any person who works at the Market in any capacity and they’ll tell you about the magic they find, and the secrets they’re still uncovering even years after their first visit.

Traci Calderon, chef and owner of the Atrium Kitchen, has been working in the Market since 2012, first teaching cooking classes in the Atrium space before fully taking it over in 2017. Despite almost a decade there, she says she recently found a courtyard next to Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar that was new to her.

“I never knew that! It’s just fun to walk through the Market,” she says just before being interrupted by a tourist looking for a bathroom.

“[Where’s the bathroom] is the Number 1 question I get. Number 2 is ‘where is the gum wall?’ ” Calderon says with a laugh.

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Maybe you already know where the gum wall is — but you’re not quite sure what you want to eat the next time you’re at the Market. My colleague Jade Yamazaki Stewart highlighted four wonderful options for summer dining (including one of Calderon’s favorite lunch spots, Le Pichet). But upon consultation with Calderon and after much research of my own, here are three under-the-radar gems to consider the next time you’re wandering through Pike Place Market hungry but ever thankful as I am that the Market was saved 50 years ago.

Three Girls Bakery

7 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; 1514 Pike Place, Seattle; 206-622-1045; threegirlsbakery.com

Stuffed with walnuts and apricot preserve, the rugelach at the century-old Three Girls Bakery is a Levy family recipe.  (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

There have been fresh baked goods of one flavor or another coming out of Three Girls Bakery since 1912. First opened by a trio of women specializing in doughnuts and coffee cakes, Three Girls has gone boom and nearly bust numerous times over the past century. It’s been owned by Jack Levy since 1979, when he bought the business with his sister, Zelda. In addition to hearty sandwiches, the bakery is best known for its rugelach: delicate pastry rolled up with cinnamon, honey and walnut or apricot and walnut ($2.50 each). There’s also a plethora of cookies, bars, brownies and croissants. The bakery has moved a few times in its 100+ years in existence, but you’ll find it now in the Sanitary Market on Pike Place, next to Jack’s Fish Spot. It’s a small window, framed out in burnished wood surrounding a half-dozen floor-to-ceiling windows filled with freshly baked pastries.  

The Crumpet Shop

8 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday-Sunday; 1503 First Ave., Seattle; 206-682-1598; thecrumpetshop.com

The Crumpet Shop is a favorite for fluffy, spongy crumpets toasted and topped with a dollop of ricotta and fresh lemon curd.  (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

You’ll have to ogle the intricate “Alice in Wonderland” murals at the Crumpet Shop through the windows, because due to COVID-19, this quaint little spot — sandwiched between Pike Place Flowers and Falafel King in the Corner Market on First Avenue — is only serving through a walk-up window for now. Open since 1976, the Crumpet Shop is the only place in the Market to get delightfully squishy, hot griddled crumpets. Pick up a savory open-faced crumpet sandwich, topped with thick-sliced ham, soft scrambled eggs and cheddar ($6.90) or skew sweet, with luscious lemon curd ($6). Or spend an extra buck and add a thick schmear of fresh ricotta. There are a few minuscule tables just in front of the shop where you can sit with your crumpet and a cup of tea, but a better bet (with a better view) is to take it to go and head across Western Avenue to the expanded MarketFront public plaza.

Michou Deli

10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; 1904 Pike Place, Seattle; 206-448-4758; michoudeli.com

Head to Michou Deli for fluffy bambaloni, an oblong sugar-dusted Turkish doughnut. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

I am in love with Michou Deli. I went on a tip from a friend who used to work at a chocolate factory in the Market and spent many an afternoon grabbing lunch from this perfect slip of a deli. Go in the morning for hot bambaloni, an oblong sugar-dusted Tunisian doughnut, or scrambled eggs and bacon. Go in the afternoon for roast beef sandwiches with Gorgonzola and arugula or kale salad. There’s roasted Brussels sprouts and stuffed baked potatoes, spicy chili-spiked tofu and glistening morsels of soy-glazed pork belly. Nearly everything is sold by the pound and it’s one of the most delicious, economic meals in the Market, pleasing everyone from meat eaters to vegans. Don’t be alarmed by the crowds that form around Michou, located in the Stewart House on Pike Place right next to Le Panier; while there can be a line, more often than not, you’ll be able to slide right into this hidden gem, past the throngs waiting for Piroshky Piroshky and Le Panier.  

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