With COVID-19 cases climbing again, eating inside restaurants in the crowded labyrinths of the Pike Place Market buildings might make some people uncomfortable now, even if you’re vaccinated. Luckily, for those who still want to visit the market stalls and eat food from nearby restaurants, there’s plenty of outdoor seating nearby.
Pike Place Market built new outdoor dining areas at the beginning of July, with 11 picnic tables in front of the famous Public Market Center sign, three on Pike Street and five on a deck facing Puget Sound on the north end of the Market. These spaces will remain set up through Labor Day weekend.
Many restaurants near the Market have their own outdoor dining areas, but if your family (like mine) can’t find a place that will please everyone, it’s worth getting food from different spots and eating together at a picnic table.
To that end, here are some of my favorite spots for takeout near Pike Place Market.
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; 1435 First Ave., Seattle; delaurenti.com
DeLaurenti is an Italian grocery about a block from the Public Market Center sign on the corner of Pike Street and First Avenue that has a deli stacked with salami, capocollo, prosciutto and cheeses. You could easily put together a great lunch by buying a loaf of bread, some sliced meat, cheese and pickles.
But you can also buy hot and cold sandwiches at another counter in the store. The Parma ($10) is a perfectly balanced sandwich, with sweet prosciutto di Parma brightened with arugula, drizzled with white truffle oil and sprinkled with shaved Parmesan on an Italian sandwich roll.
If you’re hungry, I recommend getting some sides at the deli with your sandwich. The pork, beef and veal meatballs ($16.99/lb) are tender with fat and loaded with what tasted like Parmesan or pecorino Romano. The marinated sardines ($22.99/lb) are fragrant with oregano, and the giant white gigante beans ($8.99/lb) have a buttery consistency and are sour with vinegar.
Get a little bit of everything, and you’ll have a great lunch with more variety than most restaurant meals — without having to wait for your food.
10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday; 1933 First Ave., Seattle; lepichetseattle.com
Le Pichet is a French bistro a couple of blocks from Pike Place Market that serves charcuterie, salads and a few dinner entrees. But for takeout, the easiest options are the baguette sandwiches, which are available on the lunch menu from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The “sandwich en baguette” with Paris ham ($10) is simple, but delicious — with ham and Gruyere on a crusty baguette slathered with butter blended with mustard. The nuttiness of the ham and Gruyere shine, with just a little bit of tanginess from the mustard.
The version with grilled Spanish sardines ($12) is also good, pairing the smoky, oily fish with buttery bibb lettuce and mayonnaise.
9 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Sunday; 1506 Pike Place Suite 509, Seattle
Near the beginning of 2020, Oriental Mart, a Filipino restaurant located in the Corner Market Building at Pike Place Market, won the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious America’s Classics Award, which goes to businesses the foundation determines have “timeless appeal” and “serve quality food that reflects the character of their communities.”
Though Oriental Mart has these impressive accolades and was featured on chef Marcus Samuelsson’s PBS show “No Passport Required” in 2019, the restaurant is easy to miss. It’s part of the Oriental Mart grocery store, which sells chili pastes, fish sauce and other Asian condiments along with souvenirs.
To order, you talk to a person behind a counter facing Pike Place under the yellow Oriental Mart sign hanging from the awning. To find the indoor seating for the restaurant (a counter facing the kitchen), you walk to the back of the store by passing between the edge of the grocery and a refrigerator filled with blocks of Muenster from the shop next door, into the depths of the Corner Market Building.
Oriental Mart serves a few classic Filipino dishes every day: pork adobo ($16.95) and chicken adobo ($14.95), longanisa sausage ($14.95), fried bangus ($17.95), also known as milkfish, and salmon sinigang ($17.95) along with some specials. Everything is served with rice and pancit, which is a generic term for Filipino noodle dishes. At Oriental Mart, it is made with glass noodles, cabbage and carrots.
On a recent Wednesday, I ordered the longanisa. The four mahogany sausages were sticky with sugar and juicy with fat, served on a huge bed of rice. Only order this if you’re hungry. The adobo ribs ($17.95), a special that day, were even more filling. The generous pile of ribs was tangy and salty with soy sauce, and the meat slid easily off the bone.
9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily; 77 Spring St., Seattle; skalkaseattle.com
If you’re visiting Pike Place Market and you feel like you need a break from the crowds, try walking five blocks south to Skalka, a bakery that serves boat-shaped breads called khachapuri, stuffed with cheese, egg, butter and other fillings from the Adjara region of Georgia. Khachapuri is Georgia’s national dish and has a few variations, but the Adjaruli khachapuri from Skalka is topped with a raw egg yolk and a slice of butter, adding shimmery yellow highlights to the bed of white cheese.
Skalka serves versions of khachapuri with the classic Adjaruli toppings (cheese, butter and egg yolk); chicken with tomatoes, eggplant and bell pepper; beef stroganoff with pickles; and Lobiani, with red beans, bacon and pickled chili peppers. All of the khachapuri cost $15, and are loaded with enough cheese and dough to split between two people if you’re not too hungry.
The stroganoff was creamy, the mild khachapuri cheese (similar to ricotta, with a little more tang and elasticity) blended with the beef and egg yolk to make a delicious buttery mess to sop up by ripping pieces off the chewy edges of the khachapuri dough. To give the dish more of a kick, squeeze some Sriracha sauce on the cheese.
The Lobiani was my favorite — the smashed red beans were rich with bacon fat, and the sharp peppers balanced out all of the rich butter, cheese and egg yolk.