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Olympia, & Best Pike Place Chow Not in Pike Place

All -
I'm a Boston hound visiting Seattle for the first time in many years. Visiting my daughter next weekend (Feb. 14) who is a student at Evergreen State, and we're planning a Saturday trip from Olympia to Seattle via perhaps Bremerton (Fritz's Fries?) or Bainbridge (Cafe Nola?) via ferry.
Wondering if Pike Place is sort of like Faneuil Hall in Boston; full of tourists who never really get a flavor of what Boston is all about. I work steps away from Faneuil Hall, but never eat there, preferring instead to walk an extra 4 minutes to the North End for some truly unique chow.
(My personal favourite in the North End is Galleria Umberto on Hanover St., which I would thoroughly recommend to any Seattleite who is venturing east)
Here's my question: On a Saturday venture, are there any restaurants next to Pike Place that you guys would recommend? Extra points for maybe a Vietnamese pho place as it will be mid February, but we're open to any suggestions. Thank goodness my daughter is an adventurous eater, so we're open to pretty much any ideas.
Hoping to find a parking place somewhere near Pike Place so we'd be willing to take a brief hike for the right spot.
As an aside, where else in town should we hit before heading back down to Olympia?
Also, is Xinh's in Shelton worth the trip for dinner Friday or Saturday?

Thanks in advance!


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  1. Xinh's is definitely worth it. Pike Place is not like Faneuil Hall. There are the pedestrian places that attract only tourists, but it is a food mecca, as well. I'd say Matt's at the Market or Steelhead Diner with a college-aged daughter. Do a search on this board for other recommendations. You won't regret a meal there!

    1. Cicada is the best restaurant in Olympia IMO. Worth checking out.

      1. In Seattle, just a mile or so South of the Pike Place Market, across the street from Starbuck's galactic HQ, is Pho Cyclo. Nearby, by the way, is a good sloppy BBQ pork sandwich at Pecos Pit.

        Pike Place is definitely suffering from being just up the hill from Cruise boat moorage, but there are still plenty of farmers and other food-stalls there that I remember from childhood shopping trips with mom, as well as a nice new population in recent decades. Because I work nearby, I still buy groceries there. Yes, you can find T-shirts there, but the market is operated as a historical development authority, or something like that, and they have preserved its character admirably.
        Rather than restaurants, of which there are tons of great ones walkable, I'd cruise for Pike Place and just wander the market and eat. Actually, there are several good restaurants in the market complex, itself. Have mussels at Maximilien (upstairs) or a Catfish sandwich at Matt's. Oh, brunch at cafe campagne - ooh la la. Do stop in at Jack's Fish Spot for a cup of world class Cioppino, maybe a cup of seared scallop chowder at Pike Place Chowder, nearby, and the (fantastic) sausage of your choice, grilled up fresh and served with fries and good aioli in the Bierstube at Uli's famous sausages. The Market Grill, just 20 feet away, will grill you up a halibut or salmon sandwich. Steelhead Diner is a fine place, if you are devoted to sit-down dining, but also Chez Shea and a fistful of others are good. Search more here for details.
        Most of these spots are very small, so pay attention to your nose.

        1. If anything, I think Pike Market is comparible to Granville Island in Vancouver ...

          1. The thing that Pike Place Market has that sets it apart from the Faneuil Hall's and the Granville Markets of the world, is that it doesn't allow chains - and I will fight to have that continue to be the case. I really hated seeing that on my recent trip to Boston and on my regular trips to Vancouver. The Market has plenty of unique chow - Matt's in the Market and Place Pigalle being my two favorites.

            Xinh's is totally worth it both for the food and the beautiful scenery you'll see on the trip there.

            1. You could always catch the (free) bus in the tunnel and head down to pioneer square (Salumi is the standard recommendation for that area) or the international district. I'd second the recommendation for pho cyclo on Capital Hill (another quick bus ride) if you're really in a "pho" mood.
              I would at least peruse the Market before dismissing it for good eats. I worked two blocks from the market for two years, and still went there for lunch at least twice a week. A few of my favorites of the affordable and quick lunch variety:
              The Crumpet Shop: Great soups, sandwiches, and crumpets. My standard lunch was a bowl of lentil soup (when they had it) and a crumpet with ricotta and tomato.
              DeLaurenti: Sandwiches, Soups, Salads, and Pizza by the slice. All good.
              Le Panier: They have these little savory pastries in the case with the sandwiches that are great. I could eat the sun-dried tomato ones by the truckful. I like their sandwiches too.
              Pan Africa Market: I love the spicy chicken dish.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Brunhilde

                Please, yes. Pike Place is about as far as you can get from a Rouse food court. Most, if not all, food places are chef owned and operated and there is quite good food around every corner, fantastic at some turns. I've been wandering Pike Place at lunchtime for years and am still finding new foods to enjoy there. For local flavor and lots of beers, Athenian has a harbor view and lots of locals.

              2. I'm an Evergreen student myself, and although Cicada is good, I like Acqua Via more (both are in downtown Oly). AV is casual but has very classy, rustic foods such as killer penne, salads, and cheese and meat "small" plates. The pricing is also very reasonable considering the quality and local ingredients. Happy eating!

                1. pike place market only marginally resembles its imitators as mentioned and is packed with terrific food vendors. true, there are a few swill merchants who prey on strangers but most are honest small businesses. it may also interest you to know that the pho place on the south side of pike street a few feet east of first avenue has just changed hands and now - after years of awfulness - serves a wonderful bowl of noodles.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: howard 1st

                    Good to know, Howard. Thanks. Do you (or anyone) know if they serve bahn mi?

                    1. re: bbqer

                      no bahn mi (so far) but there are quite good (and quite cheap) examples inside the sanitary market just behind jack's fish spot where post alley meets pike place.