HOME > Chowhound > Pacific Northwest >


Quintessential Seattle experience


My hubby and I will be in Seattle for 4 days in May. We have never been Seattle and are very excited to get a taste of some local culture. What neighborhoods, dining spots, cafe's, experiences can give us a taste of local Seattle? We are not renting a car, so suggestions accessible via public transportation would be much appreciated.

We are from the SF bay area and we love eating and exploring neighborhoods. We love all kinds of food but tend to stay away from very expensive places. We love hole in the wall places too.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You have to go to Pike Place Market and get a sampling of the vedors there. You can find anything you want there and May should be a good time to go.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jpc8015

      Thanks! I have heard about the Market and also intend to visit Salumi.

    2. Neighborhood Farmer's markets cover a lot of cultural ground and there are good ones all over town. Bests are Ballard (Sun) and University district (Sat) >>> thanks Mary mc, for catching my reversal error - I agree Ballard is more interesting, too, especially the locks >>>>, but also Columbia City, Wallingford, Lake City, Phinney, Madison, Broadway, West Seattle.

      Pike Place Market is a wonder of street food, with a fistful of great sit-downs, too.
      Go all Frenchy for brunch at Cafe Campagne, or have mussells at Maximilien, but don't miss Cioppino at Jack's Fish Spot and a cup of scallop chowder at Pike Place Chowder.
      A few steps away will get you grilled sausage at Uli's (with onions and peppers - get a side of fries for sure), a big meat sandwich at ILNY deli, Halibut or Salmon at Market Grill.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mrnelso

        The Farmer's Markets are a good suggestion, but make that the U District on Saturday and Ballard on Sunday, and not the other way around.

        The Ballard market is in the more interesting neighborhood, IMHO. Ballard Avenue is lined with old buildings and funky little shops, restaurants, and pubs. It wouldn't be a bad walk up to Archie McPhee http://www.archiemcphee.com/ , and a bit farther to the Ballard Locks http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/tour/lock... --and those are definitely quintessential Seattle experiences! Fremont, and the Fremont Sunday Market http://www.fremontmarket.com/fremont/ , aren't too far away in the other direction. Theo Chocolates http://www.theochocolate.com/ in Fremont does tours every day including Sundays, but you won't see the factory operating unless you go on a weekday. You'd need to reserve a tour because they're very popular. Fremont http://www.fremontseattle.com/ is generally a fun neighborhood to explore--lots of public art and well-practiced weirdness.

        Here's a thought: if you're even slightly athletic, and the weather doesn't suck, rent bicycles at Recycled Cycles http://www.recycledcycles.com/ . They're right off the Burke-Gilman Trail, and you can ride the trail along the Ship Canal (meaning it's mercifully flat) through Fremont and into Ballard, all the way to the Locks. It will give you a chance to work off all the goodies you'll find at the Ballard Farmers Market and Theo Chocolates!

      2. Gtrine, Experience the mussels at the upstairs bar at Maximillien's at the Market. (Same menu as the more formal downstairs restaurant.) The atmosphere, view and food are outstanding; a Seattle institution. Also, if you are here Tuesday through Friday, don't miss Salumi for lunch.

        1. - Paseo's for a cuban pork sandwich (in Fremont or Ballard, close by if you'll be going to one of the farmer's markets).
          - Skillet: Street food, roving location, check their website: skilletstreetfood.com
          - Wandering the Pike Place Market
          - Maekawa bar and Fort. St. George in the International District, unique Japanese food you'll have trouble finding elsewhere.
          - Top Pot doughnuts
          - Trophy Cupcakes
          - Cafe Lago in Montlake is a long running little neighborhood spot with great food
          - Lunchbox Laboratory in ballard has an amazing array of burgers

          1 Reply
          1. re: bergeo

            For the international district, I would definitely steer you away from Fort St. George. Not because the food isn't delicious or unique, I just don't think representative of the Japanese food available in Seattle. I would definitely have to push you towards Maneki.

            Fort St George
            601 S King St Ste 202, Seattle, WA 98104

            Maneki Restaurant
            304 6th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104

          2. Your suggestions are all great! my mouth is watering at the though of mussels at MAximillien's. We are in town from Weds to Sunday so we will definitely work a lunch at Salumi into the sked! I will also try to work in the international district (I am hoping its accessible by public transportation)

            I also love the idea of the Ballard Market. Thanks for pasting links!

            Thanks for all the suggestions, I really appreciate all your help. We are going the 1st week of May and I will update you guys with the places we went to and what our experiences/opinions were.

            Thanks again!

            2 Replies
            1. re: gtrine

              A couple cautions: Salumi is only open 11:00-4:00 TU-FR. There is a (great, but more typical) supermarket in Ballard called the Ballard Market, so take care to find the Ballard Farmer's Market. They're a few blocks apart, but altogether different experiences.

              1. re: gtrine

                The official edge of the International Distict is 2 short blocks from Salumi, and sits at the last station of the FREE bus-tunnel that runs through downtown.

              2. I really like the direction of this thread. Often, Chowhound inquiries just ask, “What are the best restaurants in Seattle?” But when you visit a new city or town, you should experience what is unique or special about it, and get some sense of local culture and customs. A visit to the Pike Place Market should be on the agenda, even though it is a somewhat hackneyed suggestion. But renting a bike to explore the Burke-Gilman Trail along the Ship Canal through Fremont and Ballard to the Locks? What a fabulous idea! I suggest staying away from the “Underground Tour” in Pioneer Square. A boring rip-off, IMHO. My suggestions, in addition to the many excellent ones already made, are as follows:

                1. Visit the Northwest Native American Collection at the downtown Seattle Art Museum. It will give you a good sample of native art from the Northwest Coast, something that is unique to the Pacific Northwest. Another great museum that focuses on the Pacific Northwest is The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture on the University of Washington campus, especially the “Life and Times of Washington State” exhibit and the “Pacific Voices” exhibit.

                2. Largely through the influence of Dale Chihuly and the Pilchuck School, the Pacific Northwest has become a center for glass artists. The new Museum of Glass in nearby Tacoma is well worth a visit. If Tacoma is too far, the best glass art gallery in Seattle is the William Traver Gallery, on Union Street right across from the Seattle Art Museum, and Traver’s less expensive gallery, Vetri, around the corner on First Avenue. There’s another Traver Gallery and Vetri adjacent to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma.

                3. Ivar’s Seafood Bar (in front of the Acres of Clams restaurant) on the waterfront at Pier 54, next to the downtown ferry terminal, is a Seattle institution, just as is the now-deceased founder, Ivar Haglund. If you are downtown, wander down Madison Street to the waterfront, step up the counter, order some fish and chips and a cup of clam chowder, sit down at the outside tables facing the ferry terminal, enjoy the view of the ferries coming to and going from the terminal, and toss a French fry or two to the seagulls that are noisily awaiting your largesse. Especially if it’s a sunny day, you’ll feel like a true Seattleite. Even if the fish and chips may not be the absolute best in Seattle, they are perfectly fine, and we’re focusing here on the total experience

                4. Pacific Northwest oysters are, in my humble opinion, some of the best oysters in the world. And, in my view, the only way to truly appreciate the subtlety and delicate taste of an oyster is to eat it raw, adorned by nothing other than its natural oyster liquor. (I always bite my lip and curl my toes when my wife splashes Tabasco on her oysters. Tolerance is such a hard fought virtue!). If you’re not into raw oysters, Elliott’s is probably not a stop I’d recommend, even though the cooked seafood there is okay. But if you’re an oyster lover, Elliott’s is a Mecca, with 30 or so different varieties of Northwest oysters to choose from. Slurp, slurp. Mmmmmmm! Elliott’s was named by Fortune Magazine as one of the top five oyster bars in the country, and given its amazing variety of impeccably fresh Pacific Northwest oysters it’s hard to argue with that assessment. Sit at the 21-foot-long oyster bar, and establish a relationship with the oyster shucker (if you’re nice, he’ll slip you free samples). The only negative is that master oysterman, Dave Leck, who for years was my “main man” when it came to oysters, has left both Elliott’s and the food industry. The new folks staffing the oyster bar are okay, but don’t compare to Dave. Elliott’s is located on the Seattle waterfront at Pier 56.