Don’t rent a car to get around downtown Seattle. Since 2009, Sound Transit’s Central Link light-rail system www.soundtransit.org has run trains from the SeaTac Airport to the underground Westlake Station at 4th Avenue and Pine Street, about four blocks from Pike Place. It’s a 35-minute trip. Trains leave every seven to 15 minutes, $2.75 each way. Info: www.bit.ly/1rEjdWS.
Don’t go looking for nightlife at the market. Although a few restaurants have busy bars (Pink Door and Radiator Whiskey, for instance), most of the market area is idle by 10 p.m., and surrounding blocks can be sketchy.
Don’t expect pristine solitude in Victor Steinbrueck Park (2001 Western Ave.) at the north end of the market. The views and totem poles are impressive, but crowds are often thick and panhandlers and dope dealers work the area hard.
Do spend a few minutes gawking at Pike Place Fish Market (86 Pike Place; 206-682-7181, www.pikeplacefish.com), where fishmongers holler and fling their salmon, halibut and other goods.
If you need some dead-tree reading — the latest Nome Nugget newspaper, for instance, or a European magazine — or a postcard or stamp, do stop at First & Pike News (93 Pike St., 206-624-0140).
If you’d like to see brick walls bedecked with recycled chewing gum (or you would like to see a show at the Market Theater, 206-587-2414), do head to 1428 Post Alley, which is beneath the market proper and across the alley from the Alibi Room bar. The gum bits (pictured below) started to accumulate in the 1990s and got a big boost when National Geographic gave the site a two-page spread in June 2010.
For Chinese food in a tight space with a big view, do consider Pike Place Chinese Cuisine (1533 Pike Place; 206-223-0292, no website). Most main dishes up to $15.95.
For a stylish dinner in a buzzing room, do try Steelhead Diner (95 Pine St.; 206-625-0129, www.steel-headdiner.com), where the menu is heavy on seafood. Excellent chowder. Main dishes $18-$38. Shown at right, the Southern fried chicken topped with sauteed spinach, served with brown gravy.
Do climb up to Matt’s in the Market (94 Pike St., No. 32; 206-467-7909, www.mattsinthemarket.com) for a sophisticated meal and view of the market with Puget Sound behind it. Matt’s, which dates to 1996, is an elder statesman among upscale restaurants at the market. Dinner main dishes $28-$47.
For a stiff drink (or half a smoked pig’s head, if you dare), do try Radiator Whiskey (94 Pike St., No. 30; 206-467-4268, www.radiatorwhiskey.com), an atmospheric bar that opened in 2013 across from Matt’s in the Market. Besides spirits, this place offers a short dinner menu, with main dishes typically $13-$18. The half pig’s head, which feeds two to three, is $48.
If you need to sober up, year-old Storyville Coffee (94 Pike St., No. 34; 206-780-5777, www.storyville.com) is down the hall.
To taste what the buzz is all about, do sample some of Rachel’s Ginger Beer (1530 Post Alley; 206-467-4924, www.rachelsgingerbeer.com). Some people step up for a sweet refreshment, such as the blood orange ginger beer float with vanilla soft serve that I ordered. (Excellent, $8.) Others choose the $8 Montana Mule. Rachel’s isn’t cheap, but lines often stretch out the door.
To understand where you really are (or to plan your next trip), do browse Metsker Maps (1511 1st Ave.; 206-623-8747, www.metskers.com). Great shop for travelers, hikers and geo-nerds. Maps, globes, books.
Don’t go looking for an early snack at De Laurenti Specialty Food & Wine (1435 1st Ave.; 206-622-0141, www.delaurenti.com). This beloved source for Italian ingredients and snacks doesn’t open until 9 most mornings, 10 on Sundays. But the long table in front is a great spot for strong coffee and tasty raisin croissants.
Do try Ghost Alley Espresso and Market Ghost Tours (1499 Post Alley; 206-805-0195, www.ghostalleyespresso.com, www.seattleghost.com). Mercedes Carrabba converted a 147-square-foot closet into this snug caffeine haven and tour-guide headquarters. Coffee $1.75-$4.25. Besides spooky stuff, her tours feature plenty of legit history. Adults pay $16.50 for a 75-minute tour.
Do have breakfast at Lowell’s (1519 Pike Place; 206-622-2036, www.eatatlowells.com) and watch a ferry glide through the sound. Opens at 7 a.m. daily. "Almost classy since 1957," the signs say. Also open for lunch and dinner. Dining areas on three levels, big views and cinnamon rolls almost as big. Dinner main dishes $13-$31; breakfast dishes $8-$21.
If you’re young and pinching pennies, do explore the Green Tortoise Hostel (105 Pike St.; 206-340-1222, www.greentortoise.com). It’s reasonably clean, with a prime location. Rates typically $30-$36 per bed per night; private rooms $78-$82. Shaggy travelers from many lands share dorm rooms (some single-sex, some coed) with four to eight bunk beds. Breakfasts are free, as is dinner three nights a week.
Do look for Soul Cat Guitars (www.soulcatguitar.com) among the market’s craft stalls. The cat in question is Dean Moller, a veteran woodworker and musician who makes guitars and ukulele from colorful cigar boxes ($280-$695).
If you need a quick bite and some prime people-watching, do dip into Sisters European Cafe (1530 Post Alley; 206-623-6723, www.sisterseuropeancafe.com). Best observation seats are the counter stools facing the alley. Breakfast and lunch. Most sandwiches $6.95-$9.95.
Do try the first Starbucks (1912 Pike Place; 206-448-8762, www.bit.ly/10lJOOf), which always seems to have buskers outside and a line of people buying merchandise. The first Starbucks opened a block away (building now gone) in 1971, then moved here in 1976.
For a romantic dinner, do head to the Pink Door (1919 Post Alley; 206-443-3241, www.thepinkdoor.net), which dates to 1981. The menu is Italian. Enormous patio, frequent live music, and sometimes you’ll find a trapeze artist, in burlesque attire, hovering over indoor diners. (It’s a short act, but memorable.) Main dishes $17-$28.
Even if it doesn’t rain, you do need to duck into the Seattle Art Museum (1300 1st Ave.; 206-654-3100, www.seattleartmuseum.org). On view through Jan. 11: "Pop Departures," featuring the works of icons such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana and Claes Oldenburg.
Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times