A view of Pike Place Market’s new Producers Hall and Plaza, both part of Seattle’s recently-completed MarketFront project. (Barbara Hull/Pike Place Market)

Seattle’s new waterfront: Pike Place Market and beyond

SEATTLE — Open since 1907, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the United States. That historic significance — and those iconic waterfront views over Puget Sound— draw 10 million visitors a year to its dark alleys and cramped, creaky stairways.

But “cramped and creaky” don’t do justice to what is also a bustling 9-acre neighborhood and a slice of Seattle’s soul. Now, for the first time in 40 years, Pike Place Market leaders have revived and expanded the destination to include 12,000-square-feet of shops and restaurants, colorful public art installations and 300 new underground parking spaces.

The $74-million MarketFront project, as it’s called, is part of the larger Waterfront Seattle Program, a major redevelopment that will transform Seattle’s central waterfront from Pioneer Square to Belltown. When it’s finished in 2024, locals and visitors will benefit from several changes, including a first-time waterfront bike path and promenade reminiscent of San Francisco’s Embarcadero, and a much-needed makeover of Seattle Aquarium.

No need to wait, though. The western expansion of Pike Place Market is complete and definitely worth a visit, the next time you’re in Seattle. Start on Western Avenue, where Seattle artist John Fleming’s Western Tapestry has revived the drab concrete thoroughfare with 1,670 bright, multicolored aluminum strips varying in length from six to 22 feet. It’s particularly stunning at night, when LED lights illuminate the wall. Cross the street, heading west toward the bay, and you’ll spot the MarketFront. Don’t miss the airy new Pavilion, a bright space showcasing the handmade crafts and specialty products of 47 local artists and farmers (and freeing up elbow room at the busy indoor Market). Roll-up doors keep you dry on rainy days so you can shop without getting soaked.

From there, take the Grand Staircase to Producers Hall. Under exposed wood beams reminiscent of the original Market, four artisan purveyors showcase on-site production of their culinary goods. In one corner, Honest Biscuits churns out square-shaped, Southern-style biscuits with Seattle twists, like the MacGregor, made with ingredients from the Market’s Bavarian Meats and Beecher’s Cheese.

Just behind Honest Biscuits, there’s indi chocolate, a tiny artisan chocolate factory and cafe, serving up small-batch bars, desserts and espresso drinks (hello, Mole Caramel Latte) made with cacao sourced from around the world. Ask for a sample of whatever dark chocolate the staff is whipping up that day.

Thirsty? Head over to Old Stove Brewing Co, a light-filled brew house with an 80-foot window wall perfect for catching marine traffic in and out of Elliott Bay. The brewery currently has 12 rotating beers on tap and a small pub menu. Once construction of the 15-barrel, grain-to-glass brewery is complete this June, expect a full gastropub menu with a wood-fired oven — dressed as a giant beer can — and 24 beers. For now, ask to watch as they seal your 32-ounce to-go can with a nifty stainless steel Crowler machine.

The buzziest food experience will be at Little Fish when it opens this summer. A new venture from restaurateur Bryan Jarr and award-winning former San Francisco chef Zoi Antonitsas, the 3,000 square-foot restaurant will also serve as a modern craft cannery, where patrons can watch chefs house-curing and canning salted and smoked seafood from Puget Sound waters and beyond. Dishes like Penn Cove Mussels in Apple Cider Vinegar and Smoked Paprika or Albacore Tuna Belly in Olive Oil will be featured on a menu celebrating Basque, Scandinavian and Japanese cuisine.

Prefer to let the sea breezes sharpen your appetite? Head to the new plaza and viewing deck for panoramic views of Mount Rainier to the Olympic Mountains. Stop at the landings of the Grand Staircase to snap selfies in front of Vashon Island artist Clare Dohna’s large and colorful mosaic murals with tiles of fish, flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Particularly on gray days, when the sun refuses to emerge, the tiles provide just the pop of color to remind you of the overwhelming bounty of the Pacific Northwest, captured in one historic public market.

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