seattle gem

7 Seattle Specialty Shops for Foodies

One of the things we love most about Seattle is the seemingly endless options for grocery shopping. It always feels like no matter how obscure of an ingredient you need for a recipe, you can always track it down somewhere in the city. And, there have been countless times we have traveled to a foreign country and brought home a food product as a souvenir only to find that same product at a local shop! So, after much research and food sampling, here are our recs for the best specialty food shops for those of you who like to experience something other than Safeway.

Viet Wah

Viet Wah

Everyone knows that Uwajimaya is the premiere Asian grocery store, but just down the street is an overlooked, but equally awesome store called Viet Wah. It's smaller than its neighbor, but still has a vast selection of Asian import products for a fraction of Uwajimaya's cost. We especially love their produce selection, which has all sorts of interesting fruits and vegetables such as Bitter Melon from India, Lotus Root, Patola, and Taro Root. We don't know how to cook with any of those things, but we like that we have the option should the need arise! The store also has a nice wellness section with a variety of whole ginseng root and household items like teapots, candles, gift cards, and Buddha statues.

Scandinavian Specialties

Scandinavian Specialties

Scandinavia, that region of the world that includes Denmark, Norway and Sweden, has a strong presence here in the Northwest, and Scandinavian Specialties caters to all of your northern European needs. They have a nice selection of meat including lamb, Swedish meatballs (you don't have to drive to Ikea for these!), sausages, and smoked fish. They also have tins of fish, condiments, jams, and the greatest cracker in the world, Lefsa. They also have a small deli where you can grab a sandwich to go (we recommend the open faced lox and hard boiled egg sammie!). It's also so much more than just a grocery store! They have a huge selection of gifts perfect for your Nordic Uncle that you can never figure out what to buy during the holidays. They sell everything from clothing, to dishes, to books on Vikings. Holiday shopping handled.

DeLaurenti Food & Wine

DeLaurenti

DeLaurenti is a staple in Pike Place Market. It has been on the corner of First and Pike since 1946, and it is hands down our favorite place to browse and waste time. You could fill an hour easily looking at all the Italian specialty products. The shop is filled with Italian imports including high-end olive oils and vinegar, pure chocolate bars, pasta, and little tins of olives, fish, and beans. Their deli is a great place to grab cured meats and the best cheeses as well as a small selection of deli sides (we can't get enough of their stuffed peppers and dolmas). Hungry for lunch? They also have sandwiches, salads, and treats (plus a espresso machine for coffee) in the front of the store with a bit of seating. The best kept secret, though, is at their upstairs wine cellar where they hold a large selection of wine for purchase. There are a few tables there, and if you buy a bottle, they'll open it for you, give you some wine glasses, and let you drink it while hanging out. It's a great spot for resting while shopping the busy market, and not many people know about it so the tables are rarely taken. 

El Mercado Latino

El Mercado Latino

The hot sauce selection is reason enough to go to El Mercado Latino located in Pike Place Market, but you'll also be pleasantly surprised by the wide selection of Goya beans, produce that includes jicama, and bags and bags of dried peppers. The spice selection is ON POINT and includes your standard chili powder and cumin to your much more obscure Agar Agar powder and Boldo leaves. They even have Beer Extract Powder. We've never heard of this before finding it here, but we are going to start cooking with it immediately. In addition to the groceries, they have a restaurant where you can get typical Latin food like burritos and tortas. 

Paris-Madrid Grocery

The Spanish Table and Paris Grocery have joined forces to bring you the new Paris-Madrid Grocery, which means it's now one stop shopping for both your French pate AND your Spanish jamon iberico. We truly love this store and hit it up often for no other reason than their truffled gouda.

Sidenote: a big perk of buying gouda for your next dinner party is that you can pull out the "This cheese is hella gouda" pun, you're welcome.

They sell all of the supplies you need to make a killer paella (including the pan!) if Spanish night is on your mind or French charcuterie and cheese if a Parisian picnic is more your jam. They have a large selection of wines from both regions as well as pottery, cooking gear, and cookbooks. 

Big John's PFI

Big John's PFI

Big John's is like a hybrid of DeLaurenti (see above) and Costco...Italian imports meet a big warehouse with bulk items. It's pretty much the best of both worlds. Located near the stadiums, Big John's as been around since 1971 bringing you all your favorite Italian products and many more you didn't know you needed. Here you can find bulk olive oil, a wide range of flavored vinegars, a large cheese counter, cured meats, and pasta. Oh, the pasta! Lots and lots of pasta in every shape and size. For example, we didn't know we needed Farfalline (teeny tiny butterfly shaped pasta) until we saw it at Big John's. They also have wheel shaped pasta. We aren't exactly sure why, but pasta always tastes better when it's wheel-shaped. You can also find pantry staples, bulk spices, chocolate, and Italian wines. Sign us up.

Goodies Mediterranean Market

This Mediterranean market is not going to win any beauty awards. In fact, you probably would drive right past it on Lake City Way, but if you do stop, you'll be rewarded with amazing Middle Eastern products from Lebanon, Turkey, Palestine, and Iran. They carry nuts, dried fruit and beans, sadif spices, tahini, and a wide selection of oils. There is also a good amount of pickled things, and who doesn't love pickled things?!?! The best part is there is a small restaurant in the shop, which serves shawarma doner kebabs, sandwiches, and flatbreads - get the one seasoned with zaatar!

We want to know - what is your favorite speciality shop in Seattle? Leave us a comment so we can check it out!

10 Hidden Gems in the Green Lake Neighborhood

We had the pleasure of connecting with Sarah Lemmon who runs the Seattle Greenlaker, a great blog that shares all the neighborhood news of Green Lake. Since she is so familiar with the area, we asked her if she would write a follow-up to our Green Lake Neighborhood Guide, and she agreed! Keep reading to discover 10 hidden gems in Greenlake! 

Meet Sarah from the Seattle Greenlaker! 

Meet Sarah from the Seattle Greenlaker! 

For being one of the most popular parks in Seattle, Green Lake and its neighborhood still has several hidden gems that might surprise you. Hi, I’m Sarah from Seattle Greenlaker, and I’m excited to show you some of my favorite things about Green Lake, a place I call home and frequently blog about.

Earlier this summer you probably read the Rain or Shine Guide to Green Lake, which showcases some of the best things to do, eat, and experience around Green Lake. Here’s 10 Green Lake gems you might not know about:

You can do yoga in the middle of Green Lake

Yoga on the lake! Photo courtesy of SUP Yoga Seattle.

Yoga on the lake! Photo courtesy of SUP Yoga Seattle.

Throughout the summer months, SUP Yoga Seattle takes a small group of yogis of various levels and skills out onto the lake with only a paddle board, a tiny anchor, and their own courage. Often the yoga practice takes place on the north side of the lake and after dropping anchor (no seriously, tiny anchors hold the boards in place) the instructor talks you through your yoga practice. Yes, people do fall in occasionally. Yes, your board wobbles. But standing on a board in the middle of the lake gives your mind and body a renewed sense of concentrating just on your practice. Classes often start in May and finish for the season the end of September. Sign up for the classes online and meet at the Green Lake Boat House. 

Seattle’s only honky tonk bar is in Green Lake

Across the street from Green Lake Village, home to PCC Natural markets and some of the newest development in Green Lake is Little Red Hen, Seattle’s live country music honky tonk bar.

Free country dance lessons, courtesy of Mary Ann, occur three nights a week (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at 8 p.m. if you are interested). Check their calendar for a complete line up of live country music, karaoke, and more.

Green Lake

Internationally renowned table tennis champions play here, and you can too

Green Lake breeds champions of this sport (And it truly is a sport, by the way). Green Lake has sent players across the world to compete in the International championship games. Several times a week, the Green Lake Community Center gym is transformed into a 16 table arena of the “pings and pongs" of back and forth play. Home to Green Lake Table Tennis Club but welcome to newbies, participants drive from all over the state - yes as far as Port Orchard.

Insider tip: Don’t call it ping pong. Just trust us, they don’t like that. But go check this club out. You will have an immediate respect for the sport of table tennis.

Take a pottery class at the Green Lake Community Center

Green Lake Community Center offers pottery classes for all ages from parent and tot classes, teens or adult pottery wheel throwing and more. Classes change seasonally and range in price. For more information, go to the Green Lake Community Center’s website and search for their seasonal brochure of classes.

Find Green Lake’s hidden dog park

Woodland Park Off Leash. Photo by Scott Frostad

Woodland Park Off Leash. Photo by Scott Frostad

It’s likely no surprise that Green Lake is super dog-friendly. But did you know there is also an off leash dog park across the street from Green lake Park? The Woodland Park Off Leash area is a great place for running around with your dog. The one acre park has trails and is tucked between the Lower Woodland Tennis Courts and picnic shelters.

Check out the cutest dogs in Seattle as they parade around Green Lake every Halloween

Corgi Hawloween! Photo by Mike Lemmon

Corgi Hawloween! Photo by Mike Lemmon

While we are talking about dogs, there is one dog event you can’t miss, the annual Corgi Howloween. Every year the corgis march around Green Lake adorned in costumes from ninjas to hot dogs. You can hear the pitter pat (or shuffle shuffle) of the short legged canines as they use their little legs to march around the 2.8 miles of Green Lake path.

Insider tip: the best time to see the dogs is right before they take off for the march at the Green lake Small Craft Center amphitheater/bleachers. The owners often line them up and then they take off around the lake. But they are corgis not Greyhounds, so you can easily snap photos or ogle over their cuteness as they trot on by.

Catch Green Lake all aglow - but only three times a year

Because Green Lake Park Trail is not illuminated at night the crowds tend to dissipate at night. That is, except for three nights a year when honestly, you should be part of those crowds! So mark your calendar now for these special events: Pathway of Lights in December, Hiroshima to Hope in August, and Luminata in September.

Green Lake Pathway of Lights

Green Lake Pathway of Lights

Green Lake Pathway of Lights is one of my favorite times of year. Hundreds of luminaries are placed around the 2.8 mile Green Lake path along with carolers, apple cider, and hot cocoa stations and festive cheer. It’s also part of a huge canned food drive that every year receives loads of food for the homeless.

Lanterns on the lake at Hiroshima to Hope. Photo by Martha Brice.

Lanterns on the lake at Hiroshima to Hope. Photo by Martha Brice.

Hiroshima to Hope honors victims from Hiroshima and nuclear attacks. During the night among music and talks, nearly 2,000 paper lanterns are decorated and one by one lit and set into Green Lake to cast an honorary and mesmerizing glow. An incredibly powerful event that takes place August 6 every year.

Luminata celebrates the last day of summer and coming fall and is always celebrated on the September solstice. The first time we heard this event we had just moved to our house and heard a crazy, but joyous, cacophony of tubas and a mix of instruments coming from the park. We ran over to discover that it was also accompanied by lights and elaborate costumes. The Fremont Arts Council runs this every year.

Eat at Green Lake’s hidden taco truck

This may fall under the category of “you just have to trust us.” There’s a taco truck in Green Lake that has a cult following, but its in a hidden location. If you blink, you will miss it. It’s parked on the north side of the lake off of Aurora on the far end of the Shell station parking lot. Maybe not a huge selling point but El Naranjo has cheap and wonderful tacos, burritos, tortas, and my favorite the sopitos (an open faced taco made with asoft sopito corn shell with meat, cheese, lettuce and avocado inside). You can dine at one of the picnic tables, or do what we do and take it to the park or the wading pool in the summer months. 

Green Lake

Green Lake Loves Gyros (But Here’s The Best One)

You will find there are at least a dozen gyro places in a 2 mile radius around Green Lake. What gives, what's the best one? Our favorite has been in Green Lake since 2010. Mykonos Greek Grill has the tastiest and messiest gyros in town. And if you are extra hungry order their lemon soup. Their phone number is permanently in our phone for takeout orders. (Tell Siri to add their number immediately to your contacts (206) 523-8929).

Find the best dessert at JoDee’s Desserts 

One of the tastiest dessert spots in Green Lake caters to just about any diet. That’s right, JoDee’s Desserts can accommodate vegan, diabetic, gluten free, dairy free - you name it. My cheesecake hating husband says the chocolate cheesecake is one of the tastiest desserts he’d had in a long time - bonus points that you’d never know it’s vegan.

Thanks for letting me share my tips with you. To keep up to date on all things Green Lake be sure to check out Seattle Greenlaker.

Seattle Gems: Pike Place Fish Market

The crew of Pike Place Fish

The crew of Pike Place Fish

We had a blast taking over the Pike Place Fish social media a few weeks ago. We got to spend a lot of time with the guys in preparation, and we learned a thing or two about what makes the shop tick, which skills are needed to be successful, and the stories behind two of the oldest employees. In case you missed it on Instagram and Facebook, here is a recap!

When does the day start?

Ryan sets up the crab display

Ryan sets up the crab display

A day in the life of a fishmonger officially starts at 6:30AM (not counting the early alarm followed by a drive into work and a strong coffee)! The first couple hours at the market are quiet as the guys shovel ice and arrange the product in the lovely layouts you see when you shop! All of the fish is set-up and taken down each day. The guys make it a goal to be entirely set up by 8am.

Why do they throw fish?

Fish throwing skillz!

Fish throwing skillz!

When you hear the name Pike Place Fish, odds are you also picture a fish soaring through the air. These guys have been chucking fish behind the counter for over 30+ years and many think it’s just to draw a crowd, but it started back in the 80s as a more efficient way to sell product. The faster you get it to the guy behind the counter, the faster the guy in the front can move onto the next customer!

Insider fact: the fish you see flying over and over is actually not for sale. It’s a “stunt” salmon and is donated to the zoo to feed the bears.

Which employees have the best stories?

Meet Sam "The Boss" Samson

Meet Sam "The Boss" Samson

Sam is kind of a big deal. He is the oldest employee at Pike Place Fish with 31 years of experience under his belt. He is now the “big boss” though he had to work his way up from the bottom. When he first arrived in Seattle looking for work he asked about a job and the then boss, Derek, threw him a fish, asked him to fillet it on the spot and then, seeing he had the right chops, gave him a job. Sam’s favorite fish to cook at home is the Mackerel, which he keeps simple by salting and broiling.

Meet Jaison Scott

Meet Jaison Scott

People joke Jaison was born in the market because his mom worked and raised him at Pike Place. He slept in a banana box under the ice as a baby and they put him to work making boxes when he was just 8 years old (this was before strict child labor laws), but he claims he was just goofing around. He has been doing “real work” at the fish market for 25 years now and loves his job. His favorite fish to cook at home is salmon. He adds a little bit of the shop’s essential seasoning and a little bit of NW seasoning and bakes it for 20 minutes.

What skills do you need to work there?

Pike Place Fish

First and foremost you have to have a sparkling personality. These guys spend a lot of time together and are more like brothers than friends so positivity, love of the job, and a good sense of humor are essential to the job. As for technical skills, all eighteen guys know how to crack a crab, perfectly fillet a fish, and build out a beautiful display of salmon.

Insider fact: the worst fish to fillet is a Rough Eye, which apparently has thorns all over its head!

Is the fish they sell sustainable?

Pike Place Fish

Yes! They made the switch in January 2011 after deciding as a group they needed to think long term and take a stand to protect the environment and species that gives them so much: a place to work and a nutritious food source.

How do you cook an octopus?

CJ and his octopus

CJ and his octopus

We’ve always been intimidated by the octopus at the market, but apparently it isn’t too hard to cook into a delicious meal! Ryan Rector recommends “low and slow” when preparing octopus. Braise for 2 hours, chuck it on the grill to get some char on the tentacles, and then chop it up and throw it on top of some greens with cherry tomatoes and fennel sausage. YUM.

When does the shop close?

End of the night huddle

End of the night huddle

6:30pm means quittin' time for the boys. The guys huddle up at the end of every 12 hour shift to discuss how the day went and end with an all hands in chant of “heeeeeeeeeey-ya.” Which sounds way better in person than trying to imagine it here, but you get the point, these guys are a close knit group and support each other. 

If you are ever at Pike Place Market for a visit, be sure to look for the fish guys under the main clock! They are worth the visit, and you can pick up dinner as well! 

Seattle's Famous Film Locations

We are always a little bitter when we excitedly sit down to watch a new show or movie set in Seattle and we see Vancouver, BC buildings and public transport show up in the scenes. It is decidedly cheaper to film in Canada, so most production companies take the discount thinking Seattle and Vancouver are basically interchangeable. Throw in a shot of the Space Needle and you're good, right? 

Nope. Because we know. And we are loyal to our city.

So, let's pay homage to the films and TV shows that spent the cash and used real Seattle locations to film. Let's take a little tour around Seattle to find all the spots in various movies and shows.

TV

Frasier's tour around Seattle. Top Left: Famous "Public Market" sign at Pike Place Market, Top Right: Space Needle, Bottom Left: Pike Place Fish, Bottom Right: Riding the Monorail

Frasier

We are letting them on this list, but just barely. 99.9% of Fraser was filmed on a set in L.A but for one special episode they came and shot in Seattle. They make it on the list because they hit up all the big hitters in 20 minutes, which is pretty amazing. In Season 5, Episode 5, you can see The Space Needle, the Monorail, and Pike Place Market including Pike Place Fish and Don and Joe's Meats.

Meredith Grey's house from Grey's Anatomy located in Queen Anne.   Photo Credit

Meredith Grey's house from Grey's Anatomy located in Queen Anne. Photo Credit

Greys Anatomy

Again, most of this show was shot on a set in L.A., but they do use a couple of genuine Seattle locations in the show! Fisher Plaza, home of KOMO News, is used to represent some of the hospital shots, and Meredith's Queen Anne home is a real house located at 303 W. Comstock St. in the Queen Anne neighborhood.

MOVIES

The Singles apartment complex located in Capitol Hill

The Singles apartment complex located in Capitol Hill

Singles (1992)

This cult classic brings together everything Seattleites want in a film: music, love, and a good coffee shop. Plus that HAIR and alllll the flannel and a young Eddie Vedder! It also takes in a lot of Seattle over the 99 minute long picture. Occidental Park in Pioneer Square is the site where Kyra Sedgwick and Campbell Scott take a stroll. Scott eats a meal at Chandler's Crabhouse. They visit Seattle famous dive bars Re-Bar and El Corazon for concerts and they live in an apartment complex in Capitol Hill (totally where they would live if this was a true story). You also get to see Gasworks Park again (filmmakers love Gasworks, huh?)!

Tom Hank's Lake Union floating house in Sleepless in Seattle

Tom Hank's Lake Union floating house in Sleepless in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Seattle's favorite film. Don't argue, this is Seattle's favorite film. We love this movie and no one can take it away from us. Tom Hanks is a movie god, and he walked around our city to film this movie, so it is the best Seattle movie. Period. You can see a lot of the places from this film. The Baldwin's house boat still sits on Lake Union and looks exactly the same. You can take a boat tour to see it or our preferred method is to rent a kayak and paddle over. (Agua Verde is a good option). 

Sit your butt in the same stool that Tom Hanks sat in at The Athenian in Pike Place Market.

Sit your butt in the same stool that Tom Hanks sat in at The Athenian in Pike Place Market.

You can also plant your butt in the same seat as Tom Hanks at The Athenian. This is the restaurant Sam Baldwin (Hanks) gets lunch with his friend Ray. You also spot other Pike Place Market landmarks like the fish market and Inn at the Market as they walk to The Athenian. 

The famous paint ball course at Gasworks Park in 10 Things I Hate About You

The famous paint ball course at Gasworks Park in 10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Now Sleepless in Seattle might reign #1 for Seattle films, but let's be honest, it was a littttttttle creepy. 10 Things I Hate About You is a much more accurate and realistic love story. And it is when we all first fell in love with Heath Ledger, so brooding, so misunderstood, he just wanted someone to play paintball with! 

The Fremont Troll where Joseph Gordon Levitt filmed

The Fremont Troll where Joseph Gordon Levitt filmed

This movie has our favorite Seattle spotting, the Fremont Troll. Young and still dorky Joseph Gordon Levitt has a hormone filled conversation with his love interest Bianca (such a 90s name).

Gasworks Park also makes an appearance when Heath and Julia have a crazy game of paintball, although we don't think that giant paintball course has ever been open to the public. And their prom is filmed at The Paramount Theatre, Balllllerrrrr! 

Left: I-90 Bridge, Right: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Left: I-90 Bridge, Right: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Laggies (2014)

We still can't decide if we liked this movie or not..but if you hate it you still get some decent Seattle shots. Chihuly Garden and Glass makes an appearance as a wedding venue. You really can rent this for a wedding, it costs $-- or your first born child, one or the other.

You also get a very pretty shot of the I-90 floating bridge since the main character (Knightley) lives on the Eastside.

Say Anything (1989)

Corey's house is real!! Gosh we love when this happens! It is in Ballard, located at 6507 Parker Court Northwest, Seattle, WA 98117.

Bob's Java Jive from Say Anything is a bit worn down these days

Bob's Java Jive from Say Anything is a bit worn down these days

Bob's Java Jive in Tacoma makes a drive-by appearance in Say Anything. Today this is a super strange coffee shop turned bar. We don't recommend it as a place to go unless we really hate the person. 

Waiting for Interurban. Photo by  Xurxo Martinez

Waiting for Interurban. Photo by Xurxo Martinez

You can also catch a glimpse of the statue 'Waiting for the Interurban', a local favorite located in Fremont, Seattle, when Diane is on her way to graduation. On graduation day in Seattle this statue could very probably be decorated in the exact same manner.