Enter Seattle’s Melrose Market early on a Sunday morning, just as the peppy smell of coffee is becoming irresistible, and you will find yourself overwhelmed by choice. Should you slip into the James Beard Award-winning Sitka and Spruce for breakfast options so artful and wild they resemble botanical prints, or buy some local bacon from Rain Shadow Meats to fry up at home? Do you go for the coveted Stumptown Coffee—beans from a Portland roaster that have amassed a cult following—at Homegrown, or hit the local Honor Society Coffee stand instead?
The Capitol Hill neighbourhood where Melrose Market stands is a place for the choosy to run wild. The area is quickly giving way to the Amazon and start-up crowd, feeding their appetite for all things artisanal, local, and (there is no other word for it) hip. In this stretch of Seattle—just outside of the downtown core—a warehouse aesthetic dominates, recalling the city’s history as a gritty port. But a layer of glitz has settled over the grime, with high-end boutiques, first-rate breweries, vintage hideaways, and restaurants making beautiful use of the neighborhood’s bright auto row buildings. Melrose Market anchors everything with a cozy food hall vibe, where all of the contemporary essentials are within strolling distance—and under one roof.
Offering a people-watching perch and quick, organic eats is Homegrown, a “sustainable sandwich shop” with friendly counter service and menu items that are seasonal and environmentally sound. After a day spent combing through Capitol Hill, a quinoa bowl at Homegrown is just the thing to revive. The emphasis here is on “sandwich environmentalism”: an assurance that every aspect of the shop and the food is as local and sustainable as possible, from the compostable packaging to the low-VOC paint on the walls. But small-impact food doesn’t mean small-impact taste—let the spectacular sandwiches prove it.
Sitka and Spruce
For a more languid alternative, head to Sitka and Spruce for a meal in a warm, airy room with an open kitchen. The menu here relies heavily on Pacific Northwestern ingredients and rustic offerings that perfectly reflect the space. Brunch is full of elegant possibilities, with ricotta and sorrel crepes or house-made yogurt tempting alongside daiquiris and duck confit. Dinner is intimate and agrarian, with even more alluring options (the menu here is constantly changing, but consistently rousing). Sitka and Spruce is designed for lingering; the row of windows catches a light that seems as eager to dawdle inside as the customers are.
If you find yourself encountering a lineup at Sitka and Spruce, Bar Ferd’nand is the ideal place to while away the wait. The diminutive wine bar and bottle shop is tucked across the hall, giving the impression of an above-ground cellar with brick walls and wine bottles in Dionysian abundance. If a snack is all you need, small plates are available as well. See if you can catch one of the bar’s frequent tasting events: recent themes have included Wines of the Mountains and Petillant Naturel.
Rain Shadow Meats
It’s not easy to make slabs of raw meat look appealing, but the locally sourced offerings at Rain Shadow Meats are set up like prized specimens under glass cases. The white-tiled space is the serious foodie heart of Melrose Market (it does take considerable verve to give hunks of pork and beef as much flourish as the nearby florist Marigold and Mint gives its flowers, and the attentive spirit of the shop is obvious). House-cured charcuterie is available, as well as butchery classes for those looking to learn a new (survivalist) skill.
Butter Home is both eye-catching and easy to miss, perched as it sits above the fray in the building’s mezzanine. The shop specializes in sweet, idiosyncratic gifts and local ceramics (apparently, the buyers “consider Portland local”). A cross section of trinkets includes a Bernie Sanders colouring book, art prints, fragrant candles, hand-forged gardening scissors, and a selection of witty keychains. It’s as hard to leave the store empty-handed as it is to find it.
Of course, the historic Pike Place Market will always have its allures. But Melrose Market is a nod toward the newer heart of Seattle, and a marker of a city with clearly so much more still to offer.
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