Finding France at Pike Place Market

Finding France at Pike Place Market

Finding France is what I do; finding France is what I enjoy, wherever I happen to be. In France, even in touristy areas like Paris or Nice, I look for my France, and I find her if I am lucky: I remember feelings or experiences I once knew before relocating to the United States so many years ago. I catch fleeting moments when I recognize a sound, a smell, or spot a scene I used to take for granted when I walked French streets on my way to school, to work, or while running errands. In the United States, where I live, finding France can be a lot of fun, especially when I travel to another city, or another state. This does not mean I don’t enjoy new locales for what they are, of course, and I love researching, learning and exploring. Still, I manage a community of francophiles in social media, and I have this blog, where many expect to read about France and all things French: Finding France is what I do, including in the city I live in, Seattle.

Finding France
I see the Puget Sound. I see West Seattle. I see… France

Pike Place Market: My favorite corner in Seattle

One of the oldest Farmers’ markets in the United States, Pike Place Market opened in 1907, thrived through the first half of the 20th century, then almost disappeared in the 1960s until it got rescued by the city and her people. Today, the market appeals to locals and visitors alike. During the summer months, when cruise ships heading to Alaska dock along the waterfront, wise ones stop by early in the day, or stay away altogether on weekend afternoons to avoid crowds. As a French native, I enjoy visiting Pike Place Market because it reminds me, un peu, of Europe. Like many North American markets, however, it is different from its European counterparts: Half of the stalls sell food, fresh produce, and flowers; the other half specializes in local crafts and other items popular with tourists. One thing is for certain: The market’s neighborhood changes throughout the day, the week, and the seasons. It is a wonderful place to people-watch, as illustrated in this article I published a few years ago. If you have never been there, voilà a few iconic sights:

Finding France

Finding France

In the belly of Pike Place Market

My favorite section in the old market is underground. It’s a great spot to beat tourist crowds that tend to congregate in the upper level where fresh produce and flowers are displayed. At Pike Place Market, (and in many other places,) it pays to venture below the surface, to scratch the attractive, colorful veneer of the stalls at street level, and go deep in the belly of the beast. There, time has stopped. Gentrification and globalization have not yet taken hold. The old wooden stairs have seen it all, and whether approaching the visit from below (going upstairs from Western avenue,) or from above, off 1st avenue, many surprises await.

Finding France

Finding France

Finding France

There are stores down below that may have been around at the turn of the 20th century after Pike Place Market opened. The Market’s belly is one of these places where you think: “If these walls could talk...” There are intriguing smells. The old wooden floors creak at times, as the sound of footsteps echoes along the long corridors early in the morning. Checking out window displays – we, French, love our lèche-vitrine offers a chance to travel back in time.

finding France

Finding France
The Magic Shop
Finding France
Giant Shoe Museum

Finding France

Pike Place Market: A French hub

In this neighborhood, finding France is easy. There are at least two French bakeries and four French restaurants at, or near, the Market. If you follow the French Girl in Seattle Instagram feed, you have seen photos of delicious treats I buy for myself or co-workers (one of my two offices is within five minutes of the Market,) at Le Panier, one of the oldest French bakeries in Seattle. I recently started working downtown part of the week, and have been known to pick up a handful of chouquettes on my way to a staff meeting. Recently, I discovered another small pastry shop specializing in éclairs. Choukette, owned by a French couple, is a cute boutique sitting right below Pike Place Market. The selection is seasonal, and limited. Their designer éclairs are as pretty as they are delicious. Did I mention they also serve coffee… and chouquettes? Prices aren’t cheap; but what is in Seattle these days? (April 2018 update: We are sorry to report Choukette is now closed. Other French bakeries within walking distance of Pike Place Market area include le Panier and la Parisienne. Both offer an excellent selection of French pâtisseries including éclairs.)

finding France

finding France

finding France

finding France
Chouquettes, chez Choukette

Those among you who do not have a sweet tooth can walk less than a block down Western avenue from Choukette, to find the Paris-Madrid grocery store. I have visited the place for many years. In the old days, there were two different boutiques, the Paris Grocery and the Spanish Table. Being a big fan of Spain where I spent some of my best summer vacation as a child with my family, I love visiting the store. It’s like traveling back to the Mediterranean region where we hail from.

Finding France

Since we are focusing on finding France today, check out part of the selection at the Paris-Madrid grocery store. As you can tell, they cover all the essentials, (with an emphasis on French and Spanish wines,) with a few interesting twists along the way, caught by this French native’s eye.

Finding France

Finding France
Two Bonne Maman products hard to find stateside
Finding France
If you grew up in France when I did, you have sampled this refreshing drink

Our story is coming to an end. All good stories, like an Asterix and Obelix adventure, end around a table, with a good meal, good wine, and good friends. There are quite a few French restaurants to choose from within walking distance of Pike Place Market, yet my favorite remains cozy and welcoming Café Campagne. Whether I go alone, or with old or new friends, I always have a great time there. It’s not quite Paris, but as French bistros go in the United States, it’s pretty close.

Finding France

Finding France
Great view from my favorite table

Finding France

The Chef-owner has recently renovated the kitchen. The food, bistro fare, is consistently good. My favorite dish? Les oeufs en meurette, a specialty from Burgundy; but I have been known to stray away from this great brunch dish to order a quiche du jour, moules marinières, or un steak frites (I recommend Campagne’s Freedom Fries. They are to die for, and should be renamed “Fantastic Frites.”)

There are many reliable options in Seattle for diehard francophiles to indulge in their passion: finding France. Over the next few months, in anticipation of the new French Girl in Seattle website to be launched this spring, I plan to check out a few new places, and update stories I wrote over the last few years about local French-themed businesses. This will give some of you a chance to capture that elusive French magic when you visit the Emerald City next. For now, a heartfelt Merci for all your creative and enthusiastic contributions to help me find this blog’s future tagline. I will be announcing the winner(s) of our Giveaway over the next few weeks.

A bientôt.

All photos by French Girl in Seattle. Please do not use text or images without permission. 

Finding France
A French Girl in Seattle and her French besties, Café Campagne

18 Responses to Finding France at Pike Place Market

  1. Thank you so much for the shops I have not seen yet in Seattle. I’m new here and still exploring Pike Market. Excited to explore the shops you recommend.

  2. You are quite correct There has been a revival of markets throughout the Anglosphere in the past 20 years or so, but they are different. They are one manifestation of gentrification and indeed usually spring up in inner-city areas that have been gentrified. As a consequence, the produce is often at eye-watering prices and one is not always convinced the quality is so much different than the usual supermarkets (which these days in Australia & UK are pretty good in that department; well Waitrose/John Lewis in UK).

    I suppose Paris is constantly gentrifying too but I think both tradition and its mix of covered (permanent) markets and biweekly street markets (or some permanent street markets like Mouffetard, Le Cler, Aligre etc) means they can avoid the worst of the trend. I like Pike Place Market because it is permanent and indoors (more or less obligatory due to the weather).

    Here, we also have a proliferation of “genuine French bakers” but they are never as good; even with French boulangers I think the problem is their market, ie. we Anglos (though Australia is a saved somewhaat by its big European immigrant population, not many French but plenty of Italians, Greeks, Dutch and others, to counter the awful influence of the Brits): you simply don’t get real French bread outside France. It has to do with the flour, and the lack of other additions (illegal in France of course) that prolong “shelf life” that we Anglos demand!

    Ditto, for croissants which I assume are just too labor-intensive, use “expensive” ingredients (like real butter) and in the end the public simply don’t appreciate the real thing (while paying at least double Parisian prices for an inferior fake!). Not far from me is a “real French bakery” called Chouquette which does have a French baker and whose goods are quite … good. But still not really French.

    In fact there is a place in Melbourne, called Lune, which apparently has been proclaimed by the NYTimes to make the best croissants in the world:
    https://wishmagazine.theaustralian.com.au/959145/lune-in-fitzroy/
    The owner/chef, Kate Reid learned her trade from Christophe Vasseur the owner/boulanger of Du Pain et des Idées, in the 10th arr.; so maybe it might pass my test (though of course the NYT author really meant best in world “outside France”. But from experience I reserve my judgement until I try their stuff.

    I love the look of Cafe Campagne, and your top photo is very evocative for me. One reason is that the dinner service is almost identical to mine! It has the fine red line around the perimeter (and on the cups) but without the printing. IMO trés elegant, simply without overt fussiness. I bought a setting-for-two from BHV (now BHV-Marais) when I lived on Ile St Louis (it being my neighbourhood store!) but sadly removalists managed to crush (or drop) the box containing them in one of my house/country moves and one of every pair was broken or chipped. So now it is a setting-for-one; but whenever I get it out, it still brings back my days in Paris. It’s just as well I don’t live in Seattle or I would probably attempt to steal some of their fine China!

    • Bonjour. Another informative comment from you, faithful visitor. Merci. Great observations about French bakeries (and pastry shops) abroad. They often charge high prices and fall short of delivering quality products to their (often) unsuspecting clientele. I guess after 20 years as an expat in the US, I have learned to be less discriminating and enjoy my “French moments” when I can, even if I have to pay a small fortune to do so (wine price tags, in particular, are very hard for me to stomach in the Seattle area.) As for Café Campagne and its lovely plates, it is indeed a wonderful place, one that never disappoints. Like Pike Place Market, it continues to do what it does best, without pretentiousness, ignoring the sound and the fury resulting from Seattle’s lightning speed expansion. That is why I like it there. It stays real, in spite of tourist crowds. That is more than the Emerald City can say, in many places, right now, sadly.

  3. Merci pour ça ! I have not been to Seattle in years. Inexcusable, when you consider I only live just on the other side of the Straits. This has definitely given me a new incentive to visit, especially Pike Place. A bientôt.

    • Well, then, Dave, what are you waiting for? Do cross the Straits and head over to Pike Place Market! I bet your camera will be all the happier for it! Let me know when you are in the area. Who knows? I may be around to share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

      • Absolutment! I need to get off my … anyway, you know about me and my camera? Believe it or not, Seattle is high on this year’s travel. (Lille and then Nice are already booked, so they are a little higher). I will definitely let you know when I am in the area. Ce serait un plaisir de prendre un café ou un verre de vin avec vous.

  4. Bonjour V. This was a great post! Did I ever tell you, I lived in Seattle for 9 months in my 20’s? I worked at the 4 Season Hotel as Valet. I saw Bill Gates a few times and I parked Melinda Gates Porsche. I also parked Ed Norton and Selma Hayek’s ride. I remember Ed and Selma had Starbucks coffee cups in their vehicle. I was there during the 1999 Seattle wto protests. I remember walking home (capital hill) and getting pepper sprayed by military. It was quite a time. I also remember, I was happy to find crepes easily in Seattle. 👌🏻💕🙋🏼🤔😊 Looks like there is a lot to choose from.

    • Bonjour Sandy. You knew Seattle at the right time, before the craziness (resulting from unbridled expansion) started. I bet working as a Valet at that chichi hotel was quite entertaining at times. Ed Norton and Salma Hayek: Talk about a blast from the past! She’s gone up in the {jet set} world since, hasn’t she? It was still cool back then to drink Starbucks coffee, as illustrated in movies like “You’ve Got Mail.” Funny how most people don’t remember that and love to hate the brand that started it all. They forgot the only coffee available in the US before Starbucks was “jus de chaussette” at McDo and other fine retailers. Times change… Hope all is well in New Mexico, friend.

      • You got that right V! I also worked at Starbucks in my 20’s. I still like Starbucks. Is that bad? I had great benefits and I had stocks in Starbucks. After leaving Starbucks, I sold my sticks for a trip to France. The irony. I’d probably have some money about now! I was young and wanted to have adventures. Tant pis 😉 🙋🏼

  5. hello ,mafille!!!!oh,stupefaction!!!!j’ai pu lire tout ton article en Franç!ais sans avoir rien touché!!!un miracle!!!et bravo bises

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