Friday, 3 January 2014

Pike Place Chowder

Even though my family goes on semi-annual road trips to America, we never really find the effort to go try new food. We've developed this one-meal-a-day schedule making it rather difficult to convince everyone to try a new restaurant when all cravings are for Sweet Tomatoes (which is one of my favourite restaurants ever, but still.) So finally, after pestering my father year after year, he finally promised to drive through downtown Seattle so we could have some clam chowder. The good stuff.
Pike Place Chowder @ Pike Place Market
Parking at Pike Place Market isn't free, but thankfully it isn't outrageous. Between 0 and 1 hour is $3 and between 1 and 2 hours is $6. Payment is made via a machine by the elevator on the Main floor. My tip is to keep your eye on the time and set aside at least 15 minutes to get back to the garage to avoid missing your desired time deadline. I believe it is only around $8 for all day parking if you enter before 9am.

Pike Place Chowder @ Pike Place Market
So finally, we are at Pike Place! Surprisingly, even on a Monday, there were so. many. people. everywhere. I understand that it's a tourist area but even when I visited in the summer, there weren't that many people bustling about. As a reference, the line up for the original Starbucks was out the door and down to the corner of the street. It was insane.  

Looking at the Post Alley sign on Pine Street
The famed Pike Place Chowder is located on a street called 'Post Alley'. It isn't accessible by car and there is only a street sign at one end. Just so happens we completely missed that end and made a gigantic circle around the block just to find it was a 200 metre walk from where the parking elevator was. It really is an alley that is a back lane turned business area. 

The fastest way to get to Pike Place Chowder is to walk from the tulip shop (under the giant Public Market sign on top of the roof outside) down Pine Street about 100 metres. The entrance to Post Alley is directly across the street from Sur La Table, a home good store. 

Pike Place Chowder Menu
We arrived just before noon, and juuuuust before the mad lunch rush of both tourists and office workers. The line up was just barely around the corner when we got there and the wait wasn't too long. There is one employee ladling the soup and another one ringing up the cashier, making the line of hungry customers chug along smoothly. Both employees were very patient and generous with us indecisive first-timers, even if their stiff facial expressions look otherwise. At first, we were going to order four large bowls of soup but then we saw a quart size of soup available (which is equivalent to two larges). He already poured soup into one of the large bowls but simply dumped it out and scooped us a quart size. Even though the menu board is already full of writing, I think they need to indicate the price of the quart to let customers know that it is an option.
A quart (32 oz) of Clam Chowder ($13.95), large (16 oz) Seafood Bisque and Market Chowder ($8.45 each)
After all the lengthy talk about everything other than food, it's time to talk about the soup!
The "Nation's Best" New England Clam Chowder did not disappoint. I've always preferred New England over Manhattan clam chowder. I've had some clam chowders that tasted like pure cream while others were much too watery, and many that didn't have enough clams. But all aspects of this soup were balanced. Soft and bouncy clams with not too much potato all in a luscious creamy soup that was flavourful even on its own. No salt or pepper needed here, or any of our other soups, at all! The family had no problemos trying to finish that quart. Next we ordered two specialty chowders, the Seafood Bisque and their market special, aka daily special. As I was spooning myself a portion of the Seafood Bisque, I hit the jackpot and found myself a succulent piece of crab meat. There was also shrimp (note: NOT prawns) and some pieces of assorted fish. It was had a bit of a sour flavour from the tomato-based cream soup which was a completely different experience for the tongue. This soup was well received by the family as well. The third soup was the Crab & Oyster Chowder, the market special written on a separate small chalkboard. Although the other two creamy soups were mighty delicious, this would be my favourite if I had to pick one (but please don't make me). There was not monstrous chunks of crab and oyster floating about to just to appear as if you got your moneys worth, but it was evident through the taste that the soup had been slowly simmered with fresh seafood to achieve such a deep and rich soup. Both the crab and oyster juices could be tasted in the base of the soup. Different types of seafood, herbs and blends of spices are used to create each soup, yielding a different colour and flavour. All three soups were served hot and each are definitely worth the hype. My brother, who avoids seafood like the plague happily slurped and sampled all three soups without any complaints, and even offered to clear off the remaining soup at the end.

There really isn't a need to purchase the bread bowl unless it is purely for photography reasons. (I actually think a bread bowl fits less soup) There are individually bagged pieces of sourdough bread, from the middle of the bread bowls, that are free to take. Just grab an extra piece to soak up the creamy goodness on the same shelf as all the plastic cutlery and napkins are. If you plan to purchase a large or quart to share amongst several people, ask for extra small bowls. They will not hesitate to provide you with some. In addition, there are some free mint chocolates by the cashier if a little sweet is needed to finish off the meal.

I recommend avoid coming at peak meal times. Come for an early or late lunch so that there will be a better chance of having a table to sit at. There isn't much covered seating available as the restaurant resembles more of an open garage. If it is a dry day, there are a handful more tables outside, but even those will fill up very quickly. Also keep in mind that Pike Place Chowder closes at 5pm everyday.

Pike Place Chowder well deserves their rave reviews; they serve flavourful creamy soups that are perfect for a chilly autumn or winter's day. Prices are reasonable and portions are hearty enough for a meal. My only complaint is that there isn't one in Vancouver!

Pike Place Chowder on Urbanspoon

Love from Coconut Crumpet's Corner ♡

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