Seattle is at the frontier of fine Northwest dining, but you can find plenty of free food here, too. At Pike Place Market, you can send home a shipment of smoked salmon, and also sample your way through the food stalls, tasting spiced nuts, Rainier white cherries, jam, bread and more.
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, which started in Seattle and opened an outpost in New York City last year, offers plenty of samples of cheese and crackers at its Pike Place location. It is also where you can try cheese curds, bits of fresh cheese. I don’t really get the appeal of this, but I seem to be in the minority.
If you actually want to spend some money, Beecher’s makes excellent grilled cheese sandwiches, including a spectacularly rich one with Dungeness Crab and the flagship cheddar cheese. If you are traveling with a kid, or want to indulge your inner child, get a bowl of the creamy macaroni and cheese.
If you buy some cheese for a picnic, you will want bread to go with it. Le Panier bakes authentic French bread daily. They are also quite generous with the samples. We stopped in to get coffee and croissants for breakfast and they gave us each half a Pain au chocolat to try.
Piroshky, sadly, doesn’t give out samples, but their namesake stuffed pies are ideal for strolling and eating. The spinach egg and cheese makes a filling, bargain breakfast to go; we also tried the sauerkraut, carrot and cabbage piroshky figuring we were still on NY time, so it was really lunch.
If you prefer sweets for breakfast, there are cream cheese and berry pasties, apple cinnamon rolls and tantalizing marzipan rolls.
Oliver’s Lounge, in the Mayflower Park Hotel, a few blocks from Pike Place Market, offers a Bloody Mary that is practically a meal, with an olive, an onion, and pickled asparagus. Time your visit for happy hour, weekdays from 4:30-6pm, where you can have free appetizers with your drinks.
We saw kids scarfing down the pigs in blankets, so this is a good place to give the kids a free snack while the adults try one of the signature martinis. We stuck with the vegetarian options: cheese and crackers and crudite.
Now if we could just drink for free…