Chowder Chronicles: Pike Place Chowder

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Pike Place Chowder is another Seattle chowder institution. Their story, which is worth reading, talks about how they overcame assumptions that only New Englanders could create authentic, top-quality chowder – assumptions harmful when applied to any kind of food, no matter what. The best ________ may often come from that food’s region of origin, but it is not an absolute requirement.

Pike Place Chowder has won Nation’s Best Chowder at the biggest chowder competition and many other awards.

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So this picture wasn’t take n at the Pike Place Market location. I’ve had Pike Place Chowder a dozen times over the years, but never at the famous Pike Place Market location, because the market is always overrun with mobs of tourists.

This day, however, I had some extra time so I decided to check out the Pike Place Market location, which I had never seen.

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This is the the part of Post Alley the chowder shop is located down. Another section of Post Alley is home to the Gum Wall. Although this section is less unsanitary, it is just as crowded.

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I turned back immediately when I saw this huge line. I hate waiting without anything to do, and it would take less time to walk to my usual Pike Place Chowder location than waiting in line.

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Pacific Place is a high-end shopping mall located 0.4 miles from Pike Place Market. It’s a calming place because it has a limited selection of merchants, limited walking space, and few cheap fast fashion retailers, making it a place you’d only go into with a specific purpose, not a place you’d hang out for hours in. There’s a Pike Place Chowder on the sunny top floor, where the restaurants are. A Din Tai Fung is being built next to it.

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I ordered the classic New England Clam Chowder, made from clams, bacon, onions, potatoes, cream, and seasonings. I’m also a fan of the Seafood Bisque (cod, salmon, shrimp, tomato) and Southwestern Chicken & Corn (chicken, corn, southwestern vegetables).

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The clams have an excellent meaty texture, the kind that gets you to chew and chew. The chowder has a subtle sweetness that complements the solids. It’s easy to see why this won so many awards.

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The complimentary slice of sourdough that comes with orders is nothing special. Although the bakery, Coeur d’Alene Bakery, boasts its sourdough starter as being over 120 years old, there is no unique, interesting, or even strong flavor to this bread. The texture and structure are similarly unremarkable, lacking structural strength, chew, and air pockets. It’s not a bad slice but it’s not a highlight like the sourdough bread at Duke’s Chowder House, which is also a soft sourdough but unforgettable in its goodness. Pike Place Chowder does stock the best oyster crackers brand on the market, Westminster Bakers Co. crackers.

To end, I snagged some Andes mints kept next to the register. Those things are 26 calories each and not the best palate cleanser after a cooked dairy soup, but they’re yummy regardless.

Next week, I’ll be reviewing Ivar’s Acres of Clams, an unpretentious, eccentric local chain.

 

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