It all began with a chowder competition. Shortly after Larry Mellum and his business partner opened Charlestown Street Cafe, pretty much everyone in the kitchen was convinced they had the ultimate chowder recipe. So they decided to put each version to the test. Every Friday, they let customers sample a different chowder recipe and gave them the final say in which one made it to the menu. The smooth-as-silk winner––a creation of one of the kitchen's line cooks––became so popular, people from all across Seattle would come to wait in line just for a taste. Inspired, the restaurant decided to take the recipe on the road, entering (and winning) chowder competitions up and down the West Coast. But the real victory happened 3,500 miles away in Newport, Road Island. There, Mellum and company's chowder took home the grand prize at the Great Chowder Cook Off––the first non-New England contender to do so in the competition's 20-year history. After taking home the grand prize three years in a row, and being inducted into the chowder hall-of-fame, the recipe officially retired from competition and now spends the majority of its time watching golf. When it's not in the kitchen, that is. Today at Pike Place Chowder, guests can taste that award-winning chowder––made using freshly picked vegetables and herbs from Pike Place Market––or sample one of seven other chowders, including a smoked salmon chowder, seared scallop chowder, and a vegan chowder. For those who hit their chowder limit, there's also dungeness crab rolls flavored with top-secret seasonings and fresh salads topped with Oregon Bay shrimp, while a second location in Pacific Place Center has earned a following for its made-to-order fish 'n chips, made with either Pacific cod or wild salmon.
"Hip" and "kid-friendly" aren't often adjectives that go together, but Rebecca Pelletier changed all that when she founded Twirl Café. A mother herself, Rebecca envisioned Twirl as a place where kids and adults could come to have fun in their own ways. For children, there’s a custom-built jungle tree house, which oversees a play area replete with a train table, a reading area, and a play kitchen. For adults, the café stocks coffee, espresso, and craft beers, and provides access to free Wi-Fi so guests can catch up on the news or send out urgent chain emails. Another all-aged pleaser is the café’s menu, which includes items made with locally sourced ingredients. Dishes include breakfast sandwiches on Macrina Country biscuits with nitrate-free bacon, eggs, and Tillamook cheddar or sweet grilled melts with cinnamon, raisins, and cream cheese. And, each week the café also serves a rotating menu of dinner specials, which can include anything from barbecue chicken sliders to butternut squash lasagna. Friday nights are the real draw though, when Twirl Café invites kids to don their PJs and adults to wear their comfiest usher costume for the weekly "pizza and a movie" night.
At first glance, the kitchen of Trophy Cupcakes and Party could be taken for that of a gourmet restaurant. Pure Madagascar-Bourbon vanilla and Valrhona cocoa from France line the shelves, and local sweet-cream butter, free-range eggs, and fresh fruit fill the fridge. These are the ingredients Jennifer Shea uses to craft her daily rotating cupcake flavors, from chocolate nutella to gluten-free red velvet. With the help of husband Michael Williamson, she distributes her decadent handheld desserts to three Seattle boutiques, which have garnered press attention to rival that of the city's finest eateries. Martha Stewart gushed about Jennifer's innovative and widely varied flavors, and Seattle magazine picked six Trophy creations for its 2008 list of the city's 95 best desserts.
To complement their cupcakes, Trophy Cupcakes stocks a curated selection of party supplies. A cocktail-style party room in Wallingford Center, which can accommodate up to 30 guests, is available to rent for birthday parties, baby showers, and superhero business meetings.
Named for the Hungarian word for chocolate in what one UPC Times writer calls “a nod to the Slavic history of the neighborhood,” kakao serves café drinks with a local bent and craft chocolate bars from chocolate makers such as Dandelion, Dick Taylor, and Lillie Belle. Baristas draw rich espresso from locally roasted Herkimer coffee beans and steep loose-leaf teas from Miro Tea. They also serve mochas and Ghirardelli and Valrhona hot chocolates—in flavors such as salted caramel or cardamom—from machines that swirl the drinks throughout the day, keeping them ready to pour. Conveniently, kakao complements its warm beverages with pastries from Le Panier and Macrina Bakery.
High ceilings with exposed beams hint at kakao’s warehouse past, but the space's soft track lighting and carefully selected furniture preclude the temptation to drop off a shipment of 10,000 fur coats for storage. Free WiFi also keeps patrons connected to the buzz of the Internet throughout visits.
A health-food emporium, Thrive offers gluten-free, vegetarian, and 95% raw and organic meals. Along with its lush, natural inventory, Thrive offers local community members the tools to create meals from those foods on their own. From the kale-packed raw juices to the cooking-with-kale classes, Thrive aims to make healthy eating delicious by dispelling myths that eating kale is the first step in turning into a garden gnome.
Monika Kinsman is the founder behind the scenes at Thrive, and she has always been ambitious. She drew inspiration as a child from her jet-setting single mom and entrepreneurial grandmother, and set her sights on joining the FBI after graduating high school. The unfortunate setbacks of her and her mother’s poor health momentarily altered her ambitions, opening her eyes to the healing powers of raw foods and the inspiration of community dining. Two master’s degrees and an internship with the FBI later, Monika realized that what she really wanted was to work for the betterment of herself and her community, and with that, Thrive was born.
LICK Pure Cream’s founder, Michael Avery, found his artisanal ice cream calling along the sun-drenched beaches of California. Doling out frozen cups of ice cream from a pushcart, he established a thriving business that he relocated to Seattle in June 2012. The gourmet ice-cream shop is now open inside the Zaw take-and-bake pizza shop on Pine Street in Capitol Hill, with plans to expand its frozen artistry throughout Seattle.
Earning high praise from Seattle Magazine, LICK's unique ice creams are made fresh daily from all-natural ingredients. Each variety is hand-crafted to create diverse flavor profiles that take sweet teeth on a culinary journey. Rejecting typical flavors such as chocolate or vanilla, LICK instead offers evocatively named concoctions such as Honey Bacon Buttermilk Cornbread, each crafted with intriguing mixtures of flavors. Avery and his staff also create special batches, including one infused with hand-smoked strawberries.