How is it that The New York Times discovered Melrose Market months before the majority of Seattleites did? Surprisingly, much of Seattle has yet to venture through the doorway of this triangular oasis bordering downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill. From the street, the building’s khaki brick facade conceals its inspired interior. Step inside and be transported to someplace entirely foreign yet oddly familiar. The gentle hum of activity and ethereal diffused light create a buffer, as though the outside world can not penetrate the tranquility within.
It is difficult not to draw comparisons to San Francisco’s ferry building, likely muse for this luminous, exposed beam beauty. This scaled down version makes up for limited stature with a host of period details such as exposed brick and leaded glass windows paired seamlessly with European-style tiling and stained cement floors. The thread of connectivity is undeniable yet Melrose Market’s obscure location attracts a hipper, more locally driven population as opposed to the throngs of tourists swarming the ferry building on any given day.
Melrose Market came to fruition as a result of careful collaboration between two local developers, Liz Dunn and Scott Shapiro. Their vision: create a platform where exceptional food, drink, style and music converge under one roof. Each space is occupied by one of a kind purveyors with a local, independent bent. The beauty of the market lies squarely within its limitations. There is little room for growth save for a few vacant spaces; yet high ceilings lend to an open air vibe and the floor plan belies its tight quarters. The brilliant architects behind this beautifully renovated space ought to win an award for their ingenuity.
Rain Shadow Meats is resident butcher with arguably the best and most diverse meat selection in the city. Across the way, Homegrown serves up inventive sandwiches and salads highlighting local, organic ingredients and a commitment to sustainability shared by adjacent cheese shop, The Calf & Kid, where an impressive cheese case is dominated by Northwest cheese makers. Bar Ferd’nand is half bar, half wine shop and the ideal pit stop for those awaiting a table at Sitka & Spruce, Matt Dillon’s stunning reincarnation of his Eastlake restaurant, occupying an airy, intimate space at the far end of the building. Sandwiched between the bar and restaurant is Marigold and Mint, where a menagerie of beautiful odds and ends encircle one long table whose weathered surface remains hidden beneath pails and vases brimming with happy flowers in brilliant hues, mason jars sprouting fragrant herbs, and rustic baskets filled with newly harvested onions, carrots and potatoes, bits of soil still clinging to their skins.
Independent music store Sonic Boom Records occupies one of two exterior spaces with knowledgeable staff and an impressive selection of new and used music. Next door is Velouria, where conscience meets style with a spotlight on hip, wearable clothing and accessories for men and women by independent designers. Located on the lower level is Still Liquor, night owl of the marketplace and purported servers of strong, inventive libations.
Head to Melrose Market for tonight’s brisket and you may find yourself lugging home a canvas tote brimming with garden fresh vegetables, cheery flowers, a crusty loaf of bread, an unctuous wedge of fromage, a luscious bottle of red, a laid back dinner soundtrack and a smart new ensemble to spruce up your wardrobe.
Note to self : Next time, be sure to bring along an extra tote.