I've been living in Seattle for nearly 2 years, and grew up in the PNW. I love high quality food, cooking, great restaurants and all things food related. I have followed this board, among other resources for 4-5 years while I was at a university in this state and it has really been a good source of knowledge, both cooking and restaurant related. So now that I’m finally posting I’d like to say thanks guys. Anyway I feel like I know enough about food to join in to the conversation here and maybe be able to add something instead of just lurking. Ugh I just realized how long this is, maybe somebody will find it of use though.
Here is what I've found so far in terms of places to buy food to prepare or eat at home, by "unique," I just mean not like QFC or Safeway. I'm always on the lookout for more places so post up what you like, I'm still new to this city, I’m sure you guys can offer up suggestions I have no idea existed, I need to try that butcher Kaleo recently recommended, gotta dig up that thread, IIRC they had good prices on oxtail.
Central Co-Op: Besides some farmers markets and the occasional find at Pike Place, this is the best store I've found in Seattle hands down. Great fungi, great suppliers, they always have black garlic; great bulk section, solid meat selection. This store really has some high quality products that are hard to find elsewhere. It can be a 1 stop shop if I don't want/have time to go to 3 more stores for better bread, meat, and seafood. As far as seafood, I can only vouch for their salmon, and it is generally good, all other seafood I buy at Mutual Fish. Overall I do ~80% of my shopping here. I wish we had one in the South End, it's a 40 minute round trip drive for me on a good day sadly. Their membership used to have great benefits but they don’t anymore, so I got rid of mine.
PCC: I live sorta near the Seward Park store so I have 95% of my PCC experiences stemming from there. Produce selection and quality are decent, nothing extraordinary, mostly meets expectations, though for every time it exceeds them it also falls short a different time. Meat there is always a decent quality, selection can be limited at times though, but I’ve certainly been very impressed a few times actually. Good bulk section but overall its a small store that needs to be expanded to really compete with a store like Central CO-OP. The west Seattle PCC seems to be much better but I've only shopped there 5-6 times, solid cheese selection for sure. Seems like PCC cares more about organic, and "green," than the actual quality of the goods they sell, because the quality comes up short more than is acceptable at those prices, though as of the last month or 2 it seems to be improving a little, could just be that we’re coming out of winter.
Met Market (West Seattle location only): Their higher end goods are much higher than PCC, but their lower end goods are also much lower. Interesting assortment of goods, and I always buy stuff I didn't plan on buying here, for better or worse (usually better). I've never bought meat or fish here, so can't comment on that. Produce is a pain to buy here as they have both organic and non organic items, though sometimes (rarely) the non organic are of a higher quality so it can be a benefit. Overall I like this store and wish there was one in South Seattle. Seems like they care more about quality than organic or non-gmo, or “Green.” That’s a big win in my book.
Trader Joes and Whole Foods: Used to shop at TJ’s in school, have found the quality unacceptable now though, though they sure do have some diamonds in the rough. WF provides an ok value, their quality is generally acceptable or better. I get why people shop here, and I get why people hate it. It would be epic in somewhere like Nebraska, but in Seattle it’s just meh in my eyes.
Other places I shop at frequently but are more of specialty places:
Rain Shadow Meats: Best meat in the city, hands down. You will pay a premium for cuts like ribeyes, so not an everyday place if you only eat cuts like that, as the percentage increase in quality comes with an extremely hefty percentage price increase. Never been disappointed with their product though, inarguably delicious. Love the sandwiches at the Pioneer Square location too, seriously on the level of *gasp* Paseos ya, I said it!!! Staff here are super friendly and happy to answer questions. They have good cured meats, pates and rillettes as well. Their duck confit is great too.
The Swinery: They have some great pork products, their guanciale is extremely good. They do great lunch meats as well and their prepared food is generally very delicious. Amie is super nice, and has provided great answers to my probably absurd questions. I like picking up meats here and cheese at the nearby PCC and going to “the secret park,” in the summer, so relaxing and great views.
Bobs Butcher shop: I buy 90% of my meat here as of 2 months ago, but have been shopping here occasionally since I moved here. I love this place, can't say enough great things about it, plus its next to Columbia City Bakery. Prices are great here as well, total everyday place. They have everything from pig skin to knucklebones. Bobs provides a great value and quality at the same time, plus the staff are super nice and helpful. Now, I admit I don’t know as much about barbecue or ribs as some, but I find their smoked ribs extremely delicious with some great bbq sauce. Great snack to eat in the car on the way home too, long as you have the girlfriend or wife drive haha.
Mutual Fish: I won't buy anything other than salmon anywhere else. The fish here is top notch, better fish than I've had in most restaurants, the quality and selection are just amazing, plus it's just a cool shop. Only drawback is they aren't open Sunday, and they close at like 5:30 daily. Oh also they umm errr don't have spot shrimp, uhh ever, don't bother coming here because uhhh they just don't have them ; ) No but seriously, don't even think of coming here for spots, I want them all. Meat is to Ron Swanson what spot shrimp are to me....
Columbia City Bakery: I practically won't eat bread from anywhere else now, makes Macrina look like amateurs, seriously. Having this next to Bobs basically means if you aren't buying seafood, you can go to one store, then here and get everything you need. Or if it’s Wednesday and the farmers market is open, BOOM! You just found the best one stop shopping zone of awesomness in Seattle.
Calf and the Kid: 10/10 in every category. Used to work near here and it took a serious bite out of my cashflow. I go here for 2 reasons: 1. The knowledge of the folks behind the counter, and 2. The knowledge of the folks behind the counter. Any cheese shop can stock 100 kinds of awesome cheeses that rotate frequently and with the seasons, offer delicious condiments, and have great prices; but if they can’t help me select a product I haven’t tried yet based on my preferences, the shop is really of little use to me. Great staff here, can’t wait for their cheese bar.
Marx Foods: The Queen Anne storefront is amazing, this store is epic, small but epic. If you want some exotic or hard to find thing, they could probably get it. I go here especially for their balsamic selection, very good, even at the $20-$30 level. Worth at least checking out but I highly doubt you will be able to leave without buying at least 1 thing.
Pike Place Market: If I’m in Seattle and it’s not a zoo and I need to grab a few things I’ll go here. Occasionally I’ve found some cool stuff, 95% of it has been produce, meat and seafood down here are mostly forgettable when compared with the locations above, once you add in parking (or rail), and crowds it’s a real bummer.
Disclaimer: I buy everything with an emphasis on quality, and little to no regard is really given to price or time to procure it; I do have to eat this stuff after all. I don’t shop at major stores unless I’m buying crap like cheez itz/junk food. I have a chamber sealer, immersion circulators, pressure cookers, and a slew of other neat toys so it makes certain things that are consequently cheaper, easier to prepare. Plus that stuff is just a blast to play with.
Can’t wait to hear what the folks who have been in Seattle 10+ years have to say.
Side thought: Anyone know a shop that stocks a large selection of local and high quality gins, bitters, and other high end cocktail supplies.