A Hamburger Today
The Crumpet Shop at Pike Place Market, Seattle
The Crumpet Shop
1503 1st Avenue, Seattle WA 98101 (b/n Pike and Pine Street; map); 206-682-1598
How often do you eat crumpets? Probably not enough. This is something you realize at The Crumpet Shop in Seattle's Pike Place Market. Slightly richer-tasting and puffier than English muffins, these edible sponges soak up honey, blackberry preserves, thick pats of butter, or whatever else you decide to slather on top.
The shop—covered in Alice in Wonderland tea party murals and signs announcing free tea refills—first opened 34 years ago by Gary Lasater and Nancy McFaul, a husband-and-wife team who aren't actually British, just pro-crumpet Americans.
The namesake starch remains the star here, as proven by the smiley Crumpet Man in the window repeating the same pour-batter-onto-griddle-shape-then-flip routine to keep up with the hundreds of daily orders. He's kind of like the hand-pulled noodle men in Chinatown restaurant windows—you just can't stop watching them in action.
Leaving here without a crumpet should be a felony, but the whimsically illustrated menu signage is full of other delicious non-crumpet items. The scones aren't the traditional dry and questionably stale kind. Sliced into triangles from a big cake-like round, these are fluffy and ready to be filled with preserves like blackberry (sweet or tart) or apricot from the Washington's local Deer Mountain Preserves.
Oat lovers will appreciate the option of groats, more common in barnyards as a treat for horses than on menus for humans. The grain is the least processed member of the oat family, meaning it's been hulled from the husks but not rolled or steel-cut yet, so the cooking time runs a crazy-long 45 minutes. Groats are as hardcore as oats get—hearty and thick, popping in your mouth like risotto.
While oatmeal is already a stick-to-your-bones food, groats are like Krazy Glue. I wasn't hungry for at least six hours later. "The groats were actually an accident. I meant to buy wheatberries for my famous bread recipe," said Nancy. She's kept them on the menu ever since.
The $3.75 bowl includes the classic toppings like honey, brown sugar, currants, and milk (soy, skim, or whole), or you can supersize it for another buck and they'll throw in a crumpet.
Charming isn't really a strong enough word for the Crumpet Shop. The owners' son Robin is usually at the register, remembering regulars and asking unfamiliar faces if this is their first time crumpet-ing. He'll remind you of the latte happy hour between 7 and 8:30 a.m. (only $1.80 a mug!) and all-day free tea refills policy (all of the leaves are carefully selected by his tea junkie dad).
You'll want to linger here and put back crumpets all day, whether topped with maple butter (The Vermont), pesto eggs (Green Eggs and Ham), or just the simple ricotta (their first topping on the menu). But when the time comes to face a less nooks-and-crannies-filled reality, at least you can grab a six-pack on the way out. In Crumpet Shop lingo this means a takeaway bag of six freshly-griddled crumpets, straight from the Crumpet Man himself. **
**He threw in some mini heart-shaped crumpets too for Valentine's Day.