From 1908 until 1957, shoppers at Pike Place Market who smelled the transcendent aroma of freshly roasting coffee knew that the source of that olfactory pleasure was probably Manning’s. For nearly four decades, Manning’s provided market-goers with the beans and beverage that a subsequent and more famous flagship and delicious independent places now supply.
Manning’s giant coffee roaster was right in the middle of the restaurant, and in the early days, the price per cup was just 2 cents. The coffee, their advertisements proclaimed, was fresh roasted hourly. Soon enough, Manning’s customers could purchase cafeteria items to complement their cup of Joe. By the 1920s, the Manning family moved to Palo Alto and took their corporate headquarters to San Francisco. During the 1930s, they opened Manning’s up and down the west coast, including more in Seattle.
Betty MacDonald wrote about frugal Manning’s lunches in her 1950 memoir, Anybody Can Do Anything:
“The dining room was three flights up in the market loft, so we climbed the stairs, got our coffee, climbed more stairs and sat down at the large table by the windows always saved by our friends and always commanding a magnificent view of the Seattle waterfront, the islands and Puget Sound. Our friends, mostly artists, advertising people, newspapermen and women, writers, musicians, and book-store people, carried their sandwiches boldly and unashamedly in paper bags.”
I’d liked Lowell’s Restaurant at Pike Place Market for years before discovering that this space was the original Manning’s. Like Betty’s description of Manning’s, dining at Lowell’s provides great views of Elliott Bay. The classic Manning’s pleasure of watching ferry boats coming and going is augmented at Lowell’s with the happy sight of the slowly revolving Seattle Great Wheel.
Each floor at Lowell’s has its charm: on the top floor, the view. On the middle floor, the quaint vintage wooden booths (and table service). On the main floor, the bustle of communal tables right next to the kitchen action. Tourists and locals mingle and enjoy.
There are very few places at Pike Place Market where the past is not redolent. But the Lowell’s space’s continuous use as a restaurant/café for more than a century makes it a particularly fine place to time travel.
P.S. I’ve added a list of some of my favorite blogs and some useful research links to this website. Check it out here.
April 2, 2015