If you’re a Seattle local, one of your fantasies probably involves a perfect afternoon along the waterfront. On this perfect day, you’ll eat an unforgettable lunch at Pike Place, followed by a cone of marionberry and sage ice cream. Then, you’ll traipse through the empty market like the star of a musical, handpicking the perfect produce for a salad you’ll throw together for all of your friends later.
In reality, Pike Place is overrun by loud tourists with sticky hands, it’s raining, and the only ice cream in the vicinity is tutti-frutti flavored. To top it off, those salad components cost $42. But not all hope is lost. An unforgettable lunch is still in the cards - as long as you have it at Matt’s In The Market.
This second-story seafood classic in the middle of Pike Place has been around since 1996, which is practically prehistoric times for a Seattle restaurant. We’ll be the first to tell you that Matt’s is a total tourist trap. It has “In The Market” in its name after all, and every hotel concierge in the city sends their guests here. But when you walk into this little room with checkerboard-tiled floors and giant half-moon windows that frame the Public Market Center sign outside, you’ll feel the magic of Seattle. And then the Frasier theme song will probably start playing in your head.
We recommend lunch here for two reasons. First, it’s the only time when you can see the whole market below you, and second, our favorite menu item - the fried catfish sandwich - is only available from 11:30am to 2:30pm. The crispy fish, sambal mayo, and shredded romaine on soft potato bread is delicious in its unchanged simplicity and is a refreshing break from fussier things that new, cool restaurants are serving. To round out the meal, tack on the hot caramelized onion bacon dip with homemade potato chips, and end things with the candy bar square, which is what would happen if a Theo’s salted almond butter cup and a Lindor truffle gave a Snickers bar an intervention. Other things here are good too, like the pork confit banh mi and the mixed green salad, but just know that you’re not doing yourself any favors if you don’t order the catfish.
You will probably never live out your dream day at Pike Place. It turns out you can’t control the weather or the herds of tourists excited about pepper jelly samples after all. But if you sit two stories above the chaos eating a catfish sandwich at Matt’s, you’ll feel like the star of a Seattle sitcom. Just not one where you live in a lavish Queen Anne apartment with your retired cop father and disregard social cues. That one already exists.
We shouldn’t need to convince you to order homemade salt-and-pepper chips dipped into a mixture of creamy cheese, caramelized onions, and bacon. Once you walk in and see the huge basket of crispy russets that resembles Mt. Rainier, you’ll know you need to eat them.
This is the salad that comes with the sandwiches, and even though it’s “just a side salad,” the greens, blue cheese, pepitas, and garlicky dressing work together very well.
If Kidz Bop covers taught us anything, it’s that you don’t mess with a classic. Same goes with the fried catfish sandwich that has been on the menu at Matt’s for over 20 years. Trust that the crispy fish, shredded lettuce, sambal mayo, and untoasted potato bread will come together to create something amazing.
This banh mi is loaded with pork belly, spicy mayo, hoisin sauce, and thickly-sliced pickled vegetables on a chewy baguette, resulting in a messy sandwich that you might have to take down with a fork and knife. It’s perfectly fine, which is why you should opt for the perfect catfish sandwich instead.
If an ordinary Snickers bar can turn a hungry Betty White back into a normal person, this upscale deconstructed version can turn a normal person into Betty White.