The Crumpet Shop

Got the rainy day blues? Or maybe just in the mood for a cozy afternoon safe from the cloying drizzle? Either way, the comfortable charm of The Crumpet Shop is your remedy.

With window-box flowers and hand-painted signs, this sliver of paradise beckons from the hustle and bustle of Pike’s Place Market. Located one block up on 1st avenue, The Crumpet Shop has been a downtown fixture since 1976. An irresistible wafting aroma and the glimpse of baking crumpets through the window positively prevent passing this one up.

And rest assured – you don’t have to be British to appreciate these delicacies. Traditionally served with afternoon tea, crumpets are essentially thick griddle cakes, a richer and denser English muffin. The Crumpet Shop is primarily a breakfast and brunch destination, open 7:00am-3:00pm on weekdays and 7:30am-3:00pm on weekends. In recent years, the shop has transitioned to baking with organic flour and the porous texture is ideal for soaking up flavor.

For the uninitiated crumpeteer, a biscuit simply topped with butter and organic honey ($2.55) is a sweet primer to crumpet toppings. More elaborate options include homemade hazelnut chocolate and creamy ricotta cheese ($3.80), butter with almond or organic peanut butter ($3.65), or the quite adventurous blue cheese-topped orange marmalade ($3.35). Made by hand in the idyllic English town of Essex, this Thursday Cottage marmalade marries a sweet blood orange with the genuine bitterness of its peel.

In fact, charming British references abound. The shop’s walls are vibrantly graffitied with murals of Alice in Wonderland’s tea party and the Cheshire cat, here holding tea bags. Menu spelling betrays an affinity for the “-ou,” and the ambiance is cozy and inventive, a blend of time-worn comfort and well-accomplished vision.

Remarkably though, The Crumpet Shop has no distinctly Anglo roots. Husband-and-wife team Gary Lasater and Nancy McFaul began the business here in the Market some 36 years ago, and while decidedly not British, the couple has created an experience unparalleled this side of the pond.

The tradition continues in their son Robin, who is an almost-daily face behind the counter. Without fail, he and other staff members know the regulars’ routines by heart, but just because you’re new doesn’t mean you won’t receive the same energetic and accommodating service.

Employees are eager to offer recommendations and guidance among the myriad of crumpet choices. More savoury adornments include scrambled organic egg, accompanied by ham ($4.50) or cream cheese ($3.50), or both ($4.75). For a Market-fresh experience, savour the wild-caught smoked salmon paired with cream cheese and cucumber while listening to the cries of the fishmongers a block away ($3.50). The Crumpet Shop is also recognized as one of the only places in Seattle to find Marmite, a yeast extract high in B vitamins (slathered on a crumpet, $2.10).

A personal favorite layers a pat of butter, ricotta and 100%-fruit juice raspberry preserves atop a fresh biscuit ($3.65). Typically this is breakfast faire, accompanied by a fragrant cup of tea and a desire to linger. The shop’s quaint outdoor seating and window-ledge stools offer prime views on passers-by; inside seating is intimate and limited.

For the non-crumpeteer, fresh-daily scones sliced open with preserves are also available ($2.85). Oatmeal-lovers might experiment with a bowl of groats – a minimally processed organic grain neither rolled nor steel-cut – complete with the traditional fixings ($4.50). The Crumpet Shop also serves coffee and rich espresso from local Café Appassionato. A designated latte happy hour, weekdays from 7:00-8:00am, offers mugs at only $1.80.

Perhaps one of The Crumpet shop’s greatest attractions is their unlimited tea service, endless mugs for only $2.25. Thermos of their signature blend, Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, Green Herbal, Rooibos and Yerba Mate, and tin pitchers of milk, cream, and soy provide an excuse to stay all day.

And when clouds are gloomy and windows slick with rain, why not stay? This homey slice of British culture is steeped in coziness and charm. Bring a good book, or a good friend, and tumble down this cheery rabbit hole.

Published 24 October 2012 in The Falcon as “Downtown crumpet shop serves up warmth”

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