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Pike Place’s Iconic Oriental Mart Will Reopen Thursday for To-Go Orders

The James Beard Award winner is back

The counter at Oriental Mart at Pike Place, with various hand-drawn signs displayed.
Oriental Mart has been a Pike Place Market mainstay for decades.
Esra Erol

Good news for fans of Seattle’s most-coveted salmon collar. The beloved Pike Place Market Filipino lunch counter, Oriental Mart, is preparing to open up again for takeout orders Thursday after three months of being closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Manny Apostol Jr., whose family owns the business, posted the announcement on Facebook.

Starting at 11 a.m., there will be a limited selection of items, including chicken adobo, pork adobo, chili beef, longanisa, pancit, and that famous salmon sinigang from owner and chef Leila Rosas, while supplies last. Since the counter is so small, Oriental Mart asks that all customers respect the required six feet of social distancing space, while putting in to-go requests. But expect a warm welcome from Rosas. “I think she was really missing seeing her customers,” Apostol tells Eater Seattle.

Even with those limitations, this is a triumphant return for the longtime market icon. In February, the James Beard Foundation announced that the lunch counter would be one of six recipients for its 2020 America’s Classics Award, given to local restaurants that have “timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of the community.”

But shortly after that announcement, Rosas went on a trip to the Philippines. When she came back, she self-quarantined for two weeks out of precaution, and decided to wait out the stay-at-home order from there, before reopening her counter. Meanwhile, the ceremony for the James Beard Awards has been postponed until September.

The three generation, family-owned Oriental Mart first opened in 1971 as a grocery owned by Mila Apostol, who immigrated to Seattle with her husband and children from the Philippines. In 1987, Apostol’s daughter Rosas (known as “Ate Lei”) decided to open an eatery adjacent to the grocery, with no menu, but plenty of sassy instructional signs for diners.

Since then, Rosas has been serving up wildly popular Filipino dishes using ingredients found in the store, and has become known for not just the sinigang, but also her “Do You Trust Me Plate,” which is a smorgasbord of items dependent on whatever’s in season (or whatever she feels like cooking).

Thursday also marks a significant day for the market itself. At 6:30 p.m., the Pike Place Market Foundation is hosting a live-streamed virtual fundraiser, with music and other performances from the community’s artists. The funds from the event are meant to support market vendors and residents, who have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Viewers can tune in here, and donate to the cause by texting MARKET to 91999.

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards.