Raw Oysters, Hot Staff: Emmett Watson's in Pike Place Market
A small party of wildly optimistic citizens are willing to bet that I can write a weekly, non-sports column that will keep people awake for as long as three minutes," begins Emmett Watson's first column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in August of 1956. (It goes on to say that others are betting against this, then to discuss matters such as rabid fans saving cups of water from a pool in which Elvis had swum.) Watson's column persisted for approximately an eternity (later, more soporifically at the Seattle Times) before he slipped off into the eternal night (as did the P-I itself recently, at least in any form that Watson would recognize).
The column hangs on the wall in the small dining room of Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar among fishing nets, life rings, and so forth. ("Most people have a hard time finding us the first time," says the curly-haired barkeep. "Actually, the second time, too." It's in the recesses of an arcade on Pike Place between Virginia and Stewart or, alternately, down those weird steps in Post Alley near the Pink Door.) The dining room is fine, but once you locate it, keep walking toward the back. The bar is even more nautical and more awesome, with brass portholes and oak paneling and assorted decorative detritus. Four swivel barstools are mended with duct tape, and there's seating at an island in the middle; that's about the size of it.
The place's motto is "Beer, Wine, and Food for Thought, Est. 1978." The Life Aquatic is playing on a television, while people engulf oysters on the half shell. (Oysters are $9.75 a half dozen, a daily variety served no-nonsense with cocktail sauce and lemon. Also excellent: the clam chowder, $3.50 cup/$4.50 bowl.) The menus are famously handwritten on stained loaf-of-bread-sized paper bags, except that they're actually printed and only look like they're handwritten. They are prized as Seattle souvenirs, but the printing is expensive, and the staff watches them like hawks. It's a family-run place, now owned by the son of Emmett Watson's original business partners. But "family-run" makes it sound creaky (as does, it must be admitted, "Emmett Watson's"), when in fact everyone working is young and kind of punk rock and friendly and also hot.
Before Emmett Watson's closes at around 7:00 p.m., more young, kind-of-punk-rock, friendly, also-hot people arrive—they all work at the Market, and this is their happy-hour spot. The story of the day: One of them (lovely with a sea foam green stripe in her hair) lost the diamond out of her grandmother's ring, then, at the insistence of another vendor, undertook a seemingly hopeless search. They found the diamond in a crack in the Market's tile floor.