Downtown on a budget


While not quite as bustling as it was before the pandemic, the downtown neighborhood surrounding the Seattle Convention Center (home to ARVO 2024, May 5 - 9) still offers plenty of reasonably priced nearby options for things to do, see and eat.


Pike Place Market

Crabs on ice at Pike Place MarketOne of the few popular tourist attractions that truly isn’t over hyped, Pike Place Market is a must for inexpensive food, drinks, shopping and people watching. Just a quick walk from the Convention Center down Pike Street,  the market is very accessible and free to enter. It is open seven days a week from approximately 9am - 5pm, with many of the restaurants and bars open later. You could visit every day of the Annual Meeting and find somewhere new to eat or explore each time.


Among the tons of things to keep you occupied in the market, you can visit the notorious gum wall, watch the fishmongers toss the fish, grab a sample of free fruit, buy yourself a gorgeous bouquet of fresh flowers for $10, or peruse the many small vendors selling handmade goods from art to jewelry to hot sauces and more (this is a great place to find unique souvenirs). You can also venture downstairs into the inside of the market to find shops selling comics, records, books, vintage items, and all kinds of bits and bobs.


Some favorite cheap eats located inside Pike Place Market are:

  • Warm toasted sandwiches ($9 for a whole, $4.75 for a half), salads and freshly prepared sides at Michou Deli
  • Curry beef and BBQ pork hombows for less than $6 and various other buns and pastries at Mee Sum Pastry
  • Fried Moroccan Lamb Rolls for $7.95 and Jamaican meat pies for $8.95 at Land of Origins
  • $5 slices of the crispiest pepperoni pizza and sandwiches at DeLaurenti’s Food Market. Also a great place to find wonderfully curated specialty food items like olives, jams, salami and more
  • Some of the best clam chowder in the city for only $10 at Pike Place Chowder (Secret tip: If the line is super long, go to their second location a few blocks away on the top floor of the Pacific Place mall instead)


Downtown cheap eats

Other options for meals easy on the pocketbook within walking distance of the convention center are:

  • Xian Noodles, located inside Westlake Center, for hand pulled biang biang noodles
  • Harbor Café on 4th Ave. for their crispy fish and other Thai dishes (they also have cheap breakfast sandwiches in the morning)
  • Red Bowls on 3rd Ave. for huge rice bowls loaded with fish and other proteins and veggies
  • Spice of India on Pike Street for $10 chef specials
  • Marination on 6th Ave. for $7 Hawaiian style tacos and sliders (and even cheaper spam musubis)
  • Seattle Dogs, located in Westlake Park, for delicious hot dogs (get them Seattle style with cream cheese)
  • Sushi Kudasai, located inside the US Bank Center Building on 6th Ave., for quick and inexpensive sushi


Seattle Central Public Library

interior view of Seattle's Central Public LibraryThe Central Public Library on 4th Ave, known for its unique architecture, is worth a visit for any design nerds or bibliophiles. Find the secret red floor and take the escalator or “book spiral” all the way up to the top to fully experience the airy and open design. Located near the front entrance is the Friends of the Library bookshop where you can find discounted books and gifts to take home as well.

Sathi Maiti, OD, FAAO

Sathi Maiti is vice president of clinical research at the Periman Eye Institute and a primary care optometrist in Seattle, Wash. She graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry in 2014 where she studied endothelial cell traits as a NEI research trainee. A sub-investigator of a number of clinical trials related to dry eye and ocular surface disease, her research interests include demodex and cosmetics. Maiti sits on the editorial boards of Eyes on Eyecare and the Journal of Dry Eye and Ocular Surface Disease. She is a member of the Optometric Physicians of Washington’s Diversity, Inclusion, Access task force, volunteers as vision director of organizations Uplift Northwest and Seattle/King County Clinic, and mentors local high school students interested in eye care through Project InSight. Maiti was named one of Vision Monday’s most influential women in optical in 2021 and UCBSO’s “40 under 40” in 2023. She spends her free time crocheting, sewing, writing satire, playing with her dachshund-mix Kali, and sharing her love for all things eyeball related on her Instagram, @dr.maitiseyeballsandstuff.