EVERY DAY, HORDES of visitors to Seattle queue up on the sidewalk at Pike Place Market to get their daily jolt of caffeine at what they think is the very first Starbucks location in the world. On the way to stand in line, they walk right by the real one.
Starbucks, which counts as a local business in Seattle, is the world’s largest coffeehouse chain, and tourists step off their cruise ships and airplanes and head downtown in throngs to make a pilgrimage to “the original” shop. But the very first Starbucks location actually was a block down the street, hidden in plain sight on one of the busiest corners in the city: where Virginia Street forks sideways into Western Avenue and Pike Place. It is passed by thousands of people a day, many clutching the distinctive white and green cups in their chilly hands.
Like something out of a Harry Potter novel, 2000 Western Ave., though it exists on Google maps, is no longer a real address, and the restaurant at the location now gets its mail sent to 2010 Western Ave. Appropriately, the offerings at the current spot, the Seatown Rub Shack & FishFry, are still maritime — fish and chips, oysters, clams — and their jaunty red neon crab sign seems a fitting replacement for the well-known split-tailed mermaid.