There’s no better way to dive into the heart of Seattle’s culinary scene then to pay a visit to Pike Place Market. With over 500 merchants packed into nine acres, Seattle’s Pike Place Market is a hub of delicious and authentic cuisine. The 100 plus year-old Pike Place Market is internationally recognized as America’s best farmer’s market.
Seattle Bites Food Tours
I arranged for an insider tour of the market from Jan Marie Johnson, founder of Seattle Bites Food Tours. The company was born out of Jan Marie’s desire to provide the same insider view of Pike Place Market that she sought while traveling to European markets. Jan Marie’s years of world travel, culinary education and creative background with The Walt Disney Company and Universal Studios Hollywood are channeled into her company. Her lively tour is full of food, historical facts and a healthy dose of fun.
During my tour we visited nine hot spots, ranging from charming specialty mom and pop eateries, to one of a kind artisan food shops to beloved neighborhood cafes. All of the merchants we visited embrace an entrepreneurial spirit that delights locals and tourists alike. Prepare yourself to be transported to France, New York, Germany, Alaska and Tanzania as I take you on a virtual tour of Pike Place Market.
TASTE Restaurant – My tour began with a restaurant that embraces a seasonal, local, organic and sustainable food philosophy. TASTE Restaurant supports 55 local vendors and composts over 90% of food scraps. Located adjacent to the Seattle Art Museum, the restaurant’s walls are adorned with a revolving art collection and the chef creates unique dishes and cocktails to support the look and feel of each collection. We sampled the Lummi Island Salmon Flatbread, an “artworthy” flatbread topped with fresh salmon and cilantro.
Crepe de France – Inspired by the taste of authentic crepes enjoyed while traveling in Paris, the owner of Crepe De France returned to Seattle with the dream of opening a crepe-focused eatery. Crepe de France offers sweet and savory crepes 19 different ways. We sampled a delicious warm banana Nutella crepe paired with locally made, lavender flavored Dry Soda. These cuisine-inspired sodas come in unexpected flavors including cucumber, vanilla bean, lemongrass, kumquat, juniper berry and rhubarb.
I Love NY Deli – With ingredients such as aged pastrami flown in from NY, you’re sure to get authentic fare at I Love NY Deli. Native to the east coast, the owner serves nothing that his Jewish grandmother wouldn’t love. I noshed on a delicious pastrami sandwich, dill pickle, potato knish and perfectly paired celery soda.
Pike Place Chowder – Enjoy chowder served eight different ways – Clam Chowder, Seafood Bisque, Smoked Salmon Chowder, Manhattan Clam Chowder, Vegan Chowder, Southwestern Chicken and Corn Chowder, Market Chowder, and Seared Scallop Chowder. This award-winning clam chowder was inducted into the Great Chowder Cookoff of Newport Rhode Island Hall of Fame after winning the “Nation’s Best Clam Chowder” three years in a row. We savored a cup, perfect on a rainy winter day in Seattle.
Uli’s Famous Sausage – Owner Uli Lengenberg is a 6 foot 6 inch master German butcher with a personality as big as his frame. While in Taipei, he met his wife who convinced him to bring his sausage making skills to her hometown of Seattle. Uli hand prepares all his sausage, following the strict rules of a master German butcher, using no bi-products or preservatives. He’s created 26 original international recipes. Our tasting included a traditional gourmet bratwurst with fresh sauerkraut, coupled with curried ketchup and spicy mustard.
Pure Food Fish Market – Seattle is world famous for fish, and some of the best is found at this 92-year-old fish market. Owner Sol Amon, affectionately known as the “cod father,” is the longest-tenured merchant in the market today. We sampled the fresh Alderwood smoked Alaskan King Salmon, a delightful way to pack in your Omega 3’s!
Corner Produce – The owner for the past three years, an ex-investment broker turned produce expert, proclaimed he loves his job. His team takes four hours to set up the stand every morning, painstakingly going through each piece of produce and putting the ripest on top. Handing out fresh cut samples of apples and pears, the owner entices onlookers to taste the difference in his produce. After sampling the cherries, honey mangos, Fuji apples, honey tangerines and Taylor pears, I left with a bag of fresh produce to savor at home.
Seattle Coffee Works – In Seattle there is a coffee shop on virtually every corner. The owner of Seattle Coffee Works is striving to stand apart by building direct relationships with coffee estates throughout the world and helping them to build sustainable businesses. The company specializes in single origin coffees and roasts all of its coffee beans on-site. The varieties we sampled were prepared with a French press. They also serve coffee made with a vacuum pot for a more “clean” flavor. We tasted single origin coffees from Tanzania, Sumatra and Panama. My favorite was the lighter tasting blend from Tanzania.
La Buona Tavola – Our last stop was a unique specialty foods store that carries only small production wines. All of their small vineyard wines, made from handpicked grapes, are crafted to go well with food. Our tasting included three Italian wines paired with small appetizers to bring out the full flavor of each wine. We tried a dry sparkling white Pros Ecco paired with prosciutto, a smooth red Irpinia paired with chocolate, and sparkling Fior d’Arancio with notes of orange blossoms and tangerines paired with black truffle and garlic spread.
Thanks to Jan Marie Johnson and Seattle Bites Food Tours for a stimulating tour that filled me with authentic food, delicious beverages and lasting impressions of Pike Place Market.
Each merchant demonstrated a genuine passion for their business. Sustained by the area locals, these merchants live and die by the strong relationships they build with clientele. Many prosper by offering deep expertise in a single product area (e.g., the best crepes, chowder, bratwurst or fish). Pike Place Market embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of Seattle and provides an amazing range of culinary delights for those looking to be inspired.