You can find Seattle’s heart and soul in Pike Place Market

You can find Seattle’s heart and soul in Pike Place Market

It’s the first thing the late Anthony Bourdain, the original rock star of the culinary world, would do when he visited a place he’d never been to.

“You see what’s for sale, you see what’s in season, you see the fundamental color palette of a cuisine,” he shared in an interview with Men’s Journal.

The sights, sounds, and flavors of public markets/central food markets offer tourists far more than a bite to eat. Here, visitors get a glimpse into the lives of people of different cultures and experience how the locals live.

The best part? There’s no cost for admission, unlike many tourist attractions.

And so, on a recent Delta+Korean Air joint media familiarization trip to the Emerald City, Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market topped our itinerary.

Located on the iconic Seattle waterfront, Pike Place encompasses a nine-acre Market Historic District overlooking Elliott Bay. It’s a popular spot not only because it’s the birthplace of Starbucks, and where some nostalgic scenes of Sleepless in Seattle were filmed, but because it’s where everyday locals and tourists alike shop, visit, eat, and discover.

You can find Seattle’s heart and soul in Pike Place Market

Tour guide Eric lets us have a taste of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese’s Flagship.

Pike Place Market: Seattle’s heart & soul

Together with Delta corporate communications manager Soomee Moon and Visit Seattle coordinator Roxana Petranek, we signed up for the Eat Seattle Pike Market food crawl.

Based in Pike Place Market, Eat Seattle offers chef-guided food tours; highlighting the best local artisans, telling their stories, and uncovering this special community.

Upon booking, Eat Seattle requires participants to disclose their food allergies so the tour operator can make the necessary arrangements with the featured establishments.

“I love talking about food allergies and diet restrictions. I’m doing this to make sure that all of you get the most out of this culinary adventure,” said our tour guide Eric, as we headed down the hill, the same spot where Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner were filmed in a famous scene in Sleepless in Seattle.

See fish fly at Pike Place Fish Market.

“That big body of water is called Elliott Bay, one of the deepest natural ports in the  world,” shared Eric as he directed our attention to the big container ships sitting on the bay waiting to go in the port —“delivering all the stuff that you guys haven’t bought yet or ordered online.”

Big cruise ships also come in the summer. Every time a cruise ship docks in the harbor, the city makes about US$6 million dollars.

“We get about 300 sailings between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” Eric added. “We make a lot of money out of the waterfront.”

However, that wasn’t the case 120 years ago.

“Our money-making capability on the waterfront has nothing to do with pleasure cruises or things ordered over the internet,” said Eric. “We had the Gold Rush somewhere in San Francisco. We figured we’d do the same exact thing here, but there’s no gold in Washington State. The gold is in Canada. But the Canadians aren’t merely aggressive enough to do anything about it.”

According to the US National Park Service, “On July 17, 1897, the steamship Portland docked in Seattle from St. Michael, Alaska, carrying 68 prospectors and what newspapers said was a ‘ton of gold.’”

Two days earlier, a similarly laden ship had arrived in San Francisco from Alaska. “What had been just a few hundred prospectors sailing from Seattle each week soon turned into a stampede of thousands. Newspapers spread the word that a great quantity of gold had been found along a remote river in what is today the Yukon Territory of Canada. The Klondike Gold Rush had begun.”

With the influx of tourists/customers, Seattle businesses began placing ads in newspapers saying: “Come to Seattle, the gateway to the Klondike.”

“All those people who came here, spending all their money  like they were in an amusement park, made everything, even the food in Seattle at the time so expensive,” Eric lamented.

And yes, it’s the inflation after the Gold Rush that gave birth to Pike Place Market.

At a time when produce prices were soaring, farmers weren’t able to recoup their costs.

“They realized that the ones who truly benefitted from it were the distributors (the middlemen),” noted Eric.

Pike Place Market was a way to connect producers directly with the public, cutting out the middlemen, and creating a community that has been a defining Seattle icon for more than a century now.

Let the food crawl begin

In operation since 1907, Pike Place Market is still as vibrant and lively today as it was  on day one. While rain is part of Seattle’s charm and Pike Place Market’s backdrop, it shouldn’t stop you from exploring this bustling center.

Visitors are greeted at the entrance by Rachel the Piggy Bank, the 550-pound bronze outdoor bronze sculpture of a piggy bank that has been raising funds for Pike Place Market Foundation.

Duck when you hear the shouts from Pike Place Fish Market. That’s the sign that the fish mongers will be flinging the daily catch  — it can be a wild silver salmon or a black cod — through the air to be caught and wrapped behind the counter.

For the food crawl, Eric had prepared an amazing eatinerary. Read on so you, too, can get to know Seattle better — one dish at a time.

•Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is an artisan cheesemaker and retail shop. Its owner Kurt Beecher Dammeier may not be a cheesemaker, but he’s been a cheese lover for as long as he can remember. “He also has a passion for food that is free from additives and preservatives,” noted tour guide Eric.

And Beecher’s Handmade Cheese finds the perfect home at Pike Place Market, a mecca for fresh produce and handcrafted items.

Beecher’s is famous for its cheeses produced in-house. The shop has glass windows that offers customers a glimpse into the cheesemaking process.

We just couldn’t get enough of Flagship, Beecher’s signature cheese. It’s a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese with a robust and nutty flavor.

“It’s carefully aged for 15 months to fully develop its complex flavor,” noted Eric.

Don’t leave the store without sampling its World’s Best Mac & Cheese. The penne pasta with mornay and a hint of spice make for a creamy mac that’s not just for kids.

•Maiz. From Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Eric led us to Post Alley, Seattle’s best known alley with its “European feel,” where Pink Door is located. It’s a fancy Italian restaurant where Eric worked as a sous chef until the pandemic struck and he got laid off from the job. From there, we went down a staircase leading to the “original” Starbucks. Next door is Maiz, a tortilleria and antojitos shop known for its corn tortillas. Here, we sampled Maiz’s guisado-style tacos — fresh corn tortillas filled with stewy braised meats.

*Pike Place Chowder. Located in Post Alley, this chowder is iconic to Pike Place. Since we were part of Team Eric, our group got to skip the line and enjoyed a small cup of this award-winning New England clam chowder, which bagged first place at Chowdafest in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015.

•Chukar Cherries. Located inside the north part of the arcade, Chukar’s Cherries offers premium dried cherries, nuts, and berries covered in chocolate. Its honey-roasted praline pecans doused in premium milk chocolate and dusted with powdered sugar taste divine.

•Pikes Pit BBQ. Here we got our barbecue fix with a pulled-pork sandwich in the company of Rachel the Piggy Bank. Pikes Pit BBQ also serves Bowls + Platters with your choice of 1/4 pound meat —  chopped pork, beef brisket, chicken thighs or all-beef hot-links — and BBQ sauce.

•Indi Chocolates. This bean-to-bar chocolate factory and cafe is actually making direct-trade chocolate, lotions, and delicious, locally roasted coffee. Must-try is their chocolate chip cookies with cacao nibs and sea salt on top.

•Honest Biscuits. Located next between Indi Chocolate and Old Stove, this buttermilk biscuit spot is all about local ingredients. And since it’s the last stop of the food crawl, we grabbed a biscuit and enjoyed the view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Rain or shine, there is so much vibrant energy at Pike Place Market. Here, we learned how artisan cheese is made, visited the “original” Starbucks store, and witnessed fish “fly.”

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Korean Air flies from Manila to Korea twice daily. Starting Dec. 2 until Mar. 31, 2023, Korean Air will have 18 flights per week.

Delta flies daily from Korea to Seattle. Starting Dec 13, it will fly 10 times weekly.