Seattle Spring 2009: Seattle Bites Food Tours at Pike Place Market

ChowtimesNoWord32x32This is a complementary tour from Seattle Bites Food Tours.

We had been to the Pike Place Market for so many times we have actually lost count. After a first two visits we thought we had seen everything. When I told a friend that we’re going to the Pike Place Market (again!), I remember him telling me that the place is so boring, nothing to see and do.

This time it is different. This time we were there for a purpose … to learn, to experience and to chow!


I can’t think of anyone who had been to Seattle and had not visited the Pike Place Market. After all, this place is the oldest farmer’s market in the US and is considered the mother of all public markets.

I am going to do this story in two parts. Today, I am going to share with you a little about what we learned at the Pike Place Market. I am going to also describe the Seattle Bites Food Tour. Tomorrow, it will be all about the food at the Pike Place Market … awesome food, and lots of it too.


We had an invite from the Seattle Bites Food Tours to experience the Pike Place Market in a way that is not possible if you are there on your own. When we got the invite we jumped on it. It so happened too that I had to clear my vacation days (which had ballooned to over six weeks).

We went with the primary expectation of tasting the food. What we encountered was beyond our expectations. Not only is this a walking food tour but it is also a historical journey of the Pike Place Market.


The meeting point was at the Seattle Art Museum which is located one block from Pike Place Market. We met Jan Marie Johnson who was our guide for the tour. She is very familiar with the market and knows the merchants very well.

We had a little tour of the Seattle Art Museum where Jan Marie pointed out to us many interesting facts and historical buildings around the Art Museum.


Suanne and I were given personal listening devices. It was particularly useful when walking through the din in the market. What I like is that this allows me to roam away to have a closer look at other stores while at the same time keeping in touch with what is being said.


We were also issued shopping bags in the event we wanted to buy anything from the market or from the places we went to.


The history of the Pike Place Market started way back in the early 1900’s. You know where the exact place where it all began? It was at where the UPS truck you see above. Jan went on to describe (illustrated with old photos) of the early days — I felt that I was there!

Throughout the entire 2.5 to 3 hour tour, Jan Marie brought us through starting with the events leading to the founding of the public market, to the depression era, the expansion years, World War II, the near demolition of the place and to the modern day. It is today a flourishing public market like no other.


We had always wonder about the bronze pig at the entrance of the Pike Place Market. This is Rachel and it’s a real piggy bank. This piggy bank has in it just about every kind of currency in the world.


The Pike Place Market is made up of a collection of interconnected buildings … everyone with a colorful history behind them. It was interesting to learn little things about the age of the wooden pillars … the why this building (the Economy Market) in those days had “wheelchair friendly” ramps …


… or why the North Arcade were designed with lights like the above … or why one side of the arcade is call the dry market and the other the wet one …


… and the stories behind these tiles with names of donors inscribed on them …


… while some names were inscribed on bronze pig hoof …


… and locating the very first tile of 45,000 tiles …


… or the love story behind these numbered tiles (see a pattern with those numbers?) …


… or what these marks on the ground is all about.


And little did we know that the Seattle’s Pike Place Market cobbled stone road were made from the rubble of another American city in exchange for lumber to rebuild the damaged city (guess which city).


It is also at the Pike Place Market that is the home and humble beginnings of the world famous brand names. Can you name a few of the brand names?


We were also brought to this alley (we would not have found it ourselves) that has the grossest wall in the world. I remember encountering this sort of thing at the Coit Tower in San Francisco … it was already gross but this one is twenty times bigger. See this blog post of the puny version in San Francisco.

Man … if Suanne pushes me against the wall, I’ll rather die then and there rather than having to deal with the thought of it.


The Seattlelites (is that what we call people in Seattle?) are a creative bunch. They use used gums to even make names or messages. You really got to see this wall.


And I contributed to the yucks … that yellow one is mine. I did not even bother to press it in.


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  1. ScoobyDoo

    Ok, that’s sooo gross! But it’s kinda like roadkill because I can’t stop staring it. Do you recall where is was located? Next time I’m in Seattle I’d like to try to find it.

    1. Ben

      Hi Scooby Doo: I don’t know exactly how to explain the location properly. It is just outside the Improv theatre … also by where the Pike Place Market management office is. I think if you ask any of the store people, they will be able to point you to the direction.

  2. anna

    Is the city Chicago?!?!?!?!

    1. Ben

      Hi Anna: This is in Seattle. Ben

      1. William

        I think Anna meant:

        Is the answer to the question about the cobblestone road and the city Seattle traded with for wood Chicago?

        1. Ben

          Hi William and Anna: Oh duh. The rubble/cobblestones came from San Francisco.

        2. anna

          Thanks William for clarifying the question for me 😀

          1. Ben

            Hi Anna: I felt so stupid answering the way I did to your question. LOL! You see, I actually write all my articles days in advance and set it to auto publish at a set time everyday. So, I had forgotten most of what I wrote and did not recall I ask the question of “which city?”. Sorry about that!

  3. Kai

    What is the love story behind the numbered tiles? That sounds like an awesome way to take a tour of the place. How do you get invited? Do you have to pay?

    1. Ben

      Hi Kai: We got invited because of this blog really. And no, we did not have to pay for this tour. On the numbered tiles, can you see a pattern in those numbers? Ben.

        1. Suanne

          You got it Styledish … they were prime numbers.

  4. holly

    wow, this tour sounds right up my alley. I have been through the Seattle underground tour in the past, but this sounds even more interesting as it combines art, history and food, three of my favourite things.

    thanks for sharing.

  5. Raka

    Hey….doesn’t that pig look a lot like the one in Florence, Italy!! Am going to Seattle in June 2010….will definitely check out some of those sights at Pike Place Market. Not that gross wall though !!!!

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