Pike Place Market: A Flavorful History
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Pike Place Market: A Flavorful History

Pike Place Market is a foodie’s paradise in the heart of Seattle. With over 10 million visitors each year, this 9-acre market is the top tourist attraction in the city (move over, Space Needle). It also happens to be one of the best food markets in the United States. But how did this beloved market get its start, and how did it become so popular? Let’s take a flavorful tour of the market’s history.

Humble Beginnings

While so much of Seattle is shiny and new, Pike Place Market has been around a long time—since 1907, in fact. To be sure, the market had humble beginnings: it started out as a small farmer’s market with just a handful of vendors selling produce, dairy, and meat. Word spread quickly though: by the end of the market’s first week, the number of vendors had shot up from less than 12 to 70. Eventually, permanent stalls were built and additional market buildings were constructed so that by 1930 the market looked much like it does today.

Preserving History

By 1971, Pike Place Market had been an integral part of Seattle for nearly seven decades. That year, Seattle residents made the market’s place in the city’s ever-changing landscape permanent. That’s when Seattle’s citizens voted to establish the Pike Place Market Historic District, as well as the Market Historical Commission. These important steps allowed the city to preserve the beloved physical and social character of the market. Two years later, as a result of the vote, the City of Seattle established the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority, a non-profit organization that maintains the market’s operations to this day. All this goes to show that unique places like Pike Place Market don’t just happen by accident; cities take active steps to make sure they stay vibrant and essential.

Pike Place Market Today

And how does Pike Place Market look today? In a word: crowded. The market occupies 9 acres of prime real estate in the heart of Seattle. On that 9-acre campus, there are 24 buildings and an estimated 200 vendors. While the focus of this article is food (naturally), you can find all kinds of things at Pike Place Market, including jewelry, books, clothing, and novelties. That’s why I recommend allotting several hours for your first visit to Pike Place Market. And that’s still not nearly enough time to see and taste everything!

A Few Tips

What would this article be without a few tips? If you’re are looking to avoid crowds/lines, midweek mornings are the best time to go. And – added bonus – when you go in the morning you get to see the vendors setup, which can be a spectacle in itself. Also, keep in mind that Pike Place Market is open 363 days of the year: Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that the market is closed. Finally, so you don’t get lost in this labyrinth of amazingness, check out the market’s website (www.pikeplacemarket.org) for a handy map and directory.

Top 5 Stalls At Pike Place Market

Since Pike Place Market occupies 9 acres and has hundreds of vendors, it can be hard to know where to start on your tasty tour. Luckily, I’ve compiled a little list of my top five vendors at Pike Place Market.

1. Starbucks

I know what you’re thinking: “Really Jade, a worldwide mega-chain on your local top five?” Hear me out though. The Starbucks location at 1912 Pike Place is the oldest Starbucks in existence (the original location across the market on Western Ave was relocated here in the mid-70s). For all lovers of the Starbucks brand who happen to be in Seattle, a pilgrimage to the Pike Place location is a must. As far as offerings go, it’s not too different from what you would find at most Starbucks, but for history nerds like me, a stop is definitely in order.

2. Pike Place Fish Market

Without a doubt the second most famous stall at the market is the Pike Place Fish Market. Even if you haven’t heard of this stall, there is a good chance you’ve seen its handiwork. Ever see the footage of fresh fish being thrown across the stall, only to be deftly caught and packed? Pike Place Fish Market is home to the famous “fish throwers,” as they affectionately call themselves. But flair alone isn’t enough to make the top five. This stall also happens to sell some of the freshest fish around, and they’ve been doing so since 1930. Oh, and did I mention the fish is 100% sustainable?

3. Piroshky Piroshky

Piroshky Piroshky is a delicious – and very popular – Russian bakery in Pike Place Market. Owned and operated by Olga Sagan, this compact bakery has been a Pike Place staple since 1992. They serve over 20 varieties of piroshkies: hand-held pies with sweet or savory fillings. The iconic Eastern European treats at this bakery are always hand-made, so you can expect the absolute best quality.

4. Pike Place Chowder

Didn’t get enough seafood at the Pike Place Fish Market? Let’s face it, there’s always room for more, especially when you are on the beautiful Pacific coast. Pike Place Chowder is another local go-to for fresh seafood. As you may have guessed, the main draw here is chowder—several varieties of it, including a vegan lime and coconut chowder! Unlike some of the other entries on this list, Pike Place Chowder is a full-service restaurant, so feel free to grab a seat and chow down on some chowder. If the Pike Place Market location is too crowded, you can also hit their second location at the nearby Pacific Place Center.

5. DeLaurenti Food & Wine

This popular shop has been operating out of the market since 1946. Locals love their vast selection of wines and cheeses, as well as their amazing charcuterie. They also sell olive oils, pastas, pizza, and Italian sandwiches. Pro tip: be sure to take advantage of the daily specials, like “Meatball Monday.”

“If you enjoyed this article or have suggestions on how we can improve it, please leave us a comment below. Also, make sure to check out other dishes I’ve created or stories I’ve written about food culture – here.”

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