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Taste Seattle: Off the Eaten track
Seattle begins at Pioneer Square, the historic heart of the city’s original downtown. Rebuilt after a catastrophic fire in the late 1880s, this neighborhood of Richardsonian Romanesque style enjoyed a turn as Seattle’s “it” scene before deteriorating into the city’s “skid road.” A brief revival largely fueled by artists took place in the 1980s and early ’90s. Once home to the storied Elliott Bay Book Company, the area again lost a bit of favor with both residents and tourists at the end of the 20th century, when suddenly trendier districts such as Belltown and Capitol Hill started to attract more attention. For a few years, jury duty seemed to be the only reason anyone would visit.
But the intrinsic appeal of Pioneer Square couldn’t be overlooked for long. Restaurateurs especially have rediscovered the area, opening all sorts of eateries in the classic buildings that give the neighborhood its singular charm.
With Taste Seattle Food Tours, you can explore Pioneer Square one bite at a time. The walking tour covers about a 1-mile chunk of the district’s 20 square blocks in a leisurely 3.5-hour stroll. Tour guides dispense historical, architectural and cultural information about the fascinating neighborhood, punctuated by tastings of artisanal and ethnic foods, and locally produced wine, German beer and authentic sakes.
While tasting locations are subject to change without notice, recent tours have stopped at the Cherry Street Coffee House for a salmon-lox bagel; Salumi, the Batali family’s shrine of cured meats; Altstadt German Bierhalle & Brathaus, where award-winning chefs source only the best local ingredients for their Bavarian menu; and the headquarters of DRY Soda.
If you'd rather work up your appetite with a little more activity, you might enjoy the Alki Beach bike tour. Just across Elliott Bay from downtown, the Alki Beach community stretches along 2.5 miles of sand, an unusual sight on rocky Puget Sound. The city’s first white settlers spent a winter here, optimistically naming the beach New York – Alki in the hopes that their settlement would grow to the size and importance of its namesake back East. A Coney Island-esque amusement park did flourish here until 1931 and a mini Statue of Liberty holds court at Alki Beach Park, but otherwise, Alki remains a quiet beach community – albeit with a front-row seat to the downtown Seattle show.
The Taste Seattle tour covers 6 flat miles in 3 hours, with stops for sustenance at such famed locations as the Alki Spud Fish and Chips, Seattle’s oldest fast-food restaurant; Marination ma kai, named best food truck in America by ABC’s Good Morning America; and Salty’s on Alki Beach, a fine-dining restaurant with an unparalleled view of Seattle’s skyline. Tour prices include all tastings plus bike and helmet rental.
Booked tours take place regardless of Seattle’s notoriously soggy weather, so dress appropriately with layered rain gear. Late July through September offer the best chance of lasting sunshine, but the Emerald City really does have year-round appeal. The Pioneer Square tour is open to anyone 21 and older; competent bike riders from age 12 and up are welcomed to join an Alki Beach tour. Advanced reservations are required.