We’d seen them many times: crowds of tourists packing in and out of downtown restaurants and Pike Place Market stands. Wondering what it was all about, we recently tagged along as Seattle Food Tours’ Michael Rogers showed some curious and culinary-minded folks around Belltown. (Tour goers can chose the the Belltown tour: $50, Tue–Sat, or a tour of Pike Place Market: $40, daily.)
Here’s what it was like.
The Belltown tour kicks off in “ToDo.” According to Rogers, that’s the local nickname for the downtown area that features six of Tom Douglas’ restaurants—all within walking distance. Given the two-and-a-half hour time constraint, however, we only have time to stop in at Lola and sample the griddled, whole wheat pita with three delectable spreads: cucumber yogurt tzatziki, cauliflower-anchovy, and roasted red pepper harissa.
After that, it’s off to the Queen City Grill for crab cake sliders and some interesting tidbits about the history of Belltown’s dive bars. (Apparently the average B-Town resident didn’t always make $65,000 a year.)
The next stop featured some tongue-twisting treats from Txori, a “traditional pintxo bar,” where we enjoy tapas and canutillos served up by Chef Joey Serquinia. Once we are finished, Rogers instructs us to throw our tissue paper to the floor—a Basque gesture that communicates our compliments to the chef.
From Txori, the tour heads down two blocks to Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant, home to one of the most respected and well-known chefs in the country—Shiro Kashiba, where we crowd around for a glimpse of live uni (sea urchin). Rogers tells us that Pike Place merchants always save the best uni for Shiro.
At the fifth and final restaurant, Branzino, tour-goers are in for a treat—a specially prepared gnocchi with braised rabbit and chanterelle mushrooms and a glass of white wine. With the restaurant portion peaking at Branzino, the tour then tapers off nicely with a nearly-flowerless brownie (so light that it settles wonderfully on a full stomach) at Macrina.
A short walk up the street brings the tour to its final stop at The Local Vine —an establishment that lives up to its name by offering regional wines and perks for repeat customers. With a glass of dry Chateau St. Michelle Riesling in hand, we end with a toast and a chance to ruminate on the food experience in a relaxed setting. All in all an afternoon well spent. We should do this tourist thing more often.
Not hungry? Savor Seattle has a coffee tour.