Pike Place Market

Seattle Gem: Unexpected Productions

Market Theater

Tucked away in Post Alley, covered in chewing gum, is a quirky, cool theater that is home to the oldest improv group in Seattle. Most of you are probably aware of the tourist attraction that is Pike Place Market, and you’ve probably visited The Gum Wall, but this little gem is a bit hidden in plain sight and is definitely worth knowing about. We are pleased to present to you the hilarious and talented people of Unexpected Productions.

Gum Wall

Unexpected Productions is an improv theater that has called the historic Market Theater home for 20 years. There are 54 improv artists that make up the company. You’ve probably heard of Joel McHale from the NBC sitcom Community - yep, he got his start right here in Seattle with Unexpected Productions. And did you know that this theater is actually responsible for the creation of the gum wall? Patrons of the theater weren't allowed to chew gum in the theater, so they would stick the gum to the outside wall of the theater to get rid of it. Little did they know it would become the institution it is today.

Unexpected Productions

Unexpected Productions puts on 10 different shows a week (you can read about the different shows here) and tickets are fairly inexpensive for a fun, entertaining night out (around $10-$20). If you haven’t spent some time at Pike Place Market after dark, we highly recommend it. The bars and entertainment are top notch here and the atmosphere once it quiets down is very cool. The theater even has a tiny bar where you can grab a drink pre or post show (we recommend pre-show because that just makes the jokes funnier).

Unexpected Productions

It is incredible to watch as they create stories on the spot, with a level and intelligence and skill that will have your cheeks hurting. The actors take recommendations from the audience, which they then use to create hilarious, personalized stories. Obviously no two shows are the same! Depending on how much you love the show you can also take improv classes to increase your odds of being the one up on stage someday, even if you don’t want to perform, improv is proven to help people with their creativity, public speaking, and problem solving skills.

Unexpected Productions
Unexpected Productions
Unexpected Productions
Unexpected Productions
Unexpected Productions

Insider's Guide to the Free Samples of Pike Place Market

The market is full of free samples from the local makers. Finding them can be tricky, but these are top notch products, so it's worth it. We are talkin' that Walter White level stuff, the best of the best. They know if you get a little taste you won't be able to stop from coming back for more.

We've compiled a comprehensive list of the spots that offer free samples. We just ask that you spend at least a little money when you visit (these are small business owners after all)!

Ellenos Greek Yogurt - Yogurt (usually lemon curd and marionberry)

Ellenos Greek Yogurt

The best free sample in the entire market. We know you're thinking, "Yogurt? What's the big deal?" Well, go get yourself a free sample and you'll be singing a different tune. We are completely hooked and always have Ellenos on hand for granola in the morning or a sweet snack in the afternoon. 

Britt's Pickles - A Variety of Pickles

Britt's has educated us on the power that is natural fermentation. Apparently the pickles you buy at the store are processed in a way to remove all the awesome vitamins and enzymes in the vegetable. Britt's doesn't stand for that crap. Head over and sample some of their options and taste for yourself! 

Beecher's Cheese - Cheese Curds

Beecher's not only has a huge window display where you can watch them make their cheese, but they also always have fresh cheese samples out. Most commonly found is their flagship cheddar, which is almost as good as their No Woman No Cry. 

Pike Place Fish - Smoked Salmon

Pike Place Fish Smoked Salmon

Watch them toss some fish, oogle the beautiful displays of crab and salmon, strike up a conversation with a monger about the sustainable nature of their business, and then grab a taste of their smoked salmon. It's great with bagels and cream cheese in the mornings, but good enough to eat completely plain.

Market Spice - Cinnamon Orange Tea

Market Spice is right next to Pike Place Fish and offers free Dixi Cups of their famous Cinnamon Orange Tea! We love to sip a sample as we peruse all the beautiful loose tea offerings and see what various tea products we need to add to our growing collection. 

Sosio's Produce - Fresh produce

If you wander down the main arcade odds are you'll notice a bright produce stand on the west side. This is Sosio's and they have amazing fresh produce and always offer up samples. From pears and apples to the occasional exotic options, we never turn down the slices of fruit and a smile from the employees. 

Simply the Best - Apple Chips

Simply the Best Apple Chips

A healthy snack option once you start to feel a little weighted down from all your other samples is a bag of dried fruit from Simply the Best. This wonderful stand is piled high with varieties of dried fruit like pineapple, bananas, and mango. You can usually get a few apples to sample if they aren't busy with other customers. 

Mick's - Pepper Jelly

You might not think of jelly as a big draw, but Mick's friendly staff and unique recipes keeps locals coming back for more. We love their famous pepper jelly, which you can pair with crackers and cream cheese for a yummy snack. 

Pappardelle's Pasta - Chocolate Pasta and various olive oils

Alright, we aren't going to lie, we don't really hit this place up for samples of the pasta... the chocolate pasta isn't thatttt great. It's uncooked and kinda dry, but this stand has been peddling that pasta for a longggg time, so we see it as something you have to check off your list, even if it's just once. The real joy comes from their olive oil stand. Stab some bread, spin the wheel, and get yourself as many of those flavors as possible! Yum.

Chukar Cherries - Chocolate Covered Cherries

This Seattle institution is a great stop for people with a sweet tooth! They take local Washington cherries and other berries and cover them in delicious chocolate. The combinations are almost endless between all the different types of chocolate and fruit. Our favorite are the white chocolate covered blueberries and the milk chocolate truffle cherries! 

La Buona Tavola - Truffle oil

This little shop in on the main street (same as Beecher's) and is always good for some delicious and rich truffle product samples. They always have their olive oils with bread to sample and sometimes if you are lucky you can catch them on a day when they have some of their potato soup with truffle oil on top! 

What are your favorite samples in Pike Place Market? We would love to hear!

7 Best Sandwiches in Pike Place Market

If you don't know this, Pike Place Market has more delicious restaurants per square foot than anywhere else in the city. We have eaten most of the food at the market and feel we have curated a beautiful list of the best sandwich fare offered.

Prepare to salivate.

DeLaurenti's Grinder

DeLaurenti's Grinder Sandwich

DeLaurenti's is one of our absolute favorite places to visit in the market. They have groceries, they have wine, they have cheese, and to our delight, they also have a BOMB Italian Grinder. This sandwich is piled with Italian meats, provolone, tomato, lettuce, and mayo. The bread sprays crumbs as you bite down into the crunchy, carby amazing-ness. Grab an Italian soda and a spot at their bar by the window and chow down while you people watch! 

Three Girl's Bakery's Meatloaf Sandwich

Three Girl's Bakery is an institution at Pike Place Market. They opened up shop in 1912 and were the first business licensed to women in the City of Seattle. And man, did these three know how to make a mean meatloaf sandwich. Even if you don't like meatloaf, you'll like this meatloaf by the time you're done chowing down. Ask for the rosemary bread and you'll die in sandwich heaven. 

Dot's Meatball Sandwich 

Dot's Meatball Sandwich

Dot's is new to the market, but not to Seattle. This butcher and deli shop has been earning its stripes for years and they seem to have perfected a lot of things in the meat department. Our favorite though? The meatball sandwich. When they handed it to us the first time we ordered rays of sunshine spilled out of the middle and the sound of angels singing could be heard. Then we bit into it and blacked out for a minute because this sandwich is so. Freaking. Good. 

Pike's Pit BBQ's Pulled Pork

Pike's Pit BBQ caught our attention about a year ago with a free sample. Food + free = we can be friends. After one tiny taste of the BBQ pork we went in for the real deal. If we are being honest we wouldn't have been able to resist even without a sample because the smell of cooking meat will draw you in from a mile away (unless you don't eat meat, and in that case this list probably isn't for you).

The ordering here is going to either embarrass you or thrill you because you get to say weird things. For example Kristina's order goes a little something like this: "Chopped Pork Sandwich with Medium BBQ sauce. Say Cheese (add cheese), Slaw It Please (add cole slaw) and Wickle It (add pickles)."

Honest Biscuit's Fried Chicken Sandwich

Honest Biscuit Chicken Sandwich

This little shop is a tiny bit hidden (although they are getting a new and exciting location in the MarketFront Expansion), but it's worth the hunt. Honest Biscuit makes all their biscuits fresh daily and don't get us wrong, they are delicious plain, but the real money is in the fried chicken sandwich. We recommend adding pimento cheese. (Our life motto: always add cheese). Pull up an orange chair and enjoy!

Beecher's Grilled Cheese

Beecher's Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Oh, Beecher's. You are such an wonderful place. You cover everything on your menu in cheese, you always have free samples, and we get to watch you make cheese while we eat. Truly great. So, if you love cheese as much as we do we recommend stopping here and getting yourself the grilled cheese sandwich. We've tried a few others and the classic is simply the best. Cheese and carbs, who knew? (We did, we knew. That is a recipe for success 100% of the time.)

Lowell's Hot Dungeness Crab Melt

You can't have a list about food in Pike Place Market without some seafood thrown in. Lowell's wins in this category with their Hot Dungeness Crab Melt. They pile dungeness crab on rosemary bread and top it with a buncha mozzerella cheese. (Are you seeing a trend here with cheese? Don't make a sandwich without cheese. Ever.) The secret sauce is their Bacon-Tomato Jam though. This stuff is crack and anything on the menu with it is worth trying! Make sure to sit on the 2nd floor and get your food with beautiful views of Puget Sound. 

Best Kept Secrets of Pike Place Market: Part Two

Honestly, it seems like Pike Place Market is a giant onion and we could explore our whole lives and never peel back all the layers! This 9-acre playground is full of secrets. We covered some of our favorite ones in Pike Place Market's lower levels a couple months ago. We had such a good response from that post we decided to share some more fun secrets of the market here!  

Lantern men

Pike Place Market Lantern Men
Pike Place Market Lantern  Men

Hanging upside down, sideways, and walking out of a door to nowhere these guys are easy to miss, but fun to find. First, make your way to the back side of the market (Western Avenue). When you get to the small courtyard by Choukette Eclairs take the stairs up into the belly of the market and try to find all the men holding lanterns.

Hint: There are six! 

Morning roll call

Roll call at the market.  Photo source

Roll call at the market. Photo source

Morning roll call is a tradition and a way of life at Pike Place Market. Every morning at 9:00 AM the daystall vendors and the Market Master gather at the north end of the North Arcade to have roll call. This determines which vendor will get what booth in the market. It is based on seniority, so how long you have been selling at Pike Place Market gets you higher on the list to pick your spot. Anyone can watch this and if you are interested in seeing how the market comes to life every morning this is a good place to start. After roll call is complete the vendors all disperse to set up their stalls and start selling. 

Urban Garden

Pike Place Market Urban Garden
Pike Place Market Urban Garden

In the middle of all the hustle and bustle and throwing of fish, there is a peaceful garden with views of Puget Sound and seating to relax from the crowds. Make sure to explore the different art and produce that is scattered around the rooftop garden and don't forget to write your name and where you are visiting from on one of the chalkboard surfaces! This garden is cared for by the Pike Place Market Senior Center and all the produce is donated to the Pike Place Market Food Bank to help feed people in need. The garden boasts 18 types of vegetables and enough harvest to feed hundreds of people per year. 

Window seating in Main Arcade

Window seating in main Arcade
Window Seating in the Main Arcade

There are many places to grab food to-go in Pike Place Market, but if you don't have an office or home to take it back to, seating can feel limited. Luckily there is a bar-type seating area at the end of the hallway to the right of Pike Place Fish (if you are facing it) in the Main Arcade. This little area is a spot you can usually find a seat to eat. Best part? It comes with a view!

Insider Tip: Read some of the writings scrawled across the window sills. You might find some inspiration for the day! 

Hidden artwork

Artsy benches are all over Pike Place Market

Artsy benches are all over Pike Place Market

Eat lunch with a giant Sasquatch

Eat lunch with a giant Sasquatch

Self-watering storm drain

Self-watering storm drain

There is fun artwork scattered all over the market. We have several favorites.

  • Sasquatch - Located in the Atrium on the first floor, this carved sasquatch is a perfect photo opp! He looks so sad to be out in the open, seen by all! 
  • Two faced bench - This green bench located in the lower levels courtyard is a fun and functional piece of art! Take a seat and enjoy the buskers that gather nearby.
  • Self-watering planter - This storm drain turned planter is such a quirky little addition to the side of the apartments that sit at Virginia St. and Post Alley.
  • Giant squid - There is a 200 pound metal sculpture of a giant squid hanging from the ceiling in the Market Atrium. We don't need to explain why we love this one, everyone does! 

Bird sanctuary

Bird Sanctuary
Pike Place Market Bird Sancutary

Another great place to eat is a small alcove beneath Post Alley and behind the Soames Dunn Building (take the hallway two doors north of the original Starbucks all the way back). It boasts a bird sanctuary, but to be honest we aren't sure how many birds reside here besides the little owl someone has hung for decoration and maybe to keep pests away. Regardless, it's a nice hidden spot to enjoy some food or take a break away from the crowds. 

Insider tip: Country Dough makes delicious Szechuan flatbreads and is right by this sanctuary.

Original hitching post

Pike Place Market hitching post

Outside of Rachel's Ginger Beer you can find an old, wooden post. Most people walk right by it and never notice it, including us for many years. Once you know the significance though it is definitely worth a walk by to admire it as a piece of Pike Place history. This old, wooden post is one of many posts where farmers and customers used to hitch their horses when they came to the market, hence the name of the alley it is located in: Post Alley.

What are you favorite secret spots in the market?