Food tours are a popular option in many cities and with good reason. They are a fun way to sample the local cuisine while learning about the history, culture and layout of a destination. Bonus: Since you travel from venue to venue with a small group, you get to chat with other travelers…and pick the brains of local tour guides about trendy hot spots and areas you may never have discovered on your own. Bottom Line Personal asked Matthew Guidice, co-owner of Craft Food Tours what to expect from a food tour and to recommend some can’t-miss tours…
HOW FOOD TOURS WORK
Many food tours are conducted by foot and cover about a mile over the course of two to three hours. For others, you travel by bus or van. Typically, you visit four or five restaurants or food stores for about a half-hour each. The tour operator makes reservations for the group in advance, so there’s no waiting on lines at popular restaurants. The menu, determined by the tour company, includes a sampling of each restaurant’s most popular dishes. Reminder: Inform the tour company in advance if you have any food allergies, intolerances or strong dislikes, or if you’re a vegetarian, so the menu can be adjusted. Some tours may include some alcohol in the price, especially happy hour tours.
Tips for the wait staff are handled by the tour operator, although an additional tip is welcome if you have a particularly good experience. And always tip your food tour guide, who likely works for minimum wage. Recommended: $10 per person.
A note about children: Children may find food tours long and tiring, and happy hour and wine/beer tours typically don’t allow children at all.
To find out about tours in places you are visiting: Check out
TripAdvisor—but be sure to go to the actual website of the tour company to make your reservations and get the best deals.
AMONG THE BEST TOURS
Austin Eats. This tour company was the first to establish itself in Austin, the state capital of Texas and a big-time foodie city. Tex Mex and authentic Texas barbecue rule here. With the Best of Austin Food Truck Tour, you travel from place to place in a luxury coach with a cooler stocked with beverages. There’s also a happy hour walking tour of East Austin, the city’s fastest-growing and most diverse neighborhood. Getting the insider’s track on trending restaurants known primarily to locals is a major appeal of the Austin Eats tours. AustinEatsFoodTours.com
Charleston, Bulldog Tours offers several walking food tours focused on different areas of this port city. The original Savor the Flavors of Charleston Tour takes you to restaurants and bakeries around the Historic Charleston City Market, one of the nation’s oldest city markets. The guide explains about how Charleston’s unique “Lowcountry” cuisine has evolved over 300 years with influences from African American, French, British and Native American cultures. On the menu: Grits, beignets (fried and powdered dough pastries), hush puppies (fried cornmeal balls), boiled peanuts and pimento cheese. Other tours explore South of Broad Street, Charleston’s most beautiful neighborhood, featuring barbecue and seafood dishes and including three short culinary tours of museum homes…and Upper King Street, a newer district of the city, focusing on innovative seafood dishes. BulldogTours.com
Chicago Food Tours. This award-winning food-tour group is one of the oldest in the US. You learn about Chicago’s colorful characters, history and culture from local guides and sample some of the best, most diverse and most underrated food in the country. The Iconic Foods Tour is the most popular, featuring Chicago-style pizza, hot dogs, Italian beef, popcorn and brownies. Other tours focus on Chinatown and the West Loop areas of Chicago. There also is a Tacos & Tequilas tour and a brunch tour. ChicagoFoodPlanet.com
Delicious Denver. You don’t feel like you’re on a tour when you book with Delicious Denver. Their tours have a warm, familiar vibe. The Downtown Food Tour is the signature tour and features Neapolitan pizza, baked empanadas and Southwestern fusion cuisine. Other tours include Cocktails + Tastes with appetizers such as flatbread, olives and prosciutto paired with alcoholic drinks…RiNo (River North) Arts District, where you sample burrata, Mexican street tacos and banana Nutella empanadas…and a Denver Wine Walk, which pairs French onion soup, deviled eggs and locally made chocolates with alcoholic beverages. DeliciousDenverFoodTours.com
Connecticut, Taste of New Haven Tours. New Haven, Connecticut, is where Neapolitan (thin-crust pizza made in brick ovens) pizza took root in the US. Taste of New Haven’s four-hour Little Italy Pizza Tour takes you around the city’s Wooster Street with stops at iconic pizzerias such as Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s, plus newcomer Zeneli Pizzeria. At each, you’ll sample a plain tomato pie with garlic, a mozzarella pie and a specialty pizza, such as Pepe’s white clam pizza, for a total of 10 pies. A six-hour Pizza Lover’s Tour casts a wider net and gives you a taste of 12 different pies. TasteOfNewHaven.com
Foods of NY Tours. The Flavors of Chinatown Tour is popular here, taking you through America’s largest Chinatown. Your guide will regale you with stories about Chinatown’s history and culture while you sample authentic Asian cuisine including dumplings, Peking duck, barbecued pork buns and egg custard tart. The company offers other walking tours of Little Italy, Greenwich Village and the Chelsea Market & The Highline. FoodsOfNY.com
Food Tour New Mexico. The New Mexican Flavors Tour of Santa Fe Plaza has you drifting through the charming downtown area of the oldest capital city in the US. You’ll stop at three to four restaurants and a specialty shop near the central plaza. Street tacos, green chile cheese sliders, New Mexican pizza, chocolate and wine, beer and margaritas typically are on the menu. Other featured tours include a Wine Pairing Tour and a Wine Pairing Dinner.
Savannah Taste Experience. The First Squares Food Tour is ranked as a top thing to do in Savannah because the guides put on a good show as they teach you the history of the squares around which Savannah was built—Ellis, Johnson, Telfair and Wright. You also walk along the waterfront of this tree-lined city. Common food selections include shrimp and grits, lobster/crabmeat bisque, shepherd’s pie and an English sausage roll (courtesy of some of the earliest settlers in Savannah). A taste of the city’s signature cocktail—Chatham Artillery punch—is included. Other tours include the off-the-beaten-path Famous & Secret East Side Tour…Southern Fried Expectations Tour…and Walktails & Bar Bites Happy Hour Tour.
Savor Seattle. The cuisine of Seattle centers around the Pike Place Market, and this tour takes you through the
corridors of the world-renowned marketplace, making stops at several vendors for eight or more bites and sips. You sample foods like smoked salmon, clam chowder, cheddar cheese, tacos and chocolates—and stop at the famous Pike Place Fish Market, where the workers throw fresh fish around the stall. ShowMeSeattle.com
West Palm Beach Food Tours. The Downtown West Palm Beach Food Tour has been named a top-10 tour experience in the US by TripAdvisor. You will sample foods like key lime tart, Colombian cheese bread, guava and cheese pastry and mojitos. The Historic West Palm Beach Neighborhood Food Tour takes you to where the locals love to go, including a stop at Cholo Soy Cocina, a Latin restaurant featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and an historic bed and breakfast. The company also runs a Happy Hour Tour. WestPalmBeachFoodTour.com
A SELF-GUIDED FOOD TOUR
If you’d like to go at your own pace, Mesa, Arizona, has developed a Fresh Foodie Trail that takes you in and around Arizona’s third-largest city. Located just outside of Phoenix, the trail can be accessed any time of year and offers a variety of charming farms and restaurants to visit by car. VisitMesa.com/things-to-do/farms-agritourism.
Stops typically include Jalapeño Buck’s (JalapenoBucks.com), a funky food stand that serves unique salsas and brisket sandwiches…Queen Creek Olive Mill (QueenCreekOliveMill.com), Arizona’s only family-owned and -operated working olive mill and farm, which produces extra-virgin olive oil and offers a farm-to-table menu…and Agritopia (Agritopia.com), a certified organic farm community featuring a 1960s-era diner (Joe’s Farm Grill) housed in a former home. Mesa is also a hot spot for craft breweries, including Cider Corps, Arizona’s first cidery, and coffee shops.