Instead of picking a few restaurants as an afterthought to your travel plans, why not make food a centerpiece of your trip? An array of walking tours that feature restaurants, markets and chefs makes that possible.
But choose these tours with care—some are organized by individuals who promise more than they deliver or who have little training.
Food tours typically last about three hours, cost $50 to $75 per person and provide numerous small tastes of interesting foods at eateries and markets, as well as cooking tips.* Among the best…
BOSTON FOOD TOURS
A tour of the city’s Little Italy neighborhood in the North End uncovers some of the city’s best pastry shops, delicatessens, greengrocers, spice and coffee vendors and more. The three-hour tour, costing $50, also delves into the history and culture of Italian food, with advice on Italian cooking and selecting Italian ingredients. Tour founder Michele Topor is a trained chef who has been working professionally with Italian food for more than 30 years.
A two-and-a-half-hour Chinatown Market Tour for $65 explores Chinese baked goods, barbecued meats, “bubble” teas with tapioca “pearl balls” and more, followed by a dim sum lunch. 617-523-6032, www.BostonFoodTours.com.
NEW YORK NOSHWALKS
While most New York City food tour operators focus exclusively on lower Manhattan, NoshWalks offers 35 different food tours covering all five boroughs and most of New York City’s wide range of ethnic cuisines. Options range from the Western Chinese, Ukrainian and Russian foods of the Brighton Beach Tour…to the Korean, Persian and South Asian food of the Slices of Midtown (Manhattan) Tour.
Tour founder Myra Alperson publishes the well-regarded Nosh News newsletter and has written several books on New York food, including Nosh New York: The Food Lover’s Guide to New York City’s Most Delicious Neighborhoods (St. Martin’s Griffin). She has been offering New York City food tours for more than 20 years.
Most cost about $50 ($20 for kids ages six to 12, free for kids five and under) and include six or more tastings that add up to a lunch of respectable size. 212-222-2243, www.NoshWalks.com.
CHICAGO FOOD PLANET
The Near North Food Tour explores the food of the Old Town and Gold Coast neighborhoods. It typically includes seven locations, among them a Jewish deli, a Polish bakery, the city’s top-rated deep-dish Chicago-style pizzeria and Chicago’s oldest chocolate confectioner, with enough food samplings to comprise a lunch.
The Bucktown/Wicker Park Tour offers a look at the eateries of these decidedly hip neighborhoods. It typically includes the top-rated Chicago-style hot dog stand, a highly regarded pastry and dessert restaurant and a Middle-Eastern restaurant, among other eateries.
The Chinatown Tour offers tastes at some of Chicago’s best Szechuan, Cantonese and Mandarin restaurants.
The Near North Food Tour and Bucktown/Wicker Park Tour cost $45 apiece ($30 adolescent, $15 child)… the Chinatown Tour $60 ($35 adolescent and child). 800-979-3370, www.ChicagoFoodPlanet.com.
TEXAS BAR-B-Q TOUR
The Dallas/Fort Worth region features some of the best barbecue in the world. On this tour, you sample ribs, brisket, sausage, sides and more at three of the area’s top-rated barbecue restaurants and chat with some of the pit masters. Because the distances involved are Texas-size, this is not a walking tour—a train ride and chartered bus are provided. The four-and-a-half-hour tour costs $75. 817-475-3089, www.TexasBarbqTour.com.
San Francisco has the largest Chinatown outside Asia and the oldest in North America. Wok Wiz has led more than 20,000 tourists through this bustling, colorful neighborhood in the past 20 years. Tour founder Shirley Fong-Torres also is author of four books about Chinese food, including The Woman Who Ate Chinatown: A San Francisco Odyssey (iUniverse).
Wok Wiz’s I Can’t Believe I Ate My Way Through Chinatown Tour, costing $90, includes a traditional Chinese breakfast, tea in a highly rated Chinatown tea shop, stops at Chinese food shops and a sumptuous Chinese lunch. It adds up to quite a bit of eating. But be advised—this tour is meant for somewhat adventuresome diners who like to try foods that they may not have eaten before, such as jook, a traditional Chinese rice porridge.
The Wok Wiz Daily Tour explores both the cuisine and culture of Chinatown before concluding with an optional dim sum lunch. The three-hour Daily Tour costs $50 with lunch, $35 without (children under age 11, $35 with lunch, $25 without). 650-355-9657, www.WokWiz.com.
Portland has become known for its innovative restaurants and food trucks. Forktown Food Tours explores two of the city’s best eating neighborhoods.
The North Portland Tour is appropriate for those who appreciate trendy boutique restaurants and unusual, award-winning food carts. You might sample mini burgers made from grass-fed cows, Korean-Mexican BBQ tacos, cheeses from local farms, breads from local bakeries, handmade salted caramel ice cream sandwiches, local wines and microbrew beers.
The Alphabet District Tour spotlights the food and beverages of one of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods. You will chat with local chefs and restaurant owners and sample foods such as salads made with local ingredients, Reuben sliders made with hardwood smoked pastrami, gourmet grilled nut butter sandwiches and local artisan coffees, beers and wines. Each tour costs $65. 503-234-3663, www.ForkTown.com.
For information about European culinary tours, click here.
*Prices and details are subject to change. Check with tour operators.