What is a Food Tour and Why Should I Take One? Part One: The Tourist’s Perspective (Love at First Bite)

I have known about food tours in Europe and major cities in the U.S. for years.   As a matter of fact, a pizza tour in N.Y. is definitely on my bucket list.  I was, however, unaware at how popular and widespread food tours have become across the country.  It makes sense; after all, food tourism is booming and has been ever since the late, great Anthony Bourdain made it cool.  Today’s travel trend puts food as one of the top reasons to travel to a city.  And even if someone travels for a different reason, one of the first questions tourists ask locals upon arrival is, “Where/what should we eat.”  Tourists may still want to see and do the touristy attractions when visiting, but they want to eat as the locals do.  Sorry chain restaurants, but local is hot.   

We all know the expression “A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”.  Following this idea, tourism sectors agree that creating an experience for the senses through tasting local cuisine is a sure-fire way to fall in love with a city. And the more positive experiences tourists have with that city, the deeper they fall in love with it.   A food tour then is the perfect way to speed date the city.  A guest is able to sample tastings handpicked by the chefs to showcase their restaurants. For most, when introduced to a new restaurant, the first words out of their mouth are, “ What do you recommend?” A food tour eliminates the guesswork of picking the popular dish on the menu and allows you to soak up the ambience of that restaurant.  You learn a lot about someone after going in their home and meeting their family.  The same goes for restaurants.  Seeing the love they use to create their space and carefully craft their food and cocktails leaves guests feeling content and gratified.  After dining in one restaurant for approx. 30 minutes, the tour group walks to the next featured restaurant and does the whole process again, and again, and again, and again.  Three hours later, the guests are left with a full belly, a little more knowledge about the neighborhood, and a unique experience with a group of guests they may not soon forget.  

So what isn’t a food tour?  Well, it isn’t like a bar crawl or a progressive dinner.   A good tour should give you variety and a sampling at each place.  You should see the local James Beard nominated chef-owned restaurant and also the restaurant the local’s deem their best-hidden gem. These are two places as tourists you would not most likely enter because one would require reservations, may feel too intimidating for the typical traveller, or might appear unassuming from the outside and be easily overlooked.  

One last note: Food tours entice the tourist to return to a city and tell others why they should visit.  The economic impacts of this can be substantial, but that is a blog for a different day.  

Stay tuned for Part 2: The Local’s Perspective (Keeping the Magic Alive)

 Until next time . . .