One of the highlights of visiting New York City is eating in New York City. The food here is as diverse as the people. Also, while there are many opportunities to break the bank with an exclusive dining experience, finding restaurant gems that don’t challenge your budget is even more gratifying. It also leaves more cash for other adventures.
Food tours are the best way to taste what the city has to offer. They provide the opportunity to explore different eateries over the course of an afternoon. They also give you a fun way to learn about the local area while mingling with fellow “food explorers,” as I like to call them.
Food tours also help you stay in the know. With more than 20,000 eateries from which to choose, it’s nice to have someone give you insider secrets you can pass along to your friends. I’m from Brooklyn and even I learn a thing or two on these tours.
There are a number of food tours in New York City. Some are better than others. Before you get started, it’s a good idea to book a room in a centrally located hotel that caters to your foodie soul. The Soho Grand, in SoHo, is one such hotel. From there, consider the following food tours in your attempt to taste all New York has to offer.
Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn
The Foods of New York Tours is one of the most popular tours for tasting foods from select neighborhoods, most of them in lower Manhattan. The group’s Original Greenwich Village tour is a popular favorite, with stops in beloved spots such as Murray’s Cheese and Joe’s Pizza.
The outfit also has a Best of Brooklyn Food and Culture tour, which is about a half-day long, covers a lot of the borough, and includes information about the many immigrants that helped to influence the area. This particular tour includes walking and a bus. It’s one of my favorite tours because the guides go as far as to feature the food and culture of my hometown neighborhood of Sunset Park. This is an area about which many locals don’t even know about, but it has some of the best Latin food in the city.
What I love about Harlem Food Tours is how beautifully the outfitter features the culture of this area of Manhattan. Guides with this group don’t just offer food tours, but instead provide full perspective on architectural history and culture. Take a tour from this group and you will walk away seeing Harlem as more than jut a soul food destination. Of course if you’re really craving some fried chicken and collard greens, Harlem Food Tours guides will help make that happen, too.
Viewfinder Tip: Most food tours take place in all weather. Few offer refunds for no-shows. Come prepared with rain gear and a hearty appetite.
If you’re one of those really serious foodie types (and even if you aren’t), the Little Italy of the Bronx tour with Giovanna Bella Lamarca from the Institute of Culinary Education is quiet an extravagant treat. Giovanna will take you along Arthur Avenue, where you’ll explore old-school delis such as Mike’s. She also will take you into long-standing cheese stops such as Calandra Cheese Shop, which is known as much for its cheeses as for its cheese carvings. In addition showing you old Italian favorites, Giovanna will show you historic sights that have been a part of the community for generations.
(As an aside, the Institute of Culinary Education also hosts international food tours for those who want to take their foodie tours global.)
You can’t say you have tasted New York without heading into Queens. This borough has the highest concentration of immigrants anywhere in the United States, and all of those cultures help build up the excitement of foodie possibilities. The guy to show you around here is Jeff Orlick of Jeffrey Tastes Food. He has tours that will have you tasting the best Queens has to offer.
Want to make an adventurous date night out of it? Sign up for Jeff’s Midnight Street Food Crawl and taste the best of Latin American quick foods while taking in the nightlife. Talk about eating your way through the city that never sleeps! Jeff offers a number of other tours and events throughout the year as well.
The best food tours aren’t afraid to take you off the beaten path. Be sure to tip your guide and keep that foodie map handy for future eating excursions.
What is your favorite food destination and why?