Foods of NY Tours started with a guy named Todd and his passion for food and eating. Todd grew up in New Jersey, and in 1977, at the age of 15, he took a trip to NYC with his friends to eat and explore. On his first trip, he made it to Times Square and started simple with a classic New York pizza. He quickly became fascinated with everything the enchanting city had to offer and soon made a second trip, that time opting to explore Greenwich Village. What he found in Greenwich Village was an ethnic food paradise – every type of cuisine you could possibly imagine. Todd became hooked. As he grew up, he spent more of his time eating his way through NYC and eventually came to the conclusion that others may want to eat their way through NYC as well.
In 1998, he put an ad in the newspaper advertising a “food tour.” He had nothing planned, but thought he’d test the idea. Receiving more interest than the tour could accommodate, he scheduled additional tours. And a year later, he quit his job to give food tours full time. In 1999, “Food Tours of NY” was officially born.
As you might guess, the first official food tour was a Greenwich Village tour, and it’s still the most popular of the bunch. But the company has expanded to offer five additional tours: Chinatown, Nolita & Little Italy, Brooklyn, Chelsea & the Highline, and the Village.
Each tour highlights the best of its neighborhood and has a similar structure. Groups are limited to 16 people and each tour is at least 3 hours with approximately 6 tastings. Upon arrival, the tour guide provides everyone with a bottle of water, and sets the stage for the tour to come. Because the tour is small, socializing is strongly encouraged. The tour begins with the participants introducing themselves and stating their favorite foods. This, of course, encourages small talk among the group and promotes an interactive experience. The tastings alternate between quick and casual stops and longer, more formal tastings.
We joined the Nolita/Little Italy tour, a 3 hour tour with 4 seated tastings and 2 on-the-go tastings. The tastings were diverse, spanning Italian, French, Latin, and Mexican cuisines, with a couple of dessert places thrown in.
Our first stop and meeting point was Little Cupcake Bakeshop, known for its non-traditional take on a Brooklyn Blackout cake. Our guide explained the origins of the bakery and shared some of his personal favorite treats the bakery offers. Though we didn’t try the Brooklyn Blackout cake, we did try a chocolate mini cupcake – one per person. Chocolate is always a pretty great start to any event, so the crowd was happy!
Our next stop was Emporio Ristorante, an Italian restaurant specializing in Roman pizza. The restaurant imports its cheeses from Italy and focuses on using fresh ingredients and local produce. Inside, we were given a mini lesson in Roman pizza-making. We all gathered around the wood fired oven to watch the pizzaiolo prepare the pizzas before we ate them. The tasting was of a white pizza (no sauce) with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula, Grana Padano, cherry tomatoes, and olive oil. The vegetarian option was the same pizza, but with no prosciutto. This was a sit down tasting, and we were able to take our time and socialize with the others on the tour.
Then, it was off to Tartinery, a French café specializing in tartines, which are open-faced sandwiches. This was another sit down tasting, with slices of two tartines and red wine included. One was a roast beef tartine with herb mayo, romaine, and roasted grape tomatoes. The second was a farm roasted chicken tartine, with shaved fennel, olive oil, and herbed mayo. The vegetarian option was a butternut squash soup with roasted pumpkin seeds and multi-grain bread from Eli’s. You can read our review of Tartinery for the full scoop.
Next up was Latin food at Oficina Latina. Another seated tasting and the longest one we had. Here, we were given the option of ordering cocktails from their menu for an extra charge, which proved quite a popular choice! For our tasting, we were provided short rib arepas. An arepa is a bread made of ground maize, very popular in Colombia and Venezuela. They are stuffed with various fillings and eaten as a sandwich. The short rib arepa here was served with their home-made red onion relish on the side. The vegetarian option was a grilled veggie arepa.
Our last sit down tasting was at Tacombi, a foodie favorite known as much for the VW bus that sits in the middle of the restaurant (and from which tacos are made) as it is for its food! We tried the corn esquites, which is fresh grilled corn served off the cob in a bowl topped with fresh cotija cheese, homemade morita mayo, and chili pequin. Hot sauce optional. The corn was served with sandia, a refreshing watermelon juice with a bit of lime.
Our tour ended with a short stop at Stick With Me Sweets, a newly opened and very buzzed about chocolatier started by a former chocolatier at Per Se. The shop is tiny and there isn’t room for everyone to go inside all at once. We instead went inside in small groups, just to take a look at what they offered. These are truly some of the most beautiful chocolates in the city! Our tasting was held just outside the store and we were given the Vero, their signature bon bon, which has crushed candied pecans, vanilla infused caramel, and a crunchy pecan praline seasoned with fleur de sel. Chocolate to start the food tour and chocolate to end the food tour!
The eating is great, the diversity of foods is fantastic, but to be able to do it while interacting with other people who are also excited about trying foods is the cherry on the cake. The pace of the tour is very casual, allowing ample time to enjoy the foods. And as you walk from stop to stop, you also learn a bit about the neighborhood and its history. For example, we stopped at Martin Scorsese’s former house and were told about the meat shop from which he used to get his family’s meats when he was a boy. Stories like that help make the tour not only more fun, but also memorable.
Another great thing about it is that doing one tour certainly does not prevent you from doing another! There is no overlap between the tours, so try as many as will fit in your stomach! There are tours offered every day of the week, multiple times a day, so one is sure to fit in your schedule.
Most importantly, please make sure you arrive hungry and ready to mingle!