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(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

When­ev­er my sons and I trav­el to a new city, we always take a food tour (at this point, we’ve tak­en at least ten). It ini­tial­ly start­ed because we want­ed to try a famous food from a spe­cif­ic area, like beignets in New Orleans, BBQ in Austin, or a cheeses­teak in Philadel­phia, but we quick­ly dis­cov­ered that tak­ing a food tour is not only a great chance to taste region­al spe­cial­ties, it’s also the per­fect way to learn about the city we’re vis­it­ing. Plus, since it’s a tour and a meal com­bined, it’s a vaca­tion bud­get­ing bonus – espe­cial­ly with teens.

Tip #1: It may say “tastes” on the tour’s web­site, but in our expe­ri­ence, there is still usu­al­ly a lot to eat, so it’s a good idea not to eat a full break­fast – or any break­fast – before a food tour. Also, don’t plan on a big meal afterwards.

Tip #2: My teens hap­pen to be food­ies (in fact, they will eat lit­er­al­ly any­thing), but for not-so-adven­tur­ous eaters, there’s always some­thing deli­cious they’ll like – and best-case sce­nario, picky kids might be will­ing to try some­thing new (at least a bite).

A is for Austin! Austin Eats: Best of Austin Food Truck Tour

Austin is known for its food trucks and there are about 2,000 of them that serve any kind of food you can think of, but unless you’re a local, you might not know where to find them. That’s why Austin Eats comes in. Start­ed by Andy and Lind­sey Pot­ter after they took a food tour on their own vaca­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, they quick­ly real­ized that they could pro­vide the same ser­vice to vis­i­tors in their hometown.

“We want guests to expe­ri­ence authen­tic Austin,” Andy says “[so we] focus large­ly on local.” With that in mind, Austin Eats Best of Austin Food Truck Tour gives vis­i­tors a chance to expe­ri­ence some of the items that makes the city’s food scene so unique.

If you ask who has the best bar­be­cue in Austin, you will prob­a­bly get one of two answers: Franklin’s or La Bar­be­cue. While the wait at Franklin’s can be upwards of four hours, La Bar­be­cue fans can expect to cut that time in half. But here’s the best news of all: guests on the Austin Eats Food Truck Tour don’t have to wait at all. My sons’ favorite part of the tour was def­i­nite­ly walk­ing straight to a reserved pic­nic table at La Bar­be­cue – and past the long line of peo­ple wait­ing to get their bar­be­cue fix.

Every sin­gle thing we tried at La Bar­be­cue was deli­cious, from the brisket (cooked “low and slow” for twelve to fif­teen hours), the sausage (that has a bit of a kick), the chipo­tle coleslaw (that has even more of a kick), and even the clas­sic pota­to sal­ad. It imme­di­ate­ly made much more sense why peo­ple are will­ing to wait so long for it, but we were still grate­ful that we did­n’t have to.

No need to wait for me at La Barbecue...if you arrive with a food tour - Photo Credit Mike Galante

No need to wait for me at La Barbecue…if you arrive with a food tour — Pho­to Cred­it Mike Galante

NEXT STOP:

We’d nev­er heard of a wood-fired Ital­ian sand­wich called puc­cia (pro­nounced POO-CHAH), but we learned they can only be found at Luck­y’s in Austin. That’s because Lucky learned how to make puc­cia in South­ern Italy and brought the gen­er­a­tions-old recipe with him when he came to Austin.

Accord­ing to Lucky, any­one who serves Ital­ian food should only use fresh and authen­tic ingre­di­ents like Extra Vir­gin Olive Oil (which accord­ing to him means the olives nev­er touch the soil). It also means that he nev­er puts the dough into the wood-fired oven until a puc­cia is ordered. Our amaz­ing­ly fresh and authen­tic wood-fired Luck­y’s Puc­cia was filled with pro­sciut­to, moz­zarel­la, toma­to, and arugu­la with chipo­tle aioli.

Lucky's Puccias are always made fresh to order - Photo Credit Mike Galante

Luck­y’s Puc­cias are always made fresh to order — Pho­to Cred­it Mike Galante

“If you have a good expe­ri­ence and go home feel­ing ener­gized by my food,” Lucky says “you will come back.” And we will.

B is for Boston! Foods of the Freedom Trail Tour

No trip to Boston is com­plete with­out check­ing out the Free­dom Trail. There are def­i­nite­ly great tours of the 16 his­toric sites that make up the 2.5‑mile route, but why take a reg­u­lar tour when Yum­my Walks Foods of the Free­dom Trail Tour com­bines his­to­ry with deli­cious New Eng­land foods? We cer­tain­ly could­n’t think of a reason.

“The Free­dom Trail is a great way to learn about Boston’s his­to­ry – and our coun­try’s his­to­ry – because it con­nects every­thing,” said Yum­my Walks tour guide, Chloe Hill. “And all the food [on the tour] is relat­ed to Boston’s his­to­ry in some way.”

As we worked our way through 13 of the 16 Free­dom Trail sites, our guide taught us about Boston’s culi­nary his­to­ry along with Amer­i­can his­to­ry. We had a bowl of lob­ster bisque, which rep­re­sent­ed colo­nial times when lob­ster was so over­abun­dant that giv­ing it to pris­on­ers more than three times a week was con­sid­ered cru­el and unusu­al punishment.

We started our Freedom Trail food tour with lobster bisque - Photo Credit Samantha Davis-Friedman

If some­one insists on tor­tur­ing me, I choose this Lob­ster Bisque! — Pho­to by Saman­tha Davis Friedman

We also vis­it­ed the Gra­nary Grave­yard, the third old­est grave­yard in Boston where John Han­cock, Sam Adams, and Paul Revere are buried; we sam­pled Boston baked beans, which were adapt­ed by the colonists from a Native Amer­i­can recipe (sub­sti­tut­ing brown sug­ar or molasses and bacon for maple syrup and bear or veni­son fat), and we saw the Old State House, the old­est build­ing in Boston where the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence was read after the Rev­o­lu­tion (and is still read every 4th of July);

We tried Boston Baked beans with turkey and cornbread - Photo Credit Samantha Davis-Friedman

We tried All-Amer­i­can Boston baked beans with turkey and corn­bread — Pho­to Cred­it Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

and we tried Indi­an Pud­ding that’s based on British Hasty Pud­ding but with corn meal – or Indi­an meal – instead of wheat flour at The Union Oys­ter House, which is locat­ed in the build­ing that once housed a pre-Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War news­pa­per called The Mass­a­chu­setts Spy, and where JFK was a reg­u­lar (his table upstairs is called the Kennedy table).

Indian pudding has been compared to uncooked pumpkin pie filling - Photo Credit Samantha Davis-Friedman

Indi­an pud­ding has been com­pared to uncooked pump­kin pie fill­ing — Pho­to Cred­it Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

“Yum­my Walks is an inti­mate Boston expe­ri­ence,” says Dar­lyn Gagnon, own­er of Yum­my Walks. “Walk the neigh­bor­hoods with an expe­ri­enced local guide, learn the his­to­ry, and stop for foods that rep­re­sent the area and culture.”

C is for Chicago! Tastebud Tours Taste of Chicago 

This tour fea­tures Chica­go spe­cial­ties like deep-dish piz­za and Ital­ian beef sand­wich­es, and it’s also prob­a­bly the fam­i­ly-friend­liest food tour we ever expe­ri­enced because all the foods were kid pleasers.

“The con­cept [of Taste­bud Tours] was a 3‑hour adven­ture to intro­duce peo­ple to Chica­go through its foods, so we treat peo­ple to the quin­tes­sen­tial foods of Chica­go [from] the places where they orig­i­nat­ed,” says Lynn F. Jaynes, founder and CEO of Taste­bud Tours.

The tour starts with Chica­go deep-dish piz­za because, as our guide Anna­lynn Keller explained, “You got­ta have deep-dish when you come to Chica­go.” This was def­i­nite­ly the rea­son we took the tour in the first place, so we were very hap­py to start the tour with a “piz­za break­fast” at Pizano’s.

We learned that the own­er of Chicago’s Pizze­ria Uno and his chef Rudy Mal­nati invent­ed deep-dish piz­za in 1943, and one of Rudy’s sons even­tu­al­ly opened Pizano’s. His crust recipe is more like piecrust than a reg­u­lar piz­za crust and the home­made sausage and sauce were so deli­cious that, to this day, we always keep Pizano’s deep-dish piz­zas in our freezer.

Guests on the Taste of Chicago tour can try thin crust as well as traditional Chicago deep dish pizza at Pizano's - Photo Courtesy of Tastebud Tours

Guests on the Taste of Chica­go tour can try thin crust as well as tra­di­tion­al Chica­go deep dish piz­za at Pizano’s — Pho­to Cour­tesy of Taste­bud Tours

Anoth­er teen-friend­ly food item on the tour was Ital­ian beef sand­wich­es, which is just meat and bread (lit­er­al­ly two of the teen basic food groups). Anna­lynn explained that Ital­ian immi­grants cre­at­ed the sand­wich­es – which are unique to Chicago’s food scene – in the late 1800’s and that Al’s was the first shop in Chica­go to serve them to the pub­lic in 1938. The ten­der sliced beef on fresh soft rolls comes with a choice of roast­ed sweet bell pep­pers or spicy house-made gia­r­diniera (a mix of hot pep­pers and veg­eta­bles), but veg haters can obvi­ous­ly opt out.

After our sand­wich­es, we stopped at the Chica­go Cul­tur­al Cen­ter to take a peek at the largest Louis Com­fort Tiffany glass domed ceil­ing ever con­struct­ed, which is made of 30,000 pieces of hand-made glass and worth a cool $37 mil­lion. Then, we head­ed to the tour’s last stop: A Ger­man-style restau­rant called The Berghoff, which is the sec­ond old­est restau­rant in Chica­go. The Berghoff broth­ers orig­i­nal­ly owned a brew­ery, but when pro­hi­bi­tion hit, they switched to root beer, which the restau­rant still brews. We tried their root beer with amaz­ing – and per­fect­ly kid-sized – mini bratwurst sausages.

The Berghoff's Mini brats sized perfectly for little mouths - Photo credit The Berghoff

The Berghof­f’s Mini brats sized per­fect­ly for lit­tle mouths — Pho­to cred­it The Berghoff

By the time we were done, we had tast­ed some of Chicago’s icon­ic foods, had learned a lot about the city, and were thank­ful we had­n’t made any din­ner plans.

Near­ly every city has a food tour of some kind, so you’re bound to find a great one any­where you go. On any food tour, there are real­ly only two things to remem­ber: Bring your appetite and be will­ing to try some­thing new (at least a bite).