Savor fabulous cuisine, learn about history as well as architecture, and discover the hidden gems of a city’s iconic neighborhoods. When traveling to a new destination, I always try to book a food walking tour. I’ve found it’s really the best way to get to know the city and get a taste of local flavor.
What are the benefits? First, you’ll get a chance to enjoy several types of restaurants within walking distance of each other. Many feature different ethnic cuisine, so you’ll get to taste a melting pot of cultures. Along the way, you’ll learn more about the history of the area, the architecture, and the colorful characters who’ve called a given neighborhood home. You’ll be guided by an expert who knows the city inside and out, showing you other sites of interest. You’ll avoid getting lost, trying to find your way in a new city, having to pay parking fees across town, or taking an Uber. Plus, it’s good exercise!
I’ve walked my way across the culinary paths of these major cities as a guest of the following walking food tours, but all opinions are my own.
Sidewalk Food Tours Of Chicago
There’s nothing quite like seeing the sights around Chicago on a 3-hour culinary tour. Go on a real foodie adventure as you eat your way through these trendy River North or Wicker Park neighborhoods and uncover Chicago’s off-the-beaten-path food spots. Now celebrating its 10th year in Chicago, Sidewalk Food Tours offers stops at five different restaurants for flavors of the neighborhood’s best. (Locations are subject to change.) These are several options that could be on your tour:
The Doughnut Vault
Not just for breakfast, doughnuts are a Chicago staple all day long. I enjoyed a tasty Old Fashioned Buttermilk Doughnut. Also on their menu or to purchase a sweet treat for later, you could try the Gingerbread Stack, Chocolate Birthday Cake, or my favorite, Vanilla Frosted.
Considered by some to be the creator of Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza, Lou Malnati’s pizza is known for its flaky, butter crust topped with savory cheese from nearby Wisconsin, fresh tomato sauce, and lots of veggies. You’ll ooh and aah as you taste a slice of their deep-dish cheese pizza. It’s so thick, you have to cut it with a knife.
From Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless comes Xoxo, where you’ll sample zesty Mexican street food like empanadas, churros, or tortas.
Delicious, authentic Northern Italian fare welcomes you into this historic tavern, serving Chicago since 1952.
Sink your teeth into yummy pastries inspired by the seasons. We got to sample a Nutella Cookie, and other sweets came home with me.
If you’re hankering for a classic Chicago hot dog and want to taste a famous Cake Shake, this is the go-to place!
As we walked, our guide pointed out the architectural landmarks that make Chicago such a distinctive city for innovative building design. I came away with having tried restaurants that were new to me in my own hometown and a better understanding of the city’s storied history.
Sidewalk Food Tours also offers food walking tours in New York, L.A., New Orleans, San Diego, and more.
Miami Culinary Tours
Visiting Miami and want to really get familiar with South Beach? Or the cultural side of Little Havana? Miami Culinary Tours goes the extra mile with a collection of walking tours that give you a real taste of it all. I took the South Beach Food & Art Deco Tour and stopped at several outstanding restaurants as well as historic sites. We walked Ocean Drive (yeah, no cars, it’s now pedestrian-friendly) to Collins and Washington Avenues to learn more about the famous haunts and popular movie and TV locations. Tour guide Robyn pointed out the authentic Art Deco buildings and taught us the difference between Art Deco and other architectural designs. She showed us where the 1996 movie The Birdcage was filmed — actually the Carlyle Hotel on Ocean Drive — and the home of fashion designer Gianni Versace, where you can spend the night.
Of course, South Beach is also famous for being the setting of Miami Vice. The tour began at Bolivar, a Colombian restaurant that served a crispy empanada and cool ceviche. The restaurant Havana 1957 looked like a movie set from the 1950s with its black and white floors and overhead fans. We tried samples of Cuban favorites ropa vieja and fried plantain.
Did you ever try a “Clean Taco?” At the Naked Taco, the taco is minimalist and simple, but crunchy and delicious. Our last stop was at Mamma Mia for a sample of rich, creamy Italian gelato. One of their other tours, the Little Havana Food & Cultural Tour was named one of the top 10 cultural experiences in the world in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice award.
Definitely not hungry, I felt enveloped by the rich multicultural atmosphere of South Beach and happy to have furthered my knowledge of the area’s culinary traditions and architectural treasures.
Carmel Food Tour — Carmel-By-The-Sea, California
Carmel-by-the-Sea is only one square mile, but it beckons with a beautiful beach, historic sites, galleries, restaurants, boutiques, and Hansel and Gretel-looking cottages. On my Carmel Food Tour, I got to walk, wine, and dine while tasting my way through this foodie paradise. Tours take 3 hours for lunch with six to seven stops. Carmel is kind of a maze of streets with hidden walkways, alleys, and nooks and crannies most visitors don’t know about.
What I liked about this experience is that the guide took us through these secret passageways to discover the freshest foods and premium wines. I discovered lovely, locally-owned specialty food stores, farm-to-table restaurants, small-batch wineries, and sweet chocolatiers, all with fascinating stories. Between the tastings, our guide told us about the city’s most famous mayor — Clint Eastwood — and a crazy ordinance about not wearing high heels in the cobbled streets. We walked through some of the less-crowded areas, savoring the quieter moments of this quaint little city. Here are a few of the stops you might get to enjoy:
Anton & Michel
This restaurant has been a Carmel classic for more than three decades, serving fresh, creative California cuisine and spectacular flambe desserts.
Carmel Honey Company
I tasted the sweet honey and bought a few bottles to take home.
California fresh, Filipino-inspired, imaginative and delicious dishes are served here.
Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine
Expect contemporary, fine coastal cuisine paired with a Wine Spectator wine list.
Get your fill of house-made pasta inspired by the hills of Toscana.
Pro Tip: Yes, City Hall can issue you a permit to wear shoes with heels higher than 2 inches, but if you fall, you’re on your own. Better to be safe than sorry and walk around in flats or gym shoes.
With chocolate treats impossible to resist, this family-owned business has been around for more than 100 years.
One of Carmel’s oldest businesses, here you can sample everything from the finest wines to fresh-grilled, all-beef hot dogs at lunch.
Social Hour Carmel
Social Hour is a unique retail store that puts a twist on cocktails.
The Nut Hut
Here you’ll find organic and locally harvested nuts (and fruits) in the best varieties and flavors.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, Las Vegas
Las Vegas is known for its outstanding collection of celebrity chef restaurants, extraordinary dining experiences, and over-the-top cocktails. But if you’re only in town for a few days, how do you decide the best places to eat? I faced the same dilemma and opted to try some of the hottest restaurants on the Strip with Lip Smacking Foodie Tours.
During their Savors of the Strip tour, I got to taste signature dishes from award-winning chefs at five stops and enjoyed a special surprise. As we walked, guide Alex provided plenty of insider information on Las Vegas. We also added the optional beverage package with paired signature cocktails available at most stops. The best part is you get seated as soon as you arrive — no having to wait for a table.
We started at the ARIA Casino & Resort Hotel to meet our group. We walked inside ARIA to the Bardot Brasserie and were immediately transported to a French café in Paris. We began with the King Crab Caesar and Roasted French Chicken Dip, the perfect appetizers.
Then we walked over to Julian Serrano, also inside ARIA, for an authentic taste of Spain with savory tapas and mouth-watering paella. At Estiatorio Milos in The Venetian, we tasted the freshest tomatoes I’ve ever had in a zesty Greek Salad, followed by octopus and Milos Special fried zucchini. Before dessert, we stopped at RetroSpecs at the Cosmopolitan and saw their meticulously crafted and restored eyewear from the 1890s to 1980s, some worn by celebrities. The night ended with a selection of eye-popping desserts at Wolfgang Pucks’ Cucina in City Center, including tiramisu, limoncello panna cotta, and cremoso. I left the tour wanting to go back and enjoy menu items in the restaurants we tried. You will, too.