Eating Local in NYC

February 16, 2012 12 Comments »

Focacceria

A small local restaurant in the Central Village

You are making your first trip to the Big Apple and are pouring through online websites and guide books about New York City. You plan on seeing a Broadway show, doing the museums, and maybe even going for a run in Central Park. You most definitely want to eat out at great restaurants while you are there too, but how do you know where the good restaurants are?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that there are good restaurants in Times Square or anywhere near the tourist sites. I’m going to state the obvious; only tourists go to eat in and around Times Square and places like Little Italy.

Eat Like a Local in NYC

If you are looking to have a more local eating experience in NYC, then put down the guide book and simply do this – book a Foods of NY tour on your first day you are in NYC and then make the rest of your eating and nighttime plans based on what you learn in the tour.

Foods of New York is a tour company that has been running food tours around the neighborhoods of NYC for 12 years. When I lived in Manhattan I went on a number of their tours and sent countless friends on their tours when they were visiting. They were on my ‘must-do list’ for all of my NYC visitors. Recently while back in NYC for a few weeks with my niece I revisited Foods of New York Tours 5 years later. We signed up for the Central Village SoHo tour which was new since I had moved away.

tray of food

Passing out food samples…yum!

I’m pleased to report that Foods of NY Tours were just as great and useful as they were when I started utilizing them in 2003. I’ve participated on my share of tours around the world, so I’m quite critical of walking tours and the like, but this one continues to impress me.

We walked around a small area (Bleeker St, Housten St., and Washington Square Park) sampling food from 7 establishments, learning about the history, architecture, nightlife, and restaurant culture of the Village for 3 hours. I left the tour stuffed and wanting to book reservations in about 5 new restaurants I had never been to before.

Our guide, Raheem, was great at managing the tour and our experience. He clearly loved food and the neighborhood, but he also was extremely aware of the group size and ensuring that locals and customers were able to get around our group of 15 people on the narrow sidewalks of NYC. He was constantly reminding us to make room and be aware of the people and space around us. He had a great rapport with all of the owners and chefs that really made you have respect for the tour company and how they do business.

happy

My niece trying her first ever falafel

You Won’t Go Home Hungry at this Food Tour

The tour not only easily includes enough food tasting to call it a hearty lunch, but it also provides you with a very useful brochure listing every restaurant they talk about on the tour, the location, their cuisine, and the favorite things on the menu. This information is extremely useful; I wish more tours would be as thorough as Foods of NY Tours.

The tour included a variety of ethnic sit down restaurants, to little take away shops, to street food to specialized shops, and we finished at a bakery. My niece and I feasted on focaccia, Indian street food, bolognese pasta, falafel, Cuban empanadas, fresh smoked mozzarella cheese, and a chocolate tart. We even had time to grab a mojito at the Cuban restaurant (not included in the price of the tour).

Here’s a look at everything we ate over the course of 3 hours:

Focaccia

Focaccia

Indian street food – Unda Bhurji Roll

pasta

Penne and bolognese sauce

Falafel

Falafel – still hot!

empanadas

Empanadas

chocolate pear tart

The finish – chocolate pear tart – delish!

As we finished with our decadent chocolate pear tart I was happy that time hadn’t changed the quality of the tour that I used to love so much. Foods of NY is still on my ‘must-do’ list for locals AND tourists!

The Good:

• Reasonable price for a knowledgeable tour and a complete meal – $49
• Got a booklet with restaurant and neighborhood details, a list of everywhere that was talked about on the tour so that you could make future reservations, and discounts for some of the places.
• Generous portions sizes
• More than just information on food/restaurants, we also learned about architecture, music scene, nightlight of the neighborhood, and history of the writers and artists who lived in the neighborhood.
• Tour guide was very professional and courteous.
• Nice mix of standing, walking, and sitting in restaurants.
• You are given a bottle of water and napkins to begin the tour.
• Plenty of bathroom facilities on the tour.

The Could Be Better:

• I really have nothing that I was disappointed in.

Would I recommend it?

Yes – and I also recommend coming hungry! I personally think it’s great for tourists and locals.  For locals, it’s a great way to learn about new restaurants and get a list of places to go in your own city! For tourists, it will get you out of the typical tourists joints and take you to neighborhoods where the locals are and eat. As Raheem said, “The way to understand a community is to taste your way through it.”

More Information:

Foods of NY Tours Website: www.foodsofny.com
Tours of Greenwich Village, Chelsea Market, Central Village, Chinatown, and Nolita.

 


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