Two food-focused tours hit Cleveland neighborhoods this summer, showcasing more than just area eateries. They're both backstage tours for foodies that offer insider stories, chef secrets and dishes that deviate from the regular menu. We see how the new tours, one locally run and one nationally operated, compare side by side.
Northeast Ohio Food Tours
Food Tour Corp.
Hosted monthly and rotated through neighborhoods such as Ohio City, Tremont and Little Italy, this walking tour visits four to six restaurants for a progressive dinner with some exploring and quick historical facts in between each stop.
<< The Tour >>
Two weekly tours let guests break down the West Side Market by learning the layout, hearing from stand owners and sampling food. It's themed as a progressive meal, starting with light bites and moving to more filling dishes.
Inspired by a food tour in San Francisco, Cleveland native and event director Todd Gauman was looking for a way to showcase local walkable neighborhoods and the growing culinary scene. "We sat down to figure out a way to marry both of them because I always felt they were symbiotic for each other," he says.
<< The Idea >>
Sandusky native Sarah Parker had been guiding Food Tour Corp. tours in and around Washington, D.C., for two years when she decided to bring the idea home. Choosing to start with the West Side Market was easy. "People don't realize how incredible that market is," she says, citing its size and diversity.
"We push the chef to do off-menu items to showcase their culinary creativity," says Gauman.Chefs also stick around for an intimate question and answer session with diners. "We have these great chances to learn secrets of what's happening in each restaurant."
<< Experience >>
"We want them to be more comfortable at the market, to feel like they're part of the family here," says Parker, who leads groups of 10 or fewer to 12 booths for tastings and time with the owner. Stops include Rita's for asiago-stuffed olives and a chat with Walter Jorgensen from Jorgensen's Apiary.
Ohio City, Tremont and Little Italy tours have come and gone this summer. Up next is East Fourth Street and the Gateway District on July 20, Shaker Square on Aug. 17 and Gordon Square on Sept. 21.
<< The 'Hoods >>
Kicking off this month, tours will run only through the West Side Market on Fridays and Saturdays in July. Little Italy will be added to the docket in August.