New Yorkers are notoriously picky eaters. Why so choosy? They’re spoiled for choice. New York is a city full of iconic joints — every New Yorker has a favorite slice and detailed reasons to back it, and the same goes for bagels, doughnuts, coffee and more. Food is integral to life in New York, so if you want to experience a day like a local, it better be centered around eating. Joining a New York City food tour will let an expert lead the way to the best Greek food in Astoria or the best dumplings in Chinatown. You’ll learn about the history and culture of the city, all while filling up on the flavors that made New York one of the world’s great destinations for hungry travelers.
Urban Oyster: Brewery, Winery and Distillery Tour
Thirsty travelers willing to pound the pavement in search of the next great sip should check out Urban Oyster’s Brewery, Winery and Distillery walking tour of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This three-and-a-half-hour tour is one delicious introduction to the artisanal movement that has overtaken the borough and includes visits to the Brooklyn Brewery (one of the first breweries to open in Brooklyn after the trade’s near total decline in the 70s), Brooklyn Winery (maker of small-batch artisanal wines), and New York Distilling (producer of quality gins and American Rye Whiskies). Tickets include a private tour of each facility from Urban Oyster’s expert guides and generous tastings throughout. You won’t have to drink on an empty stomach — lunch is included too. This tour is a history lesson, tasting session and support of local businesses all in one. Note: You must be 21 or over to go on this tour.
DETAILS: Sundays 12pm to 3:30pm; $64 (get tickets!); 79 N 11th St., Brooklyn
Chinatown Shop and Cook
For first-time (or 10th-time) visitors, Chinatown can be intimidating. With so many dumpling shops, noodle houses, karaoke bars and produce stands, which stand above the rest? Let an expert lead the way with Chinatown Shop and Cook, a tour led by chef Abigail Hitchcock of Camaje bistro in Greenwich Village. Hitchcock is intimately familiar with the best markets in Chinatown, and leads a small group through the winding streets to source ingredients for an afternoon feast. In this five-hour class, participants learn where in the neighborhood to shop for fresh fish, produce, herbs and more before returning to Camaje for a cooking class. After feasting, you will leave with a packet of recipes for recreating these dishes at home.
DETAILS: Tours begin for 2014 in March; $75-$145; camaje.com; tours start for 2014 in March, check website for more info
City Food Tours: Upper West Side Chocolate, Dessert and Wine Tour
This chocolate, dessert and wine wander through the Upper West Side will take those with a sweet tooth down a delicious path. During this two-and-a-half-hour guided walking tour, participants sample decadent chocolate truffles, gooey cookies so delicious that even New Yorkers make the uptown pilgrimage for them, flaky pastries and some of the city’s best gelato. There are also stops in the neighborhood’s top grocery stores famous for dispensing smoked fish, fresh breads and unusual gourmet items. The engaging tour guides also serve up a side of New York history — you’ll see the Dakota, where John Lennon lived, and the historic Apthorp, among other famous Upper West Side landmarks — on your way to bon bon bliss. A wine bar visit caps things off where you’ll get tasting notes with your tastes. A follow-up email is sent after each tour, detailing the stops for future reference. Note: You must be 21 or over to go on this tour.
DETAILS: Sundays 3pm to 5:30pm; $48 (get tickets); meeting place provided after purchasing
Urban Oyster: Tenements, Tales and Tastes of the Lower East Side
Who said history couldn’t be delicious? In this three-hour walking tour — winding its way through the Lower East Side, Chinatown and Little Italy — guests learn about the immigrants that shaped the neighborhoods, nibbling tacos, knishes, dumplings and other delicious foods along the way. Local experts lead inquisitive eaters through bustling markets and the tenement-lined streets where many Jewish, Chinese, Dutch and Italian immigrants got their first start in America. The mark these immigrant groups left is indelible — among the stops are a 100-year-old bakery, an African burial ground, the Latino-leaning Essex Street Market and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum — and this tour will show how tastes of these cultures have come to define New York City cuisine.
DETAILS: Daily 10am-1pm; $58.50 (get tickets); near City Hall, exact meeting place provided after purchasing
Slice of Brooklyn
If all the foods of New York had to battle it out for a victor, pizza would likely come out on top, which makes a pizza tour all the more of an NYC must. In the Slice of Brooklyn tour, pie-lovers climb aboard a bus for an entertaining four-and-a-half-hour tour of the borough’s pizza scene helmed by native son, Tony Muia. Local, entertaining guides supplement the slices with details on Brooklyn movie locations (among them Goodfellas, Saturday Night Fever and The French Connection), Coney Island (where you’ll get to walk the boardwalk and photograph the famous Wonder Wheel) and, of course, the history of New York City pizza. The tour includes a visit to two top pizzerias during this tour, including the famous Grimaldi’s beneath the Brooklyn Bridge — where guests will skip the line straight to hot-from-the-oven heaven. Afterwards, compare that slice to a Sicilian one from the circa 1939 L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst (it’s Rosanna Scotto’s favorite).
DETAILS: Friday-Monday 11am-3:30pm; $80 (get tickets); E. 13th Street and Fourth Avenue (in Manhattan)
Urban Oyster: Neighborhood Eats Tour: New York Waterfront
With a boat tour added to the usual market exploration and chocolate tasting, the New York Waterfront tour provides an unusual aquatic perspective on eating out in New York. While other tours rely on buses or walking for transportation, this three-and-a-half-hour tour includes a scenic cruise on the New York Water Taxi in addition to visits to artisan markets, historic restaurants and local shops near the waterfront. Things kick off at South Street Seaport’s Bowne & Co. Stationers, one of NYC’s oldest existing businesses under the same name founded in 1775, and move from there to restaurants such as Fresh Salt, a cafe that served longshoremen in a past life, and eventually to Steve’s Key Lime Pie factory in Brooklyn’s Red Hook. The tour also provides a firsthand glimpse into the neighborhoods that suffered most during Hurricane Sandy, a more recent note in the history of New York’s resilient waterfront.
DETAILS: Sundays 11am-2:30pm; $72 (get tickets); 211 Water St.
Astoria Food Walk with SideTour
SideTour offers countless unique tour experiences across New York City, but one of its tastiest is this two-hour food walk through Astoria, Queens. Tour leader and native New Yorker, Susan Birnbaum, promises to “go around the world in 80 minutes,” and indeed the diverse streets of Astoria provide the goods for a feast from many continents. The neighborhood’s restaurants, cafes and markets cover Asia, the Middle East, South America and more. Taste Greek spanakopita (spinach pie), Italian gelato, Colombian sweetbread and the like during a tour that also touches on the history of the neighborhood itself. The experience wraps up with a pint at the Czech Bohemian Beer Hall, New York’s oldest beer garden.
DETAILS: Various dates and times; $49; exact meeting place provided after purchasing; sidetour.com
City Food Tours: NoLIta: Eat a Bite of Ethnic New York
New York is a city of micro-neighborhoods, each with its own character and cuisine. One of these neighborhoods is NoLIta, a section of downtown north of Little Italy that has become increasingly known for its food, taking inspiration from cultures spanning Spain, Vietnam, Israel, Italy and beyond. It is also home to some of the prettiest streets in Manhattan, full of chic and interesting boutiques, and restaurants teeming with delicious fare. On this three-hour tour, walkers sample the best banh mi sandwiches, just-made mozzarella, fresh pastries, cheesecake, homemade candy and slices of pizza that the neighborhood has to offer.
DETAILS: Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm; $42.75 (get tickets); 210 Lafayette St. at Kenmare Street
Urban Oyster: Neighborhood Eats Tour, Brownstone Brooklyn
The West Village isn’t New York’s only concentrated neighborhood of beautiful brownstones. These highly coveted buildings are also found in Brooklyn, and they can be seen during this three-hour tour of the borough that pays close attention to what its residents eat. A guide leads the inquisitive along Smith and Court streets to the neighborhood’s best artisan food shops. It stops at historic institutions such as D’Amico Coffee, which has been owned and operated by the same family since 1948, and relative newcomers such as One Girl Cookies, a boutique cookie bakery specializing in bite-sized wonders. Bring your appetite, as this tour hits everything from Middle Eastern shops to Italian cafes to gourmet cheese havens.
DETAILS: Friday 11am, Saturday 12pm; $54 (get tickets); 215 Smith St., Brooklyn
A series of culinary walking tours, Noshwalks exposes guests to all the culture and ethnic eats within New York’s borders, especially lesser-visited neighborhoods in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn. Led by local expert Myra Alperson (she’s helmed NYC tours since 1983 and co-authored The Food Lover’s Guide to the Real New York), Noshwalks opens the door to the delicious ethnic neighborhoods of New York’s five boroughs, everything from Russian food in Brighton Beach to Little Albania in the Bronx. Alperson connects curious eaters to off-the-beaten-path restaurants, markets and cafes across the city, demonstrating once and for all that you don’t have to leave New York to taste the flavors of faraway places.
DETAILS: dates and times vary; generally $50; location varies by tour; noshwalks.com
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