Posts Tagged ‘food tour’

R Street food tour from Local Roots

February 17th, 2020
R Street sign


When it comes to food we’re pretty spoiled in California, with fresh produce from local farms, seafood, and of course plenty of wine to go along with it. So I was a little miffed when all the restaurants were booked well in advance when I arrived in Sacramento on Friday, and were so massively understaffed on Saturday that I couldn’t even get seated at any restaurant bars.

It eventually dawned on me that this wasn’t normal: I’d simply arrived on Valentine’s Day and every restaurant worth dining at in town was squeezed for staff.

Fortunately I’d booked a food tour on Sunday, the R Street food tour from Local Roots. This more than made up for the previous two day’s dining disappointments.

The tour started at the WAL Public Market, a small shopping center in a warehouse building now used for live/work artist studios. The guide met us outside with horchata coffee for the group. I’d never had horchata with coffee in it before — it’s a little sweet but the flavors work well together.

We all went inside for a while to browse while our first meal was prepared. I’d skipped breakfast and was eager for some good food.


R Street Food Tour


Our first dishes were from a Japanese place including miso soup, sweet sushi-style rice, and both vegetable and seafood poke. All of this was amazing — the miso soup really hit the spot on a somewhat chilly afternoon, and one woman in the group who claimed she hated seafood had to admit the salmon poke was delicious.

From there we walked around the R Street area for a while to look at some of the street art, which I’ll get to in a later post. R Street itself was once a key part of the Transcontinental Railroad shipping empire, but due to a decline following World War 2 it became an unofficial arts district.

The next stop was a Mexican joint called Mas Taco Bar. We all shared a big bowl of guacamole and some fried tortillas to break up into chips along with whatever individual tacos we wanted. I had a salmon taco which came with a fresh tortilla, spicy aioli, and small slices of jalapeno. The service was a little slow, though the taco proved worth the wait.


R Street Food Tour


From there we backtracked a little to visit the Shady Lady, an upscale “speakeasy” in an old brick building. We ordered individual cocktails; I had a fancy margarita which doesn’t really fit the speakeasy theme but made sense in my mind after eating Mexican food.

We also split some appetizers, the only one of which I tried was fried green tomatoes. This version was a little crunchy on the outside with a sweet, gooey tomato center.

Our guide said this spot used to be a Wonder Bread factory, which I think I accidentally turned into a debate about modern food production. I mentioned learning at the Sacramento History Museum that sliced bread meant kids could safely make their own sandwiches for the first time.

One woman about my age with two kids said she liked the idea of telling them to make their own lunches, which somehow led to an argument about using using modern technology (GMOs, fertilizers, etc.) to feed the world vs. the long term impacts on sustaining healthy farmland. It was a very lively group on this tour.


R Street Food Tour


Finally we stopped for desert in the “Ice Blocks” area of R Street, which was once a produce packing district where trains were packed with fresh produce and ice for refrigeration. Today the area is all new construction.

The last stop was Creamy’s, a bakery in the Ice Blocks that serves tiny cheesecakes in small cupcake wrappers. These were too rich for my tastes, though the diminutive portions made it more palatable.

My recommendation: If you’re curious about the food scene in Sacramento but aren’t sure what to try, this tour is a great place to start. Local Roots has a few other food tours listed on their website if you’re looking for something different.

Guided tours of Denver

April 29th, 2019

Tattered Cover Book Store

Downtown Denver’s Best Walking Tour

This two hour downtown tour covers a lot of ground, both historically and physically. It was the first tour I took in Denver and proved to be a good jumping off point for my stay there. The tours are led by Austin, a local guide with significant experience who was quick to offer suggestions of what else to see and do in the area.

The photo above is the inside of Tattered Cover, an indie bookstore with a huge selection and a small cafe. It’s an early stop on the tour — and one that I returned to because I wanted to browse their vast magazine section.

What makes this tour special is the limited group size. In fact I was the only one who booked the tour that morning so it was just me and Austin walking around and chatting.

Book this tour on Airbnb Experiences.

RiNo street art

Denver Graffiti Tour, aka Tour Denver’s Best Street Art

The more detailed info in my post on the street art in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood is largely from the expertise provided by a guide on this tour.

Everything on this tour is free to see on your own, the reason to go on the tour is to learn more about the artists and how the vibrant street art scene works in RiNo.

Book this tour through their official website or on Airbnb Experiences.

Boozy Bites Tour

Boozy Bites Tour, aka Craft Beer, Cocktails, & Savory Bites

This tour combines some of Denver’s downtown food, cocktail, and beer hot spots into one tour. The food’s enough for a light meal and there’s enough alcohol to leave you a little tipsy by the end.

It’s a two and half hour tour, which sounds long but there were a couple moments that felt a little rushed. That said everything I tried was excellent and they graciously accommodated my no-meat diet.

Book this tour through their official website or on Airbnb Experiences.

Old Market District Walking Food Tour

April 21st, 2019

Old Market District Walking Food Tour
Cannoli for breakfast

The Old Market District Walking Food Tour focuses entirely on foodie favorite spots in Omaha’s Old Market District. This part of Omaha dates back to the 19th century and is mainly built out of brick. Even the streets are paved with brick. Originally it was a warehouse and light industry district serving the nearby train lines, recently it’s been reborn as a place to meet friends for food, coffee, and drinks.

In the morning our tour group of a dozen or so had the entire place to ourselves. (To be fair not all the businesses were officially open yet.) This gave us time not only to sample the food, but meet some of the owners and managers — a nice touch for a food tour.

The tour starts, oddly enough, at a dessert shop. We all sampled classic Italian-style cannoli filled with ricotta cheese. It was rich enough I was glad I’d skipped breakfast.

Aside from food one stop includes a small sample of beer, another a small sample of coffee. Both were excellent. The cafe handed out extremely soft, melt-in-your-mouth pretzels. These didn’t go with the coffee at all but I’ve never had a pretzel like that so it’s hard to complain.

Old Market Passageway

Another highlight of this tour was learning about the Old Market District’s history. One of the more unusual aspects was the addition of the “Passageway” seen in the above photo. This simple alley between two buildings was enclosed in glass and given a lush garden makeover.

In the Passageway today you can find restaurants, art galleries, etc. My favorite business in there was a tiny bookstore that’s also home to a small dog.

Hours after the tour I wandered back to the Old Market District at around 6 PM to see if it was any busier — and to find dinner. Sure enough the streets were significantly more crowded and the restaurants had opened. Still, all of the restaurants I peeked into had at least a couple empty tables.

My recommendation: Going in I had low expectations for a food tour in a small town like Omaha. But in all honesty the food was on par with what I’d expect to find in much larger cities. You can book this tour or any of the other Omaha Culinary Tours here.

Guided tours of Chicago

April 19th, 2019

In Chicago I took a few tours that were highly recommended online. There’s something said for the wisdom of the crowds, these are all solid tours I enjoyed and would recommend as well if the subject matter interests you.

Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza

Second City Classic Food Tour from Chicago Food Planet

My first tour in Chicago was this “classic” food tour which focuses on various cuisines you can readily find in Chicago. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that yes, Chicago deep dish pizza is included — and it’s the first stop.

I’ve had deep dish pizza before (I mean, who hasn’t?) but this one was above and beyond anything I’d ever tried. As the only non-meat eater in the group I got a small pizza all to myself instead of “just” a big slice with sausage. Even though I arrived hungry I couldn’t finish the entire thing, it was too big and too rich. The most amazing part wasn’t the crust or the cheese — it was the crushed sweet tomatoes on top instead of a traditional sauce. Everyone had the same tomato topping.

The other stops on the tour included a mix of local and international food, beverages, ingredients, and a classic local bar and BBQ joint. Since I don’t eat meat I can only vouch for the homemade BBQ sauce.

The architectural component of the tour was cut short because, well, it was snowing. On the bright side we also had a more intimate experience due to several last minute cancellations.

Book this tour on their website.

Chicago "Corncobs"

Chicago Architecture Cruise from Chicago Line Cruises

With many architecture cruises and walks to choose from, I went with this one not only because of recommendations, but because it’s the most comprehensive.

The tricky part is figuring out where this tour starts; you’ll probably pass by similar tours on the way there. Just keep an eye out for the cruise company logo and take your phone’s directions with a grain of salt — location services can be a little wonky with tall steel structures around you.

The tour guide lectures at a fast pace on the architecture along the Chicago river. You’ll learn how architects think about integrating buildings into their surrounding environment as well as how they work around the unique challenges of building on the river, and in some cases the existing rail infrastructure underneath the new structures.

Another common theme is how modern developers adapt and reuse existing buildings that were originally built for, say, a Montgomery Ward order fulfillment warehouse.

Complimentary soft beverages, coffee, and snacks are available on the lower deck. Beer and wine are available for an extra charge.

Dress warm for this one, the Chicago river is significantly cooler than the city above.

Book this cruise on their website.

Congress Hotel

Gangsters and Ghosts Tour

If you keep up with the news at all it’s no secret that Chicago has a problem with violent crime. (Side note: crime isn’t a major concern for most tourists.) This walking tour focuses on Chicago’s dark past as well as places that are allegedly still haunted by it.

Without spoiling anything major, here are a few key points of the tour:

  • The life and death of notorious mob boss Al Capone
  • A mass tragedy that led to certain modern day fire codes
  • How the mafia used Chicago’s infrastructure to hide the sound of gunshots
  • The story of America’s first serial killer

It’s a fairly long tour; about two hours with a lot of walking and some stairs. There’s a bathroom break partway through so I’d recommend bringing water. The guide didn’t pull out any gory photos or anything though the descriptions were graphic enough that the younger or more squeamish guests might want to steer clear.

Book this one through their official website or on Airbnb Experiences — the price is the same either way.

Pedway tour

Discover Chicago’s underground city

Did you know Chicago has series of ad-hoc underground public walkways known as the “pedway”? This hour long tour takes you through a few of them, connecting government buildings, malls, three train stations, and more.

It’s the perfect indoor walking tour for a day when the weather’s not so great. The tunnels aren’t at a consistent level and some are better cared for than others. Weirder yet, not all of them even appear on any (semi) official map.

It’d be super easy for us tourists to get lost down there without a guided tour. Fortunately the tour guide, Margaret, is an incredibly warm and passionate person who knows her way around and loves sharing her knowledge.

This one an only be booked only through Airbnb Experiences.