There is nothing I love more than a good food tour. I believe you can learn so much about a place and its culture through the cuisine, which is why I love booking a food tour whenever I’m in a new country. I even did a food tour in Spain once, where I grew up, and got to try so many food types that I would never otherwise have had the chance to discover! And my most recent trip to New York City was no different. I wanted to get under the Big Apple’s skin by eating whatever it had to offer.
I Googled New York Food Tours and “Foods of New York Tours” was the first non-advertised company to appear. After reviewing their website, I was sold on the idea. The prices were reasonable, I liked that they had a variety of tour options, and I liked the sound of all the food I’d get to try too! So I booked my spot!
In this blog post, I’ll give you my honest opinion of the tour, the food, the guide, and the company. I should add, it is not a sponsored post. I paid my full fee, and they were unaware that I would be writing a blog post afterward. However, I get so many questions about food tours that I thought I should share my experience.
But before I do, let’s start with the basics.
What is a food tour?
A food tour is a tour of a location, its culture, and its history through the means of cuisine. Food can tell you so much about the culture of a place. Through every mouthful, you learn about a community’s attitudes, practices, and rituals. It is a great way to immerse yourself in a new culture and understand their way of life.
The tours usually take place outside of the tourist hotspots, giving you a chance to see the “behind the scenes” of a city. I often get asked how I find so many hidden gems when I travel. Food tours are one of the main reasons!
Most food tours are also walking tours, although there are exceptions. In Hanoi, our food tour involved old Russian Minks motorbikes. A great way to explore the city! In Rio, we moved around the city using the metro. Whereas all the other tours we have been on have focused on smaller areas, and thus been walking tours. In Rome, that was the Trastevere neighbourhood, and in New York, it was Greenwich Village.
Choosing the right tour
Sometimes, it just comes down to fate. For example, Foods of New York Tours offers 7 different food tours. However, I ended up on the Original Greenwich tour not by choice but by coincidence. And I’m glad I did!
Nolita & Little Italy’s Secrets Food Tour
When choosing a tour, I am thinking not just about the type of food I might get to eat, but also about the stories that might be told. As you all know, I love a good story, and therefore I was instantly attracted to their Nolita & Little Italy’s Secrets Food Tour. The food on this tour sounded tasty, but it was the promise of mafia-related stories that really caught my attention!
On our first-ever holiday together, back in 2011, Doug and I did a Real New York Walking Tour, which brought us through Little Italy. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a blog at the time, and therefore I never wrote down everything we learnt on that tour, which is a pity as I remember loving all the stories shared with us.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be this time round as Nolita & Little Italy’s Secrets Food Tour was fully booked.
Chelsea Market Food Tour
My next choice was the Chelsea Market Food Tour. The fact that I would get to see the birthplace of the OREO cookie had me hooked! I also liked that it involved a stroll along the Highline, something several people have recommended I do. As it happens, this tour wasn’t to be either. I turned up for my 10 am start only to be met by Food of New York Tour’s manager, who let me know the tour had unfortunately been cancelled and I had missed the email.
Original Greenwich Village Tour
Although gutted it was cancelled, I was glad that he was there to greet me. They had sent me an email that I had opened but not read. They had received a “read” notification, so they could easily have washed their hands and assumed their part of the deal was done. However, not having heard back from me, they ensured I was taken care of. He talked me through the other tours available that day, and that is how I ended up joining the Original Greenwich Village Tour.
Although disappointed at first, I can’t say that disappointment lasted long. The tour guide, Bert, was fantastic. In fact, he is one of the best I have had, and the food was delicious. But more about the actual tour, guide, and food below.
Other tours available with Foods of New York Tours are:
Heart and Soul of Greenwich Village: Many tours focus on Greenwich Village because this is the culinary melting pot of New York City. As well as lots of yummy tastings this tour also includes a visit to Washington Square Park.
Flavours of Chinatown: A little different from the other tours on offer, this tour focuses on upscale Asian eats concentrated over three sittings instead of the “on the go” tastings that you will enjoy on the other available tours. I seriously considered this tour as I LOVE Chinese food. I haven’t been able to enjoy Chinese food since returning from China though. The Chinese food from British takeaways just doesn’t compare!
The Best of Brooklyn: This tour caught my eye since it follows the trail that immigrants took when settling in New York. From a historical perspective, I feel this could easily be one of the most interesting tours.
Food and Farm Tour, Hudson Valley: Unlike the other tours that are roughly 3 hours each, this is an all-day tour focusing on a farm-to-table exploration of the Hudson Valley. Since I wanted to be within New York City itself, it didn’t make sense for me to join a day trip out. However, it could be an excellent way for those staying in New York to get out of the hustle and bustle for a day and enjoy some yummy food!
So, I am eager to know. Which of those has caught your eye the most?
Everything you need to know about the Original Greenwich Village Food Tour
Although completely unplanned, I ended up on The Original Greenwich Village Food Tour. This tour focuses predominantly on historic ‘mom & pop’ type establishments, some of which have been operating for over 90 years! In fact, one of the restaurants is now being run by a third-generation family member!
We met outside Murray’s Cheese and Gourmet Foods Store, where Bert, our guide, took a few moments to get to know each one of us. Impressively, he memorised each of our names and where we were from in that short amount of time. No mean feat when there were 12 of us!
In fact, Bert really does deserve a mention. He was funny, enthusiastic, and full of knowledge! His delivery was spot on, managing to provide us with enough information on the history of the location and each of the items of food we ate, while at the same time mixing in stories and pop culture facts as we walked the streets of Greenwich Village. There were a couple of kids on the tour, and he managed to pitch it right for them and the adults. I take my hat off to him; he really did know how to work the crowd!
What did we eat on the Foods of New York tour?
What didn’t we eat?! If you ever book a food tour, skip breakfast and wear your expandable trousers! There is never a food shortage, and Foods of New York Tours was no different! So please don’t judge me when I tell you just how much I ate on this tour!
Our first stop was Joe’s Pizza. It wasn’t much to look at from the outside, although the long queue spilling out onto the pavement (sidewalk!) indicated that something special was about to happen! Joe’s Pizza was started up in 1975 by Joe (funnily enough!), who still very much remains in the business. Joe was originally from Naples, the birthplace of pizza, so it’s fair to have high expectations. In fact, Joe’s pizza slices have quite the following, with no end of Hollywood A-listers choosing to visit when they are in the city.
We had a slice of pizza each. It was just a plain margarita pizza, but what was nice about it was the lack of oil that you get on some of the cheaper slices where the cheese separates. The base was also thin and light, just as I like it.
There is a great YouTube video that will give you a flavour of the personalities behind this family-run legendary pizza slice takeaway venue. As for the rest of the secrets, you will need to join the tour to find out!
Address: 7 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014
I really liked this quirky little Mexican restaurant. The name is a combination of Taco and a Volkswagen Combi car. Apparently, the business started by selling tacos from the back of a Volkswagen Combi, so they joined both names together and Tacombi was born.
Here we enjoyed a glass of watermelon juice and one of their famous fish tacos. I don’t think I would ever have chosen a fish taco of my own accord, but I’m glad I tried it as it was very tasty. Flakey beer battered haddock served in a soft tortilla, on a bed of pickled cabbage, and with spicy roasted-poblano pepper mayo. Topped, of course, with an obligatory squirt of lime. Are you drooling yet?
Address: 255 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014
Faicco’s Italian Specialities
We then crossed the road straight into a store plucked straight from the streets of Italy. It really was like we had teleported to a small town shop in the Italian countryside. This store specialises in making its own sausages, sauces, cheeses, and oils. And what isn’t homemade is imported straight from Italy.
Faicco’s was once again a take-out spot. I’d probably describe it as a deli. And just like Joe’s, it also had a long queue of tourists, locals, and Uber Eats drivers awaiting their turn. In fact, Faicco’s is one of the top 3 delivery sandwich shops in New York city!
The sandwiches looked incredible. I would have loved to have tried one! Instead, we had a Sicilian Rice Ball, or arancini as they are typically called. I can’t say they were my favourite dish on the tour. They were nice, but I have had better. Too much cheese for my liking. However, we also had some sweet soppressata Italian salami from Faicco’s. This was lovely and bursting with flavour!
Address: 260 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014
Pesce means fish in Italian, so I found it strange that we went to a fish restaurant to have meatballs. However, the meatballs were great, so I am not going to complain! Our guide, Bert, gave us a really great tip. Cut the meatballs into quarters before putting any parmesan cheese on. You then get 4 times more surface area to really enjoy the parmesan taste.
If I went back though, I’d likely opt for one of the fish dishes. Since this is their specialty, I feel that they would be extra special! The reviews online at least suggest as much!
Address: 262 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014
The Doughnut Project
This stop made up for the previous two “not quite wow-worthy” stops. WOW!! Because the doughnuts are so big, they actually make some smaller ones, especially for the Foods of New York food tours. The doughnut has a fresh lemon glaze with lemon zest and a pinch of sea salt! A lemon doughnut would never be my first choice. At least it wasn’t before I tried this one. I would have happily gobbled up the entire tray! They were so delicious.
The shop is also very funky. They have some brilliant flavours such as the “everything” doughnut, which is a take on the “everything” bagel. It has a sweet cream cheese glaze, topped with sesame and poppy seeds roasted in garlic and sea salt. They also have a Bacon Maple Bar, which has, as the name suggests, a maple bacon slice and maple glazing!
If you think these doughnuts sound too weird, they do have your more traditional doughnuts too! For example, peanut butter and jelly, chocolate, original glazed, cinnamon, and a plerotha of other delicious combinations.
I had planned on returning to buy some doughnuts after the tour, but the shop is so successful that it closes either at 2, or when they sell out, whichever happens first. Needless to say, it was closed by the time I got there!
Whether you book on to the Foods of New York Tour, or do it alone, make sure you don’t miss out The Doughnut Project!
Address: 10 Morton St, New York, NY 10014
Whereas The Doughnut Project was my favourite sweet stop, Rafele’s was my favourite savory stop. Here we had an eggplant rollatini. The best way I can describe it is as cannelloni but using eggplant instead of pasta. It was sooo yummy!
The restaurant itself had a great vibe to it, and what I liked the most was that you could see the cooks working behind the glass divider.
Reading the online reviews, they are mixed. However, I can’t fault the experience we had and would definitely return to have a bigger portion of the eggplant rollatini!
Address: 29 A 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10014
The last stop on the tour saw us munching on one of Rocco’s famous cannolis while standing on the street listening to a fantastic live jazz band. The cannoli was delicious, but it was the atmosphere on the street that made this stop extra special!
Rocco’s is a traditional Italian patisserie (or maybe more accurately Pasticceria) that focuses on original pastry recipes from southern Italy. They have a small amount of seating inside, should you wish to enjoy a coffee with your pastry. However, they are equally as good as a takeaway option.
It seems strange to say, but eating Italian is a great way to experience the real New York, and outside of Little Italy, Greenwich Village is the place to do it!
Address: 243 Bleecker St #4438, New York, NY 10014
What else did we see on the Foods of New York Tour?
Although this tour covered a much smaller area than a lot of the other tours I have gone on, we still go to see several interesting sites while wandering through some of the historic streets and neighbourhoods of New York City.
Right next to Tacombi is Taylor Swift’s old home. I suppose most people visit because of its connection with the singer. However, what I found really interesting is that historically it had been the stables for the laundry horses. The horses were housed on the second floor, while the carriages remained on the ground floor. On the second floor you will find three large arched windows. Back in the 1800s it wouldn’t be unusual to see three horses’ heads looking down on the street below.
We also saw the narrowest home in New York and the last standing wooden building. Due to the fire risk, these have now been replaced with brick everywhere else. We joined a group of excited tourists taking photos of the famous sitcom “Friends” house, and learnt how to differentiate the ages of buildings by the way the bricks had been laid.
Probably the most interesting of them all though, was the locksmith. The shop was closed, which was a pity, but we still got to see the mural at the side of his shuttered shop, made up entirely of keys! It just goes to show that you can make art with anything! There is an excellent documentary you can watch to learn more about this quirky business as well as see some of the great key art he has created.
Is this tour right for me?
Well, I’m afraid I can’t answer that! But what I can tell you is that you will love this tour if:
- You like food
- You like learning about the culture of a place
- You like seeing a destination through the eyes of a local
- You want a personal touch
- You appreciate the benefits of having a great tour guide
If I am ever back in New York, I will not hesitate to book one of the other tours available from Foods of New York, and just in case you missed my note above, this article is in no way sponsored by them. In fact, they don’t even know I am writing it.
I genuinely believe that food is one of the best ways to explore a new country or destination, and therefore I have done many food tours over the years. You can read about them here:
- Rio de Janeiro food tour
- Bangkok food tour
- Thai cooking class – I cooked with Poo, and I liked it!
- Hanoi food tour
- Rome food tour
- Buenos Aires food tour
- Although I did a food tour in Madrid, I didn’t write about it, but I did write about how to eat for free in Spain!
- I’ve also written about what foods you should eat on a self guided pintxo tour in San Sebastian
- My favourite recipes from Eastern Europe – which includes my favourite vodka recipe from our Krakow “food” tour (OK, it was a vodka tour that included a couple of appetisers)
I’m interested to know. Have you ever been on a food tour? Or would you consider doing one?