We joined a New York City food tour a couple of years ago when my husband Michael and I were visiting the city. Since we love the city and we like to eat (who doesn’t?), it sounded like a great idea, right? We opted for a driving food tour in Brooklyn because we have never really visited there. The tour was half-day and we actually had a great time.
There were probably 12-15 of us in a nice air-conditioned minibus. The guide was great, giving us some history or interesting facts as we were driving around. We stopped at half a dozen restaurants and had bite-size samples of food at each stop. We enjoyed the experience a lot even though we could have used more food at the end. We decided we would do more food tours in the future.
Now fast forward to the year 2020, the craziest and most surreal time I’ve ever experienced. Needless to say, plans were canceled and lots of adjustments to our daily lives. After months of pretty much staying home (and working from home thankfully), we are all a little stir crazy. Since our three boys and my husband are going back to school and work in person in September, we decided to do something fun together before the summer is over. Michael came up with the DIY Food Tour in Washington DC!
I had to say, it’s brilliant! Our “boys” (21, 18, 11) would be moaning and groaning if we were just going to walk around town in the 90+ degree hot and humid east coast summer weather. Driving in an air-conditioned car and eating and not having to get out in the heat, ha, they can’t complain!
Michael did the planning and picked out the area and restaurants that we might try. I got all the supplies packed for everyone in the car for our food tour. Michael even had a spreadsheet with all the details (yes, he is that kind of guy). He got all the restaurants' names, addresses, phone numbers, dishes to try all in one place. We would phone ahead, pick up the order, park on the street, eat in the car, and order ahead for the next restaurants. We only ordered one dish or a couple of small appetizers at each location to share among the five of us. Bit sizes are the key or you’ll be full after two stops! Michael did the driving and I’d jump out (not literally) and do the pick-up.
Advantages of a DIY food tour, especially during the pandemic:
- Sample dishes without having to have a full-blown meal at any restaurant.
- Able to try different cuisines in one afternoon.
- The city is less crowded and easier to find street parking to park and eat.
- All restaurants offer carryout service. Even the ones that had never offered a carryout option are doing so now. (you know the kind I'm talking about)
- You don’t have to worry about sitting near other people in the restaurants without masks.
- It’s FUN!
Here are some tips on doing your own food tour:
- Plan your tour around one area in the city.
- Pick out 6 - 8 places that you would like to try (you don’t have to go to all of them and make sure they are open the day you are planning your food tour!)
- Research ahead (Yelp is an excellent source) and pick a couple of items you would like to sample from each restaurant.
- Put all the information on a piece of paper (or spreadsheet!) for easy reference.
- Pack items you would for a picnic for easy sharing: spoons, forks, plates, bowls, cups, napkins, water, wet wipes, masks, hand sanitizer (I gave each person a ziplock with their names and put their utensils in it)
- Make sure everyone uses the ahem, restroom before departing.
We had fun and did 6 restaurants in 3.5 hours and brought home the desserts to eat after dinner. We also had fun critiquing the food along the way. It was the little "getaway" we needed.
I hope this will give you a fun idea to do with your family. If you tried it, I would love to hear how it went!
Oh, by the way, we did have about 45 mins to wait before a restaurant was opened at 4 pm. So Michael decided we would walk over to the Lincoln Memorial, in the heat. Guess what? The boys complained 🙄