Dine and Dash

Take to the streets and discover culinary culture on regional food tours

Jan 16, 2014 at 10:57 am
click to enlarge Cincinnati Food Tour
Cincinnati Food Tour

Whether you’re new to the area or you’ve lived here all your life, there’s always something fresh to discover in regional food, and there’s no better way to do that than on your feet. If your belly is full, it’s that much better, so we’ve gathered information about some food tour companies — two local and one in Columbus, Ohio — guaranteed to keep you sated, informed and entertained.

Cincinnati Food Tours

When Barb Cooper of Findlay Market’s Daisy Mae’s Market heard the World Choir Games were coming to town, she wanted a way to show off the city’s culinary landmark — Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market. 

“For several years I had been watching people stroll around Findlay Market with food in hand and I had been asked questions such as, ‘Where can I get the best bowl of soup?’ or ‘Does anyone sell tea?’” she says. “It reminded me of Taste of Cincinnati, Findlay Market-style.” So Cooper and Karen Kahle, of the Corporation for Findlay Market, launched the first Cincinnati Food Tours to give locals and visitors a deeper understanding of the market. 

The basic walking tour takes 90 minutes and includes stops at the shops or stands of six merchants, plus a historic overview of the market. It costs $20 (with wine tastings at Market Wines available on weekends for an additional $5). Each merchant shares a sample of goods, talks about his/her business, explains a recipe or product and interacts with the guests. The roster of merchants includes Churchill’s Fine Teas, Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices, Dojo Gelato, Eckerlin Meats, Fresh Table, Gramma Debbie’s Kitchen and more. Seasonal additions include Chill Shaved Ice Bar, Eli’s BBQ and Fireside Pizza. 

Tours generally run Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and Saturdays at 3 p.m. Cooper adds Sunday tours at 1 p.m. during peak times. Custom tours can be arranged at almost any time for groups of 10 or more. Tours start at Daisy Mae’s on the Race Street end of the Market House in Over-the-Rhine. cincinnatifoodtours.com.

Flavors of the Queen City

If you’ve got guests in from out of town, they’re going to want to try our world-famous Cincinnati-style chili. Mike Van Oflen, a lifetime Cincinnati resident, started Flavors of the Queen City after enjoying food tours across the country and seeing a need for one back home. His three-and-a-half-hour, $48 tour focuses on the Fountain Square area and hits up local favorites including Skyline Chili, Graeter’s Ice Cream, Tom & Chee, kitsch diner Hathaway’s, Via Vite, Servatii and Venice on Vine. Sample-sized portions of restaurant favorites are offered and the walking tour also packs in a dose of local history with stops at the Tyler Davidson Fountain and a trip to the top of Carew Tower. 

Flavors of the Queen City is offered on Friday and Saturday afternoons at 1 p.m. and stops can vary according to season and restaurant hours. Private tours can be arranged. The tour departs from and returns from Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown. flavorsofthequeencity.com.

Columbus Food Adventures

If time allows, head north to the state capital and Columbus Food Adventures (CFA). Bethia Woolf is a native of the U.K. who has long been a prolific chronicler of the Columbus food scene. Bethia and her husband Andy have put together a sizeable roster of both walking and van-based tours covering everything from Columbus’ North Market to excursions highlighting unique niches including food trucks — one tour covers only taco trucks — coffee, ethnic foods and even a meat lover’s extravaganza. Several popular neighborhoods are covered such as Short North and German Village. CFA also plans special tours around Columbus’ Local Foods Week, held annually each summer. 

No food tour of Columbus would be complete without a stop at national phenom and Columbus native Jeni’s Ice Cream, which is a featured stop on the All Desserts Tour as well as the Short North Tour. If none of these tours appeal to you, no worries, the Woolfs will construct your own custom itinerary for groups of eight or more.

Columbus Food Adventures vary in time, price ($50-$60; $80 for private tours) and location, with most being in the three- to four-hour range on Fridays and Saturdays. Please note that van tours are not suitable for young children as the vans are not equipped to carry car seats. columbusfoodadventures.com.