Exploring local flavors and forging new friendships through walking food tours
Walking through a neighborhood, you're able to find hidden gems that you wouldn't be able to see if you were just driving by in your car, whether it be a pocket park you never knew was there or a small restaurant that ends up having the best Cuban sandwich in town. And sometimes, you might need a little guidance.
Food tours — small, guided outings taking diners to various restaurants and bars — offer the unique opportunity to not only entice your palate but also explore neighborhoods in your city that you might not be familiar with. It also gives you a chance to meet new people who share an interest in finding the best fare that Rochester and its surrounding areas have to offer. As the gastronomical queen herself, Julia Child, said, "People who love to eat are the best people."
- PHOTO COURTESY BOOMTOWN TABLE
CITY has looked into food tours in Rochester and beyond and collected them for you below. All of these are walking tours, with the exception of the Rochester Pedal Tour. Each tour is a little different, so check the details, but generally ticket prices include a planned dish at each stop. If you know of any food tours that we missed, leave them in the comments below.
The original concept for Flower City Food Tours was to entice diners to explore Schoen Place and Pittsford Village, but it has since expanded to include the Park Avenue neighborhood. Tours run weekly, May through November — Pittsford tours take place on Thursdays and Saturdays, and Park Avenue tours take place on Wednesdays and Sundays. Each tour runs for about three hours and costs $57 to $59, with a capacity of 12 people. Stops on the Park Avenue tour include F. Oliver's, Magnolia's Deli & Cafe, Baker Street Bakery, and more. If you're interested in dining on (and near) the Erie Canal, the Pittsford tour has stops at Erie Grill and Pittsford Farms Dairy & Bakery. More information at flowercityfoodtours.com.
If you live in the city, there is a good chance you've been in your car behind a Rochester Pedal Tour, thinking to yourself, "I want to be mad, but they look like they're having so much fun." The popular bar crawl bike tour also offers a progressive dining tour. Peddlers can choose two different restaurants where they will pre-order food so it's ready when they get there. Participating restaurants include Ox and Stone, Char Steak & Lounge, ButaPub, and others. Dessert can either be brought on the bike or purchased and picked up at Sinful Sweets. The cost of the excursion, for up to 13 people, is about $265 plus the price of food. Tours are currently only available during the week as weekends are already sold out for the summer — however tours are offered all year round and the price is reduced after Thanksgiving weekend. Rochester Pedal Tours also has a Taco Tuesday Mixer for smaller groups that takes them to two different restaurants for tacos. More information at rochesterpedaltours.com/progressive-dinner.
For those looking to get outside the city proper, Finger Lakes Food Tours offers a Canandaigua Uptown Food Adventure Tour. The tours are held on Friday and Saturdays, May through December, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and are meant for all ages. Tickets are $65 and include stops at Eddie O'Brien's, Sweet Solutions, Flavors Indian Restaurant, and more. Participants will also learn about the history of Canandaigua's culture and architecture. You can purchase tickets and find out more information at flfoodtours.com.
Warmer weather provides the perfect opportunity for a day trip outside of Rochester to experience more of the food Western New York has to offer.
Sampling Syracuse runs a Discover Downtown Food Tour on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., May through the first weekend in November. Downtown Syracuse has had a significant facelift over the years, making the area more accessible and appealing to students and young professionals. The goal of the food tour is to support local, family-owned businesses and also drop some knowledge about the history of the area. Tickets are $41 and include stops at six area restaurants, including the original Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Café Kubal. Each tour has a capacity of 13 people. Find out more at syracusefoodtours.com.
Lewiston is only about an hour and a half drive east from Rochester, and Lewiston Food Tours offers both a Food Tasting and Historical Tour as well as a Prohibition Tour. The Food Tasting and Historical Tour stops at six restaurants, including some that were featured on The Food Network and The Travel Channel. The tour runs on Wednesdays and on the weekends from May through September. The cost is $53 for adults 12 and over and $35 for children under 12. Diners will also hear about Lewiston's history, with ties to the Underground Railroad and the War of 1812. The Prohibition Tour includes food and drink and a history lesson about Prohibition Era Lewiston and runs on Fridays and Saturdays from June through September. Tickets are $59 for adults 21 and over and $35 for an alcohol-free tour for those 18 and older. Both tours have a capacity of 12 people. More information on both tours at lewistonfoodtours.com.
Who says you can't do two food tours in one weekend? That actually sounds like the ideal weekend for me. Niagara Culinary Tours offers both a Niagara on the Lake Foodie Tour and a Niagara Falls Food Tour: Beyond the Falls. The Niagara on the Lake tour runs from April 1 to November 20, Thursdays through Sundays. Tours start at 1 p.m. and tickets are $69. Participants will visit four to six restaurants in a three and a half to four kilometer (you are in Canada after all) loop — about two miles. The Beyond the Falls tour runs from May 18 to September 30 on Friday through Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are also $69 per person and include a guided tour of Niagara Parks along with the food experience. Both tours require tickets to be purchased in advance and have a capacity of 12 people. More information at niagaraculinarytours.com.