Getting to Know Neighborhoods Through Walking Culinary Tours
I was unfamiliar with culinary tours when Columbus Food Adventures launched several years ago in Columbus. Well, I knew of the concept but had never been on one personally. Since that time I’ve been on several tours around Columbus and other cities, and have even started leading breakfast and brunch-themed tours. (I still fondly remember the Queen City Underground walking beer/history tour my brothers and I took in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine years ago.) Culinary walking tours offer you the chance to sample food and beverage from a handful of restaurants all at once. Also, you get to experience a neighborhood close up. Too often we just drive through different areas and never fully appreciate what’s there, so I’m always a fan of walking and exploring. The tours also include a knowledgeable guide to share the stories of the restaurants and the history of the area.
Columbus Food Adventures runs a few different walking tours around Columbus, focused around Grandview, historic German Village, Old Worthington, and the Short North Arts District. The Short North tour, one of the most popular tours in the company, starts at the North Market, which honestly could merit its own tour.
Our guide led us first through the market, stopping at different vendors to sample cheese, seasonal produce, and little plates from the popular Nashville-style Hot Chicken Takeover. The North Market is a bustling old warehouse filled with vendors serving meat, seafood, flowers, and cheese, or prepared foods ranging from Polish to Vietnamese, from Belgian waffles to hot pretzels.
After that, we headed north into the neighborhood to stroll up and down High Street, stopping at a handful of restaurants to sample their wares, from gastropub fare at The Pearl to oven-fired pizzas at Forno and luscious chocolates at Le Chocoholique. The great part of these tours is that the guide can give you a behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant, teaching you their story, style, and highlights of their menu.
As we walked in between stops, our guide shared the history of the neighborhood, how the Short North went from a practical “drive through quick” no man’s land, to a busy haven for artists and galleries, to a thriving entertainment district. What’s amazing is connecting how markets, restaurants, and shops each contributed to the neighborhood’s growth.
By the end of the tour we had sampled enough food to count for a full meal (and then some), finishing off with a sweet treat at Jeni’s Ice Creams (I mean, you can’t be near one of their scoop shops and NOT get ice cream, right?). But we had also walked off a share of the calories with a lovely stroll through the neighborhood.
The Short North tour runs pretty much every Friday and Saturday throughout the year (check out columbusfoodadventures.com for the upcoming schedule). It’s a great way to get know the history and culinary delights of one of the city’s central districts. Wherever you travel, I recommend looking up a local culinary tour company – especially a walking tour – and booking a seat to explore the city!