Sidewalk Food Tours: Where History And Food Come Together
Whether you are eating a traditional dish at a family gathering or you are trying something new in a country you’ve never been to before, there is always one common thread. Food brings people together.
It celebrates culture and tradition. It lets chefs “play with their food” and get crazy creative when coming up with new menus. Best of all, a good meal can serve as a bridge between people – connecting us to the communities and neighborhoods we visit.
That’s why, in 2011, Joshua Hirsch created Sidewalk Food Tours.
At the time, he was living in Downtown Manhattan and was feeling a little lost. As most career-changers could relate, he was looking for something meaningful to dedicate his time to. In his last job as a private equity trader, he spent most of his time staring at a computer screen all day. As you can imagine, he was more than ready to get out into the community again.
So he started walking.
Whenever he had the chance, he’d hop on a Manhattan walking tour. As a history buff, he loved learning about the different neighborhoods’ pasts and what their plans were for the future. The tours took him through areas that were just starting to have new life breathed into them after years of economic recession. It was an invigorating experience to see storefronts taking down planked-up windows and putting up “We’re Open” signs.
Josh was inspired by the resiliency of the community and by the risk-takers opening up shop in areas that weren’t necessarily in the tourist guides. Seeing the hopeful owners of cafes and restaurants hustling to make their name, he thought to himself, “what incredible foresight these trailblazers have.”
It got him thinking, “how can I be a part of this?”
An Idea Based On Necessity
The answer hit him during a 5-hour walking tour through New York’s up-and-coming neighborhoods. Running on fumes and caffeine, his stomach started to grumble. His guide kept pointing out new, trendy restaurants in the area but the group would walk right by them. That is when Josh came up with a brilliant idea…
What if he made a walking tour that combined history and culture with stops at delicious neighborhood restaurants along the way? Having lived in New York himself, he knew one of the best ways to learn about a new community is through its food.
He started planning right away. He knew he wanted to share his favorite local spots with the world.
Fast forward to today and every dish you try on a Sidewalk Food Tour tells a story. As guests savor delicious tastings, they also learn about the people making it, their culture, and the neighborhood around them.
Since 2011, the food tour industry as a whole has seen rapid growth. Once a small niche, you can now find a food tour in every major city worldwide. Even in some not-so-major cities, you might see a local guide excitedly sharing the history of their favorite dish at a local haunt.
Along with the industry, Sidewalk Food Tours has grown too! From humble beginnings in NYC, we now have food tours in San Francisco, Chicago, LA, Paris, New Orleans, and San Diego. If your city isn’t on the list yet, don’t worry. We’ve got our eye on adding more in the near future!
Pivoting During the Pandemic
From 2011-2020 we were having the best time meeting people from all over and sharing our community with you. Then, our world was rocked. Just like many other small businesses, we had to adapt to ever-changing COVID regulations. We were running a “people business” that thrives on human interaction during a time when the gathering was restricted. On top of trying to figure out how to safely follow local guidelines, we were also worried about our loved ones, employees, and customers.
Luckily, Josh is quick on his feet when it comes to problem-solving. He came up with one more brilliant idea to get the team through the pandemic and to stay connected with our customers.
He decided if we couldn’t show you around our cities, we’d come to you – virtually! We started hosting wildly fun cooking competitions online. We even set up a mixology course where you can learn to make sinfully good drinks! We might not have been able to meet in person, but we loved sharing laughter and recipes online with our friends all over the world.
Returning To A New Normal
As things began opening back up, we started giving tours again as safely as possible. What we noticed was that after two years of lockdown, people were ready to start traveling again. We all wanted to meet new people, learn about new places, try new foods, and laugh again.
As a team, we were thrilled to have our guests back. Now, not only are we back up and running, business is booming! Getting to see people in person again has been so much fun and we are excited to continue expanding to cities all around the world!
We’ve also kept our online virtual classes. One thing the pandemic has taught us is that even when you can’t be with your loved ones in person, you can still have a few laughs over video! One of our favorite things is working with hybrid and remote companies. It is nice watching a group hop online as a team to learn something in a casual, laid-back setting.
So, What Can You Expect From Sidewalk Food Tours in 2023?
- Expert Guides: When Josh started putting tours together, he knew people would fall in love with the neighborhoods from the food alone. Still, he wanted to make sure his tours offered something really special. He knew a food tour had the potential to become a core memory for families on vacation, friends celebrating birthdays, offices looking to team-build, and even wedding groups preparing for the big day!
So he hired the best of the best for his team. Sidewalk Food Tours’ hand-picked local guides not only show you where to eat but also create a unique culinary experience that can be tailored just for you. You’ll feel the energy of the group grow as your guide welcomes you to their neighborhood and gives you all the tips and tricks to feel like a local.
- Hidden History: Our guides truly love what they do. They get as excited about the hidden gems in their neighborhoods as a kid showing off their favorite toy. As you walk through the area, they will point out the street art and murals most tourists would rarely find on their own. You’ll learn about local legends, a few scandals, and a bunch of fun facts you wouldn’t find in any guidebook.
- Tasty Treats Off The Beaten Path: It wouldn’t be a Sidewalk Food Tour without tastings at award-winning spots. You’ll dine in places that renowned chefs like Anthony Bourdain have highly praised. You might also dine in a locally famous hole-in-the-wall that has the best nachos in town.
Part of taking a food tour with us is getting to know the neighborhood beyond the store-bought travel book. Your goal is to try the best food the city has to offer. and we are here to show you where to find it!
A Huge “Thank You” To Our Amazing Customers
Without our food-loving guests, we wouldn’t be who we are today. It is you guys who make our jobs here at Sidewalk Food Tours so much fun! We love getting to share our homes with you while taking you to our favorite spots in town. Whether you are celebrating a special occasion, or just want to eat your way through the neighborhood, we are honored to be a part of your time in our cities.
When Josh first started out on his journey to create Sidewalk Food Tours, he wanted to bring people together with food, history, and fun. So whenever we get to read a positive message from one of our guests, we get pretty excited.
We love your feedback so much, we wanted to give a shout-out to a just few of our favorite guests.
Thank you, Amy, who took one of our OG tours in Manhattan:
Many thanks to our friend, Tamara, who visited us in New Orleans:
And finally, a big shout out to Katie who checked out our newest tour addition in San Diego:
We are very grateful to be growing as a food tour company and to get to share our love for food, history, and community with you. Whether you’ve taken a tour with us before or are new to the walking food tour world, we’d love to take you around our town.
Feel free to jump on one of our tours for a day of food, fun, and friendship!