A Foodie in San Francisco: Local Taste of the City Tour Review
My love for foodie tours began in Charlottetown, PEI; it grew larger in Portland, Maine. So when I bought a plane ticket to San Francisco, my husband insisted I find a food tour there as well even though I’d be enjoying the tour without him. It’s San Francisco for Pete’s sake, he said, to not go on a food tour there would be like visiting Rome without the Coliseum, like visiting Paris without the Eiffel Tower (the latter of which we did, by the way!)
But he had a point. San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States (Portland, Maine is second—yet another reason why I loved it there). So of course I’d do a food tour—and Local Taste of the City Tours offers several options.
I chose the North Beach/Little Italy tour because it took me to a neighborhood I’d likely not have visited on my own. North Beach is low on tourist attractions but huge on charm and on food—the streets are literally lined with cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, and bakeries. After following the detailed public transport directions provided by the tour guide, I found the group of a dozen or so people gathering in front of a restaurant near Columbus and Union. First tip–take the ‘leave early if you’re using public transportation’ advice very seriously. The bus ride was so slow I almost missed the tour.
The Local Taste of the City Tour, I found, was to be more a food tour and less of a restaurant tour. We visited a coffee shop, several bakeries, a chocolate shop, an adorable and historic little café, and finally two restaurants—one Italian and one, oddly, Mexican.
The best part of the tour was, by far, all of the information the tour guide provided. Practically every minute of the three hour tour was filled with interesting facts and trivia. He told us about the neighborhood we walked through, tying in bits of historic and, often, culinary information. For example, did you know that San Francisco is a haven for chocolate makers–and has been for over a century–because of its ideal climate? We learned about the architecture, stopped at some famous film locations, and even visited a little cafe with ties to several well-known celebrities.
At one point I made the conscious decision to stop trying to write down every single bit of interesting information provided because, well, there were just so many great tidbits shared. From the origins of the organic/local foods movement to an epic tale about the importance of time in all things related to bread baking, I came away with a lot of new knowledge.
Because of the plethora of information provided, I consider the North Beach/Little Italy tour to be a very good use of a morning. However, the tour did have some faults, of which I feel compelled to tell you about.
First–while you do learn a lot and you will get to taste many things, a lot of the tasting is done whilst standing around. I don’t think we had the opportunity to sit for the first two hours of a three hour tour. This doesn’t sound bad–and trust me, I’m used to walking around cities when I travel–but the standing around part was a bit tiring. It also often took place in shops that were fairly small and, with our group of twelve or so, overly crowded. I often felt badly for the people working at the various places we visited.
And second–the majority of the food, at least for the first two thirds of the tour (you know, while you are standing) was sugar or carbs. We had coffee, we had bread, we had more bread, and then some candy. Buy this point my stomach was starting to hurt.
But fear not–because finally, about two hours into the tour, we arrived at Nico’s Tacos and had an absolutely lovely little fish taco. The protein and the greens were much appreciated. And the pizza we sampled at our last stop–Cinecetta–was possibly the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. I believe the words I used to describe it were ‘suck it, New York City pizza!’ I don’t even like pizza and this was fantastic. But that’s because it wasn’t pizza–it was a crispy yet chewy yet super thin crust covered with some of the best sauce I’ve ever tried and topped with real mozzarella. Yum.
Was I glad I took this tour? Absolutely. Would I recommend it to others? Based on the information provided alone, yes. You will learn a lot on this tour, and that’s what I’m all about here at The Suitcase Scholar. However, just go into it expecting more of a walking (and standing) tour than a casual, relaxed stroll from restaurant to restaurant. That’s not what Local Taste of the City is. But it’s educational and, well, delicious. And you can’t really beat that combo!
To book one of Local Taste of the City’s Tours, please visit their website. They offer three different tours, two during the day and one in the evening. Should I return to San Francisco (and I’m sure I will) I intend to try the evening tour.
Disclaimer: Local Taste of the City allowed me to come along on this tour free of charge in exchange for a review posted on The Suitcase Scholar. As always, all opinions–both good and bad–are my own.