I don't know about you, but when I go on vacation, I'm all about the food. No 5-star dining experiences for me -- I want to eat what the locals eat. On Oahu, I sought out a box-lunch in a shopping center and was over the moon with shave ice at Matsumoto, shrimp off a truck at the side of the road, and garlic ahi at Irifune. Sure, I ate at Cafe des Deux Moulin in Paris, where scenes from the movie "Amelie" were filmed (in my defense, the croque madame was phenomenal), but I most enjoyed the fresh-squeezed-before-my-eyes orange juice, crispy house-baked croissants with sweet butter and cheese, onion soup and crème brûlée at Les Degrés de Notre Dame, the tiny restaurant under the 6th-floor walk-up room where I stayed at the inn that shared its name.
Back at home -- I was born and reared in NYC -- I typically seek out off-the-beaten-path dining experiences, as well. The food is just better and so are the prices. Just a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in Hell's Kitchen, feasting on $7 fried cheese grits and $8 jambalaya wontons at The Delta Grill. And not long before that, I squeezed into a cramped booth at Pommes Frites in the East Village, where I ate fresh-cut fries with mango chutney mayo out of a paper cone. Yes, I called it dinner.
So if I were to take a tour of the city, you can be sure it would be food centered. Gray Line must know me, because it's just unveiled its new Culinary Tours of Manhattan. The 3 food-based walking tours -- "Tastes of Chinatown," "The Original East Village Food, Drinks and Cultural Tour," and "The Ultimate New York Food and Culture Tour in the Village," are each about 3 hours long and impart the diversity of each neighborhood "while hearing from an experienced tour guide about the area, the restaurants and the foods’ rich history and interesting related facts," according to a news release.
Visitors on the Chinatown tour can try authentic dishes like Cantonese BBQ and jerky, Peking dumplings, Shanghai scallion pancakes, Taiwanese teas, and dim sum. The East Village tour gives tourists the opportunity to try Belgian fries (I'm guessing at Pommes Frites), falafel, Italian pastries, and Japanese takoyaki. And the Ultimate New York Tour delves into pizza, cheesecake, hot dogs, cupcakes and bagels. No Sardi's or Bubba Gump's here.
Ticket prices range from $49-$75, and reservations are not required. For details and tickets, go to newyorksightseeing.com.