Culinary tourism? In Chicago, it’s not just for tourists.

Culinary tourism? In Chicago, it’s not just for tourists.

Today's post is a special treat from Marlena Slowik, the Content Manager over at Zerve. She is a self-confessed foodie, ex-Chicagoan, and evangelist for offbeat exploration. Enjoy!

There are two things that I know to be true about the Chicago Food Scene: it’s excellent and it’s diverse. Within a short ‘L’ ride from downtown everything from Ethiopian to Chinese is at your fingertips. Yet, it can be surprisingly hard to find some of these exotic culinary gems – not to mention all of the exciting fare that may be waiting just around your corner! Sound familiar? Enter Culinary Tourism.

There has been a lot of buzz about culinary tourism lately, and food tours in particular. While it might seem counterintuitive to go on a food tour of your own hometown, don’t be too quick to judge. Staycations are on the rise, and a food tour can be a great way to relax, pick up some good tips, and see your hometown from a new perspective.

If you decide to treat yourself to a food tour, there are a couple of things you can expect:

1)    You’re going to try a lot of food. Most food tours have several stops and lots of variety – so skip lunch beforehand. If you’re still hungry afterwards (although don’t count on it), it’s a perfect opportunity to retrace your steps and try more fare from some of the places you’ve just discovered.

2)    Your guide is probably more into food than you are – in a good way – so get ready for the foodie conversation to flow. Not only will you be diving into and comparing notes on the edibles that you try, you’ll likely also be delving into how they were made and who made them. On many trips you’ll meet the chefs, talk with managers, and maybe get a peek behind the scenes.

3)    It’s not all about food. Get ready for a healthy dose of fun historical, cultural, and even architectural knowledge as you make your way from stop to stop. While not all food tours have this bent, most do, and you may be surprised by what you learn!

Although culinary tourism has become a national and even international phenomenon – from my perspective, there really couldn’t be a better city for culinary tourism than Chicago. Unlike most major metropolitan areas, the neighborhood is still at Chicago’s heart and so many of the best and most affordable places to dine are located in areas where you really need an expert to tell you what is what.

Having lived in Chitown for years, I am truly proud to be working with some of the coolest and foodiest small business owners the Windy City has to offer. If you’re not sure where to start your foodie adventure, take a peek at Zerve’s comprehensive list of food and wine activities in Chicago to sort by experience and by location. Happy eating!

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