“Each successive wave of immigrants brought with them their most precious assets – their recipes and their love of food. In America, they transformed bland local ingredients into the dishes we know and love today,” said our native New York food tour guide Liz.
We don’t normally do guided tours in our travels. We prefer the DIY, self-guided tour experience where we can explore at our own pace (and take pictures)! And since Laura and I lived in New York City for many years (we met in the city, fell in love, and we got engaged here), we feel like we know the city pretty well. However, on this trip, we thought doing a NYC food tour would be fun. We expected it would be good. We did not expect it to be fabulous – and it was!
The walking tour, conducted by Ahoy New York Food Tours, explores both the food and the culture of Little Italy and Chinatown. This compact section of lower Manhattan was the first stop for millions of immigrants moving to America from 1861 through the 1930s. What began with the Irish, quickly turned into streams of Italians and then the Chinese – both strong food cultures.
Our greatest regret is that we didn’t do this when we lived in New York. We would have learned about some amazing places that we never would have tried otherwise (we were West Siders). For those accustomed to ethic foods, the tour provides a level of complexity that a connoisseur would appreciate. However, novices will appreciate how accessible the guide makes unusual foods. This foodie tour is a great way to expand your palate!
New York Food Tour Highlights
Alleva Dairy, 188 Grand Street
Now in its 6th generation, this family-run dairy sells the freshest cheeses and charcuterie in Little Italy. We sampled buttery Prosciutto di Parma and homemade mozzarella that melts in your mouth.
Di Palo’s Fine Foods, 200 Grand Street
This store has been selling Italian specialties since 1910. We sampled the crisp Piave (like Parmesan) and peppery Moliterno cheeses. But it was the huge display case of fresh pastas that caught our eye!
Grand Appetito, 197 Grand Street
Unlike the other places on this food tour, this is a new business. Opened in 2012, Grand Appetito turns the New York City by-the-slice pizza on its head. Instead of a soggy thin-slice mess, their Margherita Pizza features a crisp crust and certainly rivals the pizza in Naples.
Ferrara Bakery & Café, 195 Grand Street
Let’s be clear – we’re not cannoli people. We have had way too many of these crappy little buggers. Most are bland, tasteless and boring. Ferrara changed my mind. What started as a gentleman’s club has turned into one of the great cafes in the city. The ricotta cheese was sweet and buttery and perfectly accented with the crunchy chocolate chips. These cannolis were heavenly!
Pongrsi Thai Restaurant, 106 Bayard Street
After walking around on the tour for about an hour and half, we had a sit-down light lunch at the oldest family-run Thai restaurant in the city. The lunch featured a pra raam chicken with peanut sauce, plus warm tea to warm us up on a cold day.
Tasty Dumpling, 54 Mulberry Street
The name of this restaurant, Tasty Dumpling, reminds me of Samuel L. Jackson saying “tasty burger” in Pulp Fiction. But these are some really tasty dumplings. On a Sunday, this place was packed with locals loading up on the little purses. It was so full that it was tough to maneuver around in the small space.
However, in the back of the restaurant, I noticed a lady making and folding the dumplings. I was impressed with her efficiency as she cranked out one dumping every two seconds. It was a sight to see! (And yes, the dumplings are excellent!)
Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers Street
New York City’s oldest dim sum establishment is on a very crooked (in more ways than one) and very colorful street. As you indulge in the original egg roll, you’ll hear stories of mob murders and speakeasies. This place is tops on our list for a return visit!
There are an infinite number of NYC tours for practically every imaginable interest. If you are interested in food and the immigrant experience in America, this New York food tour is for you!
Cost: The cost of the tour is $57-60 per person.
Time: The tour begins at 10:30am and runs approximately 3 hours (actually a little longer). Our guide Liz took extra time to make sure we all had our questions answered.
We were the guests of Ahoy New York. As always, our opinions are our own.
Lance Longwell is a travel writer and photographer who has published Travel Addicts since 2008, making it one of the oldest travel blogs. He is a life-long traveler, having visited all 50 of the United States by the time he graduated high school. Lance has continued his adventures by visiting 70 countries on 5 continents – all in search of the world’s perfect sausage. He’s a passionate foodie and enjoys hot springs and cultural oddities. When he’s not traveling (or writing about travel), you’ll find him photographing his hometown of Philadelphia.