By Hilary Ward
Chicago boasts amazing food, incredible scenery and friendly faces. If you get your hungry self on a Tastebud Tour, you can experience all three of these assets at once. What better way to appreciate the greatness Chicago has to offer than to be led by a lovely local down scenic Michigan Avenue, making room after that stellar slice of deep dish pizza for a hearty, quintessential Chicago-style hot dog? As Malnati would say, la vita è bella.
Tastebud Tours is the highest-rated food tour in Chicago, created by the charming Lynn Jaynes in 2010. Jaynes makes a point to at least stop by every tour that heads out, his warm personality making you feel part of his touring family at first handshake. From there, he or his tour guide will show off the best of Chicago’s finest, often with the help of a friendly manager or owner popping by at the various stops.
Each restaurant gets you a full — or at least overly generous portion — of its most renowned item. On my particular tour (Flavors of Chicago — one of four), only getting a half portion (of a cheezeborger, cheezeborger no fries, chips!) at the Billy Goat Tavern was a very welcome change after a full slice of deep dish, a brownie, a full hot dog, a cup of gumbo and a hearty plate of jambalaya. Soon thereafter was a full slice of espresso chocolate cake.
At every spot, we had immediate VIP seating and service, along with ice water and restrooms available, plus the freedom to sip a beer with that hot dog. Walking a scenic, well-mapped route between each destination gives you decent digestion time. Thank. Goodness.
Intermittent bits of history and prestige are tossed into the tour, including seating at the Obama/Oprah table at Pizano’s, visiting the third greatest tea room in the world at the Drake hotel, seeing the former Tip Top Tap lounge space at the Allerton with great Michigan Avenue views, and chowing down in the VIP room at the Saturday Night Live-famed Billy Goat Tavern.
Final suggestions for making the most of the Tastebud Tour: Arrive hungry. Wear good strolling shoes. Watch out for the cows. Don’t plan a big meal for dinner. Tip your guide. Bon appétite!
For more information on Tastebud Tours, log on to www.Tastebud Tours.com and tell them The Real Chicago sent you.