When the effects of the coronavirus pandemic hit the hospitality industry in 2020, it not only closed dining rooms in restaurants, but banned food shifts in New Jersey.
But with restaurants running again, food tours are starting as well. These tours invite food lovers to explore a city while enjoying the signature dishes of its restaurants and learning about local history.
“For the first time in 15 months, we’re opening public tours again, and it’s really exciting,” said Alessia Aron, owner of Beyond the Plate Tours, which features excursions to Jersey City, Red Bank and Somerville. “They (local restaurants) have gone through hell and are back and we are just trying to support them as much as possible.”
Her company, formerly Jersey Girls Grocery Tours, is one of seven that make up the NJ Food Trail.
“Initially, the female operators were really inspired by (Food Travel to New York State) and how it connects all the trails together across the state,” said Devon Perry, a representative of NJ Food Trace Food. “(COVID-19) made it flow smoothly and easier to collaborate as everyone was used to working online.”
“We thought of coming together and creating the Food Journey to New Jersey would help us get out of the pandemic better,” said Audrey Wiggins, owner of On the Town Food Tours, another participant. “July 1 is our official opening date for all tour companies; some started a little earlier than that, but all are now officially open.”
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On the Town Food Tours offers rehearsals in Atlantic City, Bordentown, Collingswood, Haddonfield, Hammonton and Mount Holly. Other NJ Food Food companies include Asbury Park Food Tours, which shows restaurants in the city; Cape May Food Tours, which focuses on Cape May; Grocery Tours and Stores in Sister Cities, which highlight food preferences from Lambertville; Sours and Stroll Culinary Tours, which offers food tours and walks in Morristown; and Have You Met Newark Tours, which combines the history of Newark with local dishes.
Any company and details about its tours can be found at njfoodtourtrail.com/tours.
“I just thought (Somerville Food Tour) was a very interesting concept,” said Karin Giamella, owner of the Blue Sheep Bake Shop in Somerville, one of the possible stops on the tour. “Something is something I would definitely attend, and normally you see these kinds of things in cities. I thought it was very interesting to bring it to the country.”
The companies offer 19 two- and three-hour tours, with prices ranging between $ 65 and $ 150 per person. Some tours have attendees explore an area while walking to various restaurants to try the dishes. Others are bike tours designed to display local culture, history and food, and some include shopping.
Depending on the enterprise, the minimum group is between four and six people. Every tour business has its own policy regarding COVID-19, but all companies expect guests to comply with the latest CDC guidelines and local restrictions.
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“Our travels are open and we do most of our tours abroad,” said Mary Ockrymiek, owner of Cape May Food Tours. “There is only one stop that would be inside and guests have the opportunity to stay outside and not get inside.”
“Small business shops have been really receptive and restaurants are excited to be back,” said Kathleen Carozza, owner of Savor and Stroll tours. “So even though some businesses struggled during the pandemic, others have thrived.”
Somerville Beyond the Plate Food Tours brings attendees backstage to meet chefs and learn about running a restaurant, all while tasting their dishes. There are four or five stops on this tour, and attendees can also try beer, wine and cocktails. Prohibitions may include Fresh Tiki Bar, Project Pub and Village Brewing Company. The tour costs $ 99 per person; visit beyond templatefoodtours.com.
At Cape May
Cape May Food Tours was created to showcase the architecture of the resort town while highlighting local restaurants. There are six stops on this walking tour, and attendees will have a chance to try seafood, pastries, homemade style and contemporary cuisine. It takes about three hours to complete, and the tours rain or shine. Bans include the original Quincy Lobster Rolls, the Original Fudge Kitchen and the Aleathea. Tours cost $ 87 per person; visit capemayfoodtours.com.
In Asbury Park
The taste of Aspury Park’s Sip & Stroll Tour brings attendees closer to the history and dishes of the city. As you walk through the six different stops, travel guides tell stories about the history and culture of Asbury Park. This tour is for people 21 years of age and older, as alcoholic beverages will be available for sampling and is designed to accommodate people with all walking speeds and wheelchairs. Bans include Purple Glaze Donuts, Cookman Creamery, Sami’s Street Food and Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten. Attendees will also be able to talk to restaurant owners and chefs. Tours cost $ 100 per person; visit tasteofasburyfoodtours.com.
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In Jersey City
Jersey City Beyond the Plate Food Tours offers five stops for rehearsals and one for dessert. Guests will meet chefs and other culinary experts along the way as they learn about Jersey City history and culture from their tour guide. Prohibitions include Jersey Wine and Spirits, Razza and Bang Cookies.
“Travel brings people to Jersey City, where they can explore all the new and great things we’re doing here,” said Stephanie Rizzolo of Razza. “In addition to our regulars and neighbors, we want to have the ability to share what we do with out-of-town visitors who are interested in trying our pizza and everything Jersey City has to offer.”
Tours, which run from rain or sleet, cost $ 99 per person. Visit morefoodtours.com.
In Atlantic City
The Atlantic City Food City Tournament focuses on tradition and family: The tour features restaurants that are spread across several generations. Six stops are featured on this tour, which also includes a visit to the world’s most famous organ: Subs White House, Ducktown Tavern; and the James Candy Company. The cost is $ 80 per person; visit onthetownfoodtours.com.
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The company also offers tours in Haddonfield, where Bob Hochgertel is co-owner and director of Kings Road Brewing Co.
While Hochgertel, who serves on the Haddonfield Partnership board to support local business growth, did not know about food tours, he said he is happy for ideas that inspire more people to visit the city.
“Anything that leads traffic to any city center is good for all interested businesses,” he said. “And what we found when we did food truck nights was, at first we were worried they would damage the restaurants, but it was quite the opposite. People who came for food trucks at night were entering restaurants when the lines were too long. It was good for all of us. “
Another option is the City South Jersey Food Box. The box contains various local dishes and includes a half hour trial session with the company owner.
Morristown Savor and Stroll Tours highlight local history and favorite restaurants. Offering three or four stops, this 2½ hour tour is designed for everyone. Bans may include Seasons Olive Oil & Uthgar Taproom, Pierogies House and Enjou Chocolat. Children are welcome. Tours cost between $ 65 and $ 80 per person; visit savorandstrollculinarytours.com.
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