I was recently invited on a food tour of Chicago Chinatown courtesy of Chicago Food Tours. I have been on my fair share of Food Tours around the globe and have to say this was a remarkable food tour. I was never asked to blog about the experience, but I am because I want to recommend it and support a small local business. And, in the name of supporting local businesses, I even roped in a few other paying customers to join me. They too were not disappointed, and had a good time, albeit filling, but good time. Here is a summary of what we liked, in no particular order:
- Alicia: our tour guide was ‘awesome’! She was incredibly knowledgeable and had the perfect demeanor for bringing together a group of strangers and ensuring that everyone had a good time.
- 5 Stops that provided a progressive dining experience: not a sampling experience, but a dining experience. By the end of the tour we were full. Each stop introduced us to different regional culinary delights of China, so there was plenty of variety.
- Educational: we got to learn some neat things about dining etiquette in Chinese restaurants; gained some great history lessons about the Chinese immigrants in Chicago; and unravelled the mystery of those herbal shops.
- Neighborhood: we also got to fit in a timely walk to assist with some food digestion, via the back streets of the community to the river & to the Ping Tom Memorial Park.
- Handouts: we were given a well designed pamphlet to assist with some of the geography lessons on regional cuisine; along with a list of places we visited, and recommendations for a return visit to Chinatown.
This tour comes highly recommended, and with only 12 people per group, its perfect for getting a bunch of friends together for a great lunch adventure, with some entertaining & memorable lessons along the way.
Ok – this is a food tour, so on with the food tour it is … I am not giving away all the secrets I encourage you to join in …
Triple Crown - Out of all the Yum Cha [Dim Sum] places we have visited in Chinatown this one was new to us, and now has become the favorite. A huge variety of choices with a great visual menu to help you order. Winners – the pork buns & the taro dumplings. Here is a tip, this place is popular, so either a] join the food tour to skip the line b] get here ready to roll in as the doors open.
Ten Ren & Ginseng Co.- The tea selection and, as the name suggests, ginseng here is extensive. We weren’t able to take photos in this store, the tea canisters are huge and lining the wall, stacked on shelves to the ceiling they are visually stunning. If you are a tea lover, this is the place to visit. We purchased these little gems, 开花茶 – Flowering tea, add hot water and watch them unravel – poetry that acts as an antioxidant, along with assisting with detoxification and body hydration.
Lao Sze Chuan – OK, this place, focused on Szechuan cuisine, also now turns up on our ‘best dish’ list. I think I must have told everyone on the tour about 1,000 time how good [in my opinion] the spicy fried chicken was [fried chicken is my favorite food group]. I get why they are listed as one of the ‘Top 50 Chinese Restaurants in the U.S. by CNN’. They take reservations, & if you are in the area they deliver. If you like spicy visit.
Lao Beijing – We were running a little late getting to this place, and I think by then the Peking duck had lost its temperature so it wasn’t at its prime. but still pleasant enough, I have to admit, although not super traditional I am a Sun Wah BBQ fan.
Saint Anna Bakery & Cafe – At this point on our food tour, we were filled to the brim, but miraculously there is always room for a little dessert. I *heart* these egg tarts we sampled, the first bite whisked me home to Australia and reminded me of a what we call a custard tart. These were equally enjoyable. Another fine choice, and a perfect ending to the tour.