Downtown walking tour to highlight food, art, historyWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
A local mom and daughter team are set to launch a Downtown walking tour showcasing the neighborhood by way of its food while also highlighting its art, architecture and history.
Toledo Flavors Food Tours will officially kick off July 10. The three-hour tour will be offered 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays and will include tastings at six Downtown eateries as well as stops at several Downtown businesses and plenty of historical and architectural highlights along the way.
Culinary samples will include a hotdog and pickles from Packo’s at the Park, a Garbage Salad from Grumpy’s, a danish from All Crumbs Artisan Bakery, fair-trade coffee from Downtown Latte, shepherd’s pie from The Blarney Irish Pub and charcuterie and grape juice from Veritas Cork & Craft, a wine bar opening soon at the Commodore Perry Building. Between food tastings, groups will stop at Fifth Third Field, Erie Street Market, Shared Lives Studio and public art installations like The Arts Commission’s artist-designed bike racks, frogs and yarnbombs.
DiAnn Guerrero of Graytown has been thinking about starting a food tour in Toledo for years, but the business started coming together earlier this year when she and her daughter, Mallory Guerrero of Sylvania, went on a food tour during a family trip to Las Vegas in March.
“My mom likes to go on food tours and she’s done quite a few of them,” Mallory said. “She was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if Toledo had a food tour?’ On the plane ride home we had hours to brainstorm the possibilities, and a month later we were actually starting one. It was just a ‘Wouldn’t it be cool?’ kind of conversation that turned into a full-fledged business.”
“I had actually been thinking about it a long time before then,” DiAnn said. “I’d traveled with some friends to New York, San Francisco, Knoxville. We had done food tours and we always thought it would be cool for Toledo to have one, but the timing never seemed right. Years went by and, with all the stuff happening Downtown now, I thought, ‘Maybe now’s the time.’”
To prepare, they attended a food tour seminar in Chicago, then started doing research and talking to restaurants. They also sought information and advice from The Arts Commission, Downtown Toledo Pub Club, the Toledo Warehouse District Association and others.
The goal is to introduce more people to what’s available Downtown and help them feel comfortable there, Mallory said.
“Unless you live or work Downtown, a lot of people are reluctant to come down here outside of an event,” she said. “We just want to help educate people that there is a lot to do down here and it’s really not a scary place and has a lot to offer.”
Some food tours only involve restaurants and are more like progressive dinners, Mallory said, but all DiAnn’s favorites have also incorporated history and architecture, so that’s what they wanted to bring to Toledo.
“That in my mind is the best kind of food tour,” DiAnn said. “The ones I’ve liked the most have been the ones that have gotten us acclimated to the downtown or the city, especially in bigger cities like Chicago or New York, where they take you on the side streets and make you feel like you would be comfortable going back and walking to one of those locations from your hotel.”
DiAnn, an accountant, handles the business side of the venture, while Mallory, who works in human resources and has more than 12 years experience as a server and restaurant manager, is the tour guide.
Grumpy’s launching its Grumpy’s on the Go food truck last month was good timing for the tour, Mallory said.
“We really wanted Grumpy’s to be part of the tour, but they aren’t open on Saturdays, so we were really excited when they decided to open Grumpy’s on the Go because it allowed them to be part of the tour,” Mallory said. “We’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback from that.”
The Blarney General Manager Bill Kline said he was excited to hear about the venture.
“It’s a fantastic way to showcase The Blarney and all the fabulous Downtown hotspots,” Kline said. “We are all for encouraging new business Downtown and assisting those that assist us in bringing new business. It really was a no-brainer.”
As word has spread, some restaurants and businesses have approached them.
“The Mud Hens actually contacted us,” DiAnn said. “We knew we’d obviously talk about the Mud Hens during the tour, but we didn’t think they’d actually meet with us so we didn’t initially reach out. When they called us and wanted to share their story with us, we were very excited about that.”
Among comments from participants overheard during a recent “practice” tour were: “Wow, I never noticed that till she pointed it out,” “I never had fried pickles before — delicious,” “I’ve never been down here before” and “I’m going to come back here for sure.”
Randy Lake of Westmoreland, who works with DiAnn, took the tour with his wife, Janna, and their neighbor Cindy Cook.
“I thought three hours was going to be too long, but it was perfect,” Janna said. “I cannot wait for Veritas to open and I will come back to The Blarney for the shepherd’s pie.”
“I just liked learning the history of Toledo. There were a lot of things I didn’t know,” Cook said. “As far as food, that danish pastry was really good.”
The tour will likely change as they learn new information or other businesses want to get involved, Mallory said.
“I’ll never proclaim to know all there is to know about Toledo, so as the tour evolves I’m sure I will become even more educated and people on the tours will probably know things I don’t and can add to the conversation,” Mallory said.
The tours will be offered through September, possibly longer depending on weather and interest, Mallory said. Cost is $42 for adults and $30 for children 12 and younger and participants will receive several tour-exclusive coupons to Downtown restaurants. Each tour group is limited to 10 people. Gift certificates are available.
For more information or to make reservations, visit toledoflavors.com or call 866-736-6343.
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