Locals are eating up neighborhood food tours

Neighborhood-centric walking food tours may sound like something geared toward tourists, but the truth is that the bulk of the guests are locals.

"Our customer base is comprised of 65 percent of locals (who) report they live in San Diego County," said Jered Martin, general manager of Bite San Diego. The company currently runs seven regularly scheduled food tours from Encinitas to downtown San Diego/Little Italy to Coronado . A little over 20 percent of customers said they live within a two-hour drive of San Diego, Martin added, with the rest from across the United States and beyond.

The up-and-coming food scene is to credit. More and more people who live in America's Finest City want to familiarize themselves with eateries they've read or heard about in parts of town outside their own. Jannelle Olivier and her husband have been on five different Bite San Diego tours over the past couple of years.

"Not only do we get to try new foods and meet new people, but we get to learn so much about the history of our city," Olivier said. "I have lived in San Diego for 15 years and we still learn so much we didn't know about the beautiful city we live in."

But there are also people who enjoy exploring their own neighborhoods, too. Mission Viejo resident Debbie Bryant took her son, who lives in North Park , and his girlfriend on the North Park Bite San Diego tour for his birthday. In addition to praising her tour guide as well as the delicious food and craft beer sampled, she said, "Our son was introduced to about five new places that he's looking forward to returning to."

That exposure is what's in it for businesses that participate as stops on these tours. California Tap Room's CEO and president, Jeffrey Buddin, applauded the weekend tours for getting people in the door.

"It is a great way to introduce our hand-rolled soft pretzels to new customers that might not make it to North Park," Buddin said.

On the same tour, guests might stop into Venissimo Cheese for assorted cheese samples from around the world, try a Crazee Burger slider, nosh on two slices of deep-dish pie from Berkeley Pizza or drink a flight of beer at Mike Hess Brewing. Each stop is listed on the tour booking page, with total walking distance ranging from 1.5 to two miles at a leisurely, San Diego-style pace. Among the things to know before booking is that it's often difficult to accommodate dietary restrictions and that most tours are for ages 21 or older.

Bite San Diego brings on new stops two to three times a year based on guest feedback, length of current partnerships and, of course, new restaurant openings - a frequent occurrence in hip areas such as North Park.

Martin confirmed: "We have a high number of repeat guests who, surprisingly, attend the same tour multiple times, so we know having new, fresh locations and food samples will continue to draw their attention."

Katie Dillon is a lifestyle and travel writer who believes that one of the best ways to explore a city is through its food and drinks. Follow her adventures on social media at @lajollamom and send any tasty ideas to katie@lajollamom.com.

Source: Discover SD

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