Around this time last year, I visited my good friend Nikka in New York City. We have known each other for more than a decade, ever since our elementary school days in the Philippines. She had an internship at a downtown firm for a year and I went there to see her and the city. It was my first time in New York and I was going to make the most out of my three-day trip. She had a 9-5 job and I went gallivanting around the city by myself until I met up with her in the evening. A blog entry about this trip will come!
One highlight of my trip was a Food on Foot Tour of Union Square.
I love to eat, so much more than I love to cook, and this was one thing that was included with my New York Pass that I wouldn’t dare “pass” up. Basically, it was a walking tour with a group of 15 to 20 people (can go up to 35) and a foodie of a guide with the name of Corey. He is the coolest dude with an immense knowledge of great, fresh, cheap but high-quality food in New York City. Due to my poor, last-minute planning of this trip, I was pleading to him on the phone the day before the tour to get a spot as you need to reserve your spot weeks up to months in advance.
Granted, the experience would not be for everybody because it is NOT a sampling, gourmet, or food preparation and information tour. Over three hours, we took the subway and walked down the streets together to four different places and purchased our own food from these hidden gems of New York. It was in a very informal and relaxed setting where you could mingle with other people from different places around the world. Their website also says “We are an eating tour with some neighbourhood history and NOT a history tour with food.”
I knew this tour was practically MADE FOR ME.
Union Square Eats
Our group met at a pre-determined subway/train station that afternoon. After Corey gave us a brief welcome and introduction to the tour, we made our way to our first location, Dos Toros Taqueria (137 4th Avenue, New York, NY 10003).
It’s a simple, laid-back joint with your typical Mexican fare – tacos, burritos, quesadilla, platters, and salads. While most of their menu averages $8 to $9, you can get a filling taco here at a steal at only $5. I know you could get tacos for much cheaper from food trucks in Southern California, but hey, New York isn’t quite like SoCal.
I had a pollo asado taco with guacamole for $5.72 plus tax. Their chicken was so moist and flavourful… it’s naturally raised too!
Our next stop was Taboonette (30 E 13th Street, New York, NY 10003).
According to Serious Eats:
Taboonette is priced like any old stuff-in-a-pita lunch counter. But across the board, their sandwiches and plates are imaginative, boldly spiced, and pretty damn delicious.
I couldn’t agree more. That quote reminded me of the pita chain Pita Pit which I really don’t like anymore. Maybe it’s because I ate too much of it in university and I now find their menu and ingredients sub-par.
Taboonette’s lunch and dinner menu was quite creative. I also LOVE Mediterranean cuisine… or as the restaurant says, “Middleterranean.”
The picture sucks at showing the food but it shows off my engagement ring nicely, LOL. I decided to go vegetarian and ordered a kruveet pita – 0ven-roasted cauliflower, grilled eggplant, hummus, tahini, cilantro in a fluffy pita. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is. It cost $8.25 plus tax. The rest of the pitas were in the $8 to $9 range, with the falafel pita for $6. I wanted to try the zucchini cakes too.
I was already stuffed by this time in the tour. Good thing I didn’t eat lunch on purpose. After all, their website advised us to:
PLEASE COME HUNGRY FOR ALL TOURS!
Next up we had Meatball Obsession (510 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011). Now this was a REAL bargain. You could get a large meatball in a cup with Italian sauce AND Parmesan dipping bread for $4 plus tax.
I didn’t have any because I didn’t eat beef then (I do now, but rarely). The folks on the tour said the meatballs were delicious though. They were a good size – you would certainly be full from only one. You could add other toppings as well for $1.
Finally, dessert! We went to The Donut Pub (W 1, 203 14th St, New York, NY 10011).
They had nearly every donut flavour imaginable here. I got two Boston Cream donuts to go for me and Nikka.
To end an afternoon of great food
To conclude the tour, Corey talked about the other kinds of food tours offered by his company. Aside from tipping us with other good and cheap places to eat in the city, he was also open to any questions about where to eat in neighbourhoods people were visiting.
What did I think? My five-star review on TripAdvisor that says it all:
Many thanks to Corey for giving a wonderful tour! I love that his own philosophy of finding places to eat is the same as mine – GOOD AND CHEAP. To all foodies (even non-foodies) – this is not an opportunity to pass up! Stay away from the tourist traps and chains and eat like a New Yorker with this tour. I was also especially grateful to Corey as he took me on the tour last minute (the day before) as I really wanted to do this tour but it was all SOLD OUT. I would have been extremely sad if I didn’t get on the tour, because of the excellent reviews here. I loved all the stops for their variety, quality and value for money (average $7 meals). We were a very large group and Corey was great at making sure we all made it through the subway and down the streets. I also liked mingling with the other guests (the first and only time I was able to do this on the various walking tours I did in NYC – something which sets this tour apart), I was just by myself and I met some pretty great people while walking and eating. At the end of the trip, he also gave us lots of suggestions of again, good and cheap places to eat (complete with the exact location and subway directions; it would have been better if I did the tour on the first day of the trip, but I did it on my last… I am giving my NYC friends his suggestions instead!). Do not leave NYC without doing this tour!!!
LOL. I was clearly way too excited when I wrote this.
Say hi to Corey for me if you ever find yourself doing this tour!
Food on Foot Tours conducts walking food tours in various neighbourhoods of New York City. You may also purchase self-guided tours for your visit in the city. Check out the tours and schedules here or call 1 (631) 491-0326.
One Food on Foot Tour is included with the purchase of a New York Pass. Otherwise, tours cost between $30 to $60 regular price (depending on the kind and length of tour, which ranges from three to five hours). Tour price NOT include the cost of food.