Last month, I became a tourist in my own city and joined Chicago Food Planet for one of their walking tours. While on a short break from classes, I decided to go on the tour with my friend Arshia. Since both of us love food, we opted to do a food tour of the Gold Coast and Old Town.
The food tour began at the newly opened Lou Malnati’s in the Gold Coast and took us to six additional spots, all of which were new to me. Our guide for the day was Jess. She began the tour by gathering us in a circle and having us introduce our selves and where we were from. While she said that some days she leads groups that are all locals, today was a great mix of people from all over the place. Arshia and myself were the only local,s and others came from Ohio, Taiwan, Texas, etc. After intros, we sat down at a long table to delight in a delicious “Malnati salad” filled with mushrooms and gorgonzola cheese, as well as Chicago-style deep dish pizza. I’ve had Lou Malnati’s deep dish before and, like previous experiences, enjoyed the freshness of the cheese, sauce and crust.
From Lou Malnatis, we headed to TeaGschwendner in the Gold Coast for tastings. Teagschwendner is a German import and its only American location is here in the city. While learning about tea leaves, we sipped on a sweet tea and smelled a variety of white, green, black, and oblong teas. We then left the Gold Coast and entered Old Town. All along the way Jess shared historical, architectural and culinary facts with us.
Our next stop was Kamehachi in Old Town, a sushi house owned by three generations of Japanese women. There we tried two types of sushi: a yummy vegetarian option with mushrooms, and one with delicious spicy tuna.
Across the street stands The Fudge Pot, the next stop on our tour. The family business was founded by Jim Dattalo who was taught by his uncle, Tom Dattalo, who worked for candy giant Mars. Today, Jim’s son runs the confectionary today. We stepped behind the glass counters to breathe in chocolate fumes and savor the decadent chocolate butter toffee.
A few doors down we stepped into Old Town Oil to taste and try specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Tasting oils was a bit odd to me, but smelling the different infusions, like walnut and blood orange, was inspiring.
Next we walked to The Spice House, which fired up our sense of smell. After touring the shop and finding the vanilla sugar, we sat down to learn more about The Spice House and all about cinnamon, the delicious bark that lends so much flavor. After sampling and smelling various types of cinnamon and other spices, including the yummy Old Taylor Street Cheese Sprinkle, we headed to our last stop.
Delightful Pastries is a family-owned bakery that sells a variety of European cakes, pastries and baked goods. There we ate French macarons and two savory pierogis: potato and cheese, and mushroom and sauerkraut. By the time it was time to leave, somehow three hours had gone by and our tour concluded. My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, trying new things and learning a lot along the way.