Chicago is full of tour operators. But the Chicago Food Planet operates a little bit differently. Because when you decide to go on one of their three-hour tours, you'll not only be fed, but educated as well.
"This is an area that's got a lot of wheat-based foods, so anything from noodles to dumplings and very much the Beijing-style pancake," said a Chicago Food Planet guide on a recent tour.
Chinatown is one of three different food tours the company offers. On this stop, the group of about a dozen people is at Lao Beijing, in the Chinatown Square Mall, learning about the origins and customs of eating Peking duck. Yet food is just a portion of the overall tour.
"It's definitely important to talk about the food itself, but it's really a platform to be able to talk about the culture and really allowing these people to make discoveries on their own," said Lisa Kahn, one of the Tour Leaders for Chicago Food Planet.
In the case of the Chinatown tour, the surrounding neighborhood is explored, with stops including a store that specializes in ginseng roots, dried bird's nests and beauty products.
After a leisurely stroll through the Mall, the tour ends at St. Anna Bakery, which specializes in the Cantonese snacks of Hong Kong.
"We have here an egg custard tart and we have a Hong Kong style milk tea," said Kahn.
"I learned an awful lot about the different regions of China and how the food differs depending on whether you're from the North or South or inland or on the coast. So most of what we had, except for here at the bakery, was main course food," said Stan Zygmunt, who came in from Valparaiso, Indiana for the tour.
"Sometimes I feel like midway through the tour, like, oh my gosh, I've had a lot to eat, but we kind of take a little break in the middle part of the tour, we see some cultural points of interest, walk it off and digest," Kahn said.
The company's other tour areas include Near North, and Bucktown/Wicker Park.
FOOD TASTING & CULTURAL WALKING TOUR
Order Tickets from (800) 979-3370 or (212) 209-3370
Canton / Dim Sum Restaurant
2217 S. Wentworth Ave
triplecrownchicago.com (312) 842-0088
TEN REN TEA & GINSENG HOUSE
2247 S. Wentworth Ave
tenren.com (312) 842-1171
LAO SZE CHUAN
2172 S. Archer Ave
2158 S. Archer Ave
Bakery and Pastry Shop
2158 S. Archer Ave