Taste of Tucson Downtown Offers Food Tours with a Side of History

October 29, 2014

Elysa Crum (left) and Sherry Weiss started Taste of Tucson Downtown tours in part to give visitors a sampling of local restaurants.

Elysa Crum (left) and Sherry Weiss started Taste of Tucson Downtown tours in part to give visitors a sampling of local restaurants.

by Brad Poole

There are a lot of ways to learn about the Old Pueblo, but Taste of Tucson Downtown tours offers a unique blend of Arizona history and local foodie delights that will leave you not only full and informed, but curious to learn more about one of the longest continuously occupied spots in the nation.

“Our hope is to get you excited about it,” said tour guide Linda Ray, a longtime Tucson writer and event planner. She knows her stuff and offered more than one obscure fact about the city, including:

When Father Kino came into what is now Arizona in the late 1700s, he brought fruit trees. Clippings and seeds have been taken from trees identified by scientists as descendants of Kino’s trees, and they will be the centerpiece of the Mission Garden, a planned living exhibit near A-Mountain that will chronicle Tucson’s 4,000-year agricultural history.

That’s just one small taste of what you will learn. Founded by cousins and New York natives Elysa Crum and Sherry Weiss, the new tour company combines a 2 mile walk through Downtown Tucson with stops for food and lots of tales about the city.

The food on Taste of Tucson Downtown tours is top-shelf all the way.

The food on Taste of Tucson Downtown tours is top-shelf all the way.

The Sun Link streetcar (ticket included) adds a bit of flash at the start of the tour. Though you should wear your walking shoes, the trek is broken into several short walks from spot to spot, so it doesn’t overwhelm. It’s a leisurely pace, mostly, although our guide sped us up from time to time with occasional gentle reminders.

Snack layovers on the tour might include the Augustin Kitchen, Caffe Milano, Elliot’s, Tucson Olive Central, Proper and Maynard’s Market, with each offering a unique (and often signature) dish. La Cocina is included in tour on Saturdays, and Miss Saigon is listed on the company website as another potential stop.

Although there is only a snack at each stop, do NOT eat before you go, because you will be plenty full by the end of the day. The day I went, we got goat cheese, smoked salmon, calamari in hot sauce, spaghetti, duck sliders (yes, duck sliders), figs, dates, salad and pie. You’ll also get to meet the chefs, in case you have questions.

Maynard's Market offered pie on a stick. The eatery in the historic train depot is the final stop on the tour.

Maynard’s Market offered pie on a stick. The eatery in the historic train depot is the final stop on the tour.

One goal for the company from the start was to offer visitors a sampling of eats prepared by some of Tucson’s best chefs.

“When you visit a new city, you never know where to eat. Our tours help you figure that out,” Crum said.

Between snacks, you’ll learn about native cultures that predated Europeans’ arrival here by thousands of years, the first white immigrants, and John Dillinger. You’ll see where the 1970s TV show Petrocelli was filmed (his office was Downtown) and admire some of the city’s historic architecture. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Taste of Tucson Downtown tours last about three hours and will take place rain or shine, so dress appropriately for several hours outside. Walking shoes, hats, sunscreen and water bottles are highly recommended. Tours will run Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and cost $58.99.
For more information, visit their website.

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