Thursday, April 17, 2014
Over the years there have been plenty of pub crawls around Portland. Now you can go on a Dishcrawl.
Dishcrawl, a national walking tour business that focuses on food and restaurants, is coming to the Old Port in May.
Unlike a lot of tours that hope to rake in as many tourist dollars as possible, Dishcrawl is geared toward locals.
Here’s how it works: Make a reservation online for $45 per person. Then, 48 hours before the tour, you’ll be emailed the location where you’ll start the excursion. The four restaurants that you’ll visit are kept secret as well until 48 hours before the tour.
“At the first three restaurants, they get a trio of smaller-sized foods,” says Mary Soule, the Portland Dishcrawl “ambassador” who will be leading the tours. “And while they’re eating, hopefully the chef or at least the owner will come out and talk to people about the food and about the restaurant, the background and history of it. So instead of just sampling the food that the restaurant has to offer, it’s about really building a community with the locals and the chefs in their own towns.”
The idea is that if folks get a little taste of what the restaurant has to offer, maybe they’ll want to come back another night and spend lots of money on dinner.
“We ask them to do three little things that would represent then well, and make people want to come back,” Soule said.
A tour group – just what a chef needs on a busy Friday night, right? Well, Soule says the tours are only held on Tuesdays because that’s typically the slowest day of the week for a restaurant. The tours last from 7 to 10 p.m., ending with dessert at the fourth and final restaurant.
The inaugural Portland tour will take place May 7.
Dishcrawl tours are already established in 100 cities in North America.
“A lot of cities have multiple Dishcrawl representatives, so they’ll represent a certain neighborhood,” Soule said. “But with the size of Portland, it’s perfect for one person for now.”
Soule said that eventually she’d like to have at least one more downtown tour going, as well as one on the West End or the East End.
Soule grew up right here in Portland, and just returned to the city in December, after teaching English in Asia for about two years. She had planned to move on to Boston or New York for her job search, but fell in love with Portland all over again and has decided to try to stay. She saw this part-time job listed online “and I thought, ‘That’s for me.’ “
Soule worked in restaurants in college and loves going out to eat.
“The thing that has kept me in Portland is, I think the whole evolution of Portland owes itself to the restaurant scene, and that’s certainly why I’m here,” she said. “It’s a younger scene, as opposed to when I was growing up and it seemed like people left for college and then maybe came back when they were 40.”
Go here to learn more about Dishcrawl tours, or make a reservation for a Portland tour.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.