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A Menu of Tasty Tours

Sample a city’s finest foods (and learn a few culinary secrets) with these dining-savvy gourmet guides.

En español | It’s the hungry tourist's dilemma: You're in a new city, you're excited, you're famished, and you end up eating at Applebee's. But what you really want is local food, which is why food-tasting tours are booming. "The number of tours seems to have at least doubled over the past two years, to meet demand," says Erik Wolf, president of the International Culinary Tourism Association.

Trips offer more than restaurant-hopping. Local tasting tours are half-day, guided outings at handpicked neighborhood markets, shops, popular restaurants, and under-the-radar eateries you won’t find in guidebooks. Typically costing $35 to $55 (depending on length and transportation), they include multiple stops for samplings, demos, and storytelling about local culinary history.

Tours are available across the country, and most can be arranged through Zerve Ticketing (800-979-3370). The New Orleans Culinary History Tour lets you eat your way through the French Quarter's iconic dishes—such as brisket with Creole sauce at Tujague's and shrimp remoulade at Arnaud's.

Chicago Food Planet's Near North Food Tour features visits to Bacino's Pizzeria and Ashkenaz Deli (where the pastrami is a local favorite). In South Carolina you can savor collard greens at Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q, plus stone-ground grits and sweet tea at Dixie Supply Company, via Culinary Tours of Charleston.

Feeling adventurous? See a different side of New York City when culinary expert Moira Campbell guides you through the mom-and-pop shops of Hell’s Kitchen on her Rum & Blackbird Tasting Tours. The three-hour trip spotlights spicy Colombian foods from Empanada Mama and authentic Greek pastries from the historic Poseidon Bakery.

With Los Angeles-based Melting Pot Food Tours you’ll sample Mexican tortas (grilled sandwiches) at Tortas Mexico and a Nepalese buffet at Tibet Nepal House—you must have the eggplant fritters. If you like small-city delights, try Asheville Food Tours in North Carolina (828-273-0365). You'll taste prosciutto-wrapped figs at the seasonally inspired Italian restaurant Fiore's and learn the best way to bite into chocolates at The Chocolate Fetish (hint: the aroma is key).

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