Since 2010,ColumbusFoodAdventureshas been offering culinary tours of GreaterColumbusneighborhoods.
The company pivoted last year, adding some newfoodexperiences for its followers, includingfoodboxes and delivered “Trust Fall” dinners.
Dining:Columbus Food Adventures now delivering surprise meals
Now it's back to offering most of its tours, but it has also folded the new experiences into its ongoing repertoire.
“Our taco truck tour, because it's all outdoors, was the only one we ran during 2020,” said Bethia Woolf, who runsColumbusFoodAdventuresalong with her husband, Andy Dehus. “In May, we got back to offering tours.”
Learning about Columbus neighborhoods and their restaurants
On a chilly Saturday in November, one of the core tours was back in business in the Short North.
“We will be eating and walking and eating and walking,” said tour guide Lisa Steward to the 10 guests, mostly local, who had signed on to learn about both the history of the area and the variety of itsfood.
“We recognized early on that we had to have tours that appealed to people from central Ohio, not just visitors,” Woolf said. “In other cities, thefoodtours are very tourist-focused. But we get a lot of locals who want to explore the different neighborhoods and discover different restaurants and learn about the city. And we get a lot of repeat customers.”
Among the repeat customers were four teachers from Franklin Heights High School, who were taking part in their fifth tour.
They were especially enthused about Somali restaurant Hoyo's Kitchen in the North Market.
“This wins, whatever it is,” said Gina Shay, of Powell, as she tasted Hoyo's offerings.
Amy Corbett-Werner, of Grove City, agreed.
“As I'm getting older, I want things to be hotter. Everything with a punch,” she said.
The Short North tour hit several other spots —all offering substantial bites —in the North Market, including Hot Chicken Takeover, Black Radish Creamery and Momo Ghar, before heading north onHigh Street, with stops outside the Greater Columbus Convention Center, in a pocket park, and in Goodale Park to explore the history, 19th-century and more recent, of the area, and to make more stops forfoodat area restaurants.
Surprise dinner delivered to your door
Tours will continue throughout the winter on Friday nights and Saturdays, though some of the more walking-intense events,such as a German Village tour, will take a break until the weather warms up again.
Those who would prefer to explore the varied cuisines ofColumbuswithout trekking in the cold also have the option of havingdinner delivered.
ColumbusFoodAdventuresTrust Fall dinners, as originally conceived during the pandemic, gave the curious a chance to get a completely surprising dinner from a local restaurant. Those who ordered wouldn't know either the restaurant or the menu before the meal was delivered.
Anyone within the Interstate 270 loop could order a dinner and have it delivered, while those outside the loop could order for pickup.
“We did a lot of thinking about what we could do,” Woolf said.
“We were worried about our restaurant partners, who also had their businesses shut down. So we thought instead of taking people to thefood, we could takefoodto the people,” she said.
“We focused on immigrant restaurants, trying to show the diversity ofColumbusand support those small businesses that are not as plugged into other delivery services or social media.”
The program was a hit.
Donnie Austin of Worthington tried the program when it started in April2020.
“We tried it once, and we were hooked,” he said. “The first one we got was from Huong Vietnamese Restaurant on Morse Road. We'd gotten carryout from there before, but this time, we got some unique dishes that you couldn't order on the menu. The next thing you knew, we were ordering every Friday night for the rest of the year.”
Austin and his family had formed a quarantine pod with the family next door, and the Trust Fall dinners became their way of marking the weekend.
“We usually fed our kids something else earlier. We would have a selection of wine that we'd try to pair with the dishes, and then we'd pull out our phones to find out more about the dishes and the region. It was kind of a little culinary vacation, a way to get away from everything involving the pandemic,” he said.
Faith Durand of Clintonville also enjoyed the dinners.
“I thought it was a brilliant idea. The idea of having a dinner that came straight to me and was also a surprise and was also supporting local immigrant kitchens was very appealing to me,” she said.
Among Durand's favorite meals were those from Riziki Swahili Grill, onColumbus' North Side.
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“I just remember that meal coming and being blown away,” she said. “I think we ordered from them ourselves the next night.”
Restaurants find Columbus Food Adventures participants become regular customers
Riziki Yussuf, the owner of the Tanzanian restaurant, has cooked for many Trust Fall dinners.
“They've been very supportive,” she said. “They've really helped my business grow. Now, their customers are coming straight into the restaurant.”
Guillermo Perez, who owns Peruvian sandwich shop Si Senor! nearGrandview Heights, has enjoyed the kind of culinary stretching the Trust Fall Dinners allow him to do.
“We are a sandwich shop, but we don't do sandwiches for the Trust Fall, we do full meals,” Perez said. “It makes me remember working in restaurants. I'm always thinking about what I'm going to do next. Sometimes, I just feel like doing something different, using Peruvian ingredients. People get really excited, because most of thefood, they've never had it before.”
Over the past year and a half,ColumbusFoodAdventureshas delivered approximately six thousand Trust Fall dinners, each designed for two people to eat. At the height of the program, they were operating five days a week.
At this point, they are delivering two days a week, normally Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“The restaurants have a little more capacity on those days, and they're the most popular with our customers,” Woolf said.
They have worked with more than 100 restaurants, many multiple times, and with restaurants representing more than 40 different nationalities.
“Everything from Egyptian to Afghan, Vietnamese, Senegalese, Pakistani, Cuban. We really try to do a lot of variety,” Woolf said.
The format of the dinners has changed a little over time.
“When we first started doing it, we weren't giving any clues at all. Now we give people the name of the restaurant, but the menu is still a surprise. And now we give people a little information about possible allergensas well,” Woolf said.
The dinners still have many regular customers.
“I think during the pandemic, particularly, people really found value in it. It helped people feel connected and have a sense of discovery. We do know that quite a few people have become regulars at some of the restaurants they first learned about in Trust Fall, and that's really gratifying,” Woolf said.
“The tours will always be the primary thing, but we hope to continue with Trust Fall as long as there is a demand for it.”
At a glance
Columbus Food Adventures foodtours are being offered on Friday evenings and Saturdays during the day. They run for 3 to 3 ½ hours. Tickets cost$62 to $68, depending on tour.
Trust Fall dinners are available for delivery within the Interstate 270 loop (or pickup for those outside the loop) between 5:15 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. Dinners that serve two normally cost $50, with higher prices for occasional more elaborate chef's dinners.
ColumbusFoodAdventuresalso offers gift baskets for the holidays, at $89 (shipping included) for aColumbusClassics Gift Box and $119 (shipping included) for a Farmer's Market Gift Box. (614-440-3177,www.columbusfoodadventures.com)