Whether you’re a hardcore foodie or you just like to try new places to eat, Omaha has so many good restaurants it would be really difficult to find them all on your own. That’s where Omaha Culinary tours comes into play.
The company was formed in October 2013 and conducted its first tour in early December 2013.
According to Suzanne Allen, one of the owners, there are currently six tours up and running: three walking tours and three bus tours.
Eat your way through town
The walking tours focus on different neighborhoods in Omaha. Right now, these include the Midtown, Old Market and Orpheum areas. There are plans to offer walking tours of Benson and Dundee in the future.
Each walking tour hits different restaurants in that one area. The tours are fluid and destinations change depending on availability of the venue and the size of the tour group.
“For example, in Midtown, we might start at Chef’s Square, and then go to Brix, followed by Crescent Moon, the Grey Plume, Marrakech Gourmet and Wohlner’s grocery store. You’ll get samples from all the places and hear from the owner, chef or general manager about why they got started, what they’re known for and what their passion is - in other words, why they’re doing what they’re doing,” said Allen.
Bus tours are varied as well and include a focus on the sweet with the Chocolate and Pastry Tour and the savory with the Classic Steakhouse Tour. Allen said the latest addition is the Bite of Omaha Tour, which takes parts of all the tours and combines them.
All the tours last about 2 ½ to 3 hours and each one visits five to six places.
“We like to feature locally-owned, non-chain restaurants and specifically want to feature chefs that are passionate about Omaha,” explained Allen.
Groups max out around 25 participants for the regular tours, but Omaha Culinary Tours does offer private events and can accommodate up to 150 people. Allen said that’s because there are multiple tour guides who can each take smaller groups to different restaurants at the same time.
She said they do like to end private tours with bigger groups at a larger venue so everyone has time together. To do that, they generally choose a spot that has a bigger party room.
Allen said when you go to a place and you hear from someone like Clayton Chapman from The Grey Plume and find out why he’s doing what he’s doing and his philosophy on the culinary arts, you just want to support him.
“You want them to succeed and you want to go back. Without having the chance to do something like this tour you may not know that,” she said.
The tours also offer opportunities to meet new friends. She said half of Omaha Culinary Tours’ ticket sales are from locals. One thing residents seem to say consistently is how the tours make them feel like they are on vacation in their own city and Allen loves that. She said she loves to bring joy to people and showcase spots that are new even to local visitors.
Show up hungry
She does advise everyone to attend the tours hungry. Even though you’re only getting a sample from each place, Allen said that sample could consist of as much as half a plate of food. Even on the Chocolate and Pastry Tour you will be stuffed. She said sometimes people end up taking stuff home in to-go bags.
Though there’s not much walking on the walking tours, maybe 5-10 minutes’ worth, Allen said it’s still important to be prepared for the elements.
All of the owners have been on all of the tours and love to meet and talk to people about the history of Omaha.
Allen admits she was surprised when she started looking into the folklore and tales to prepare for the Orpheum Theatre District Tour, “I had no idea we had a little bit of a shady side in our beginnings – it’s fun to tell the story.”
The community has really embraced Omaha Culinary Tours and Allen said the response has been very positive.
The company will be working with Omaha Restaurant Week in the fall in putting together a First Bites Tour with some of the restaurants that are participating. According to Allen, their goal is to show people the great cuisines scene we have in Omaha.
“Tours are ever changing and we are constantly working on things. We have a Slice of Omaha Pizza Tour that we expect to be up and running in the fall. We’re also working on a Craft Brew Tour. There are a lot of new things we can do to keep it fun and fresh,” said Allen.
For tickets and tour information, visit website omahaculinarytours.com.