Inside the small dining room at Gorkha Palace, colorful Asian paintings and tapestries hang on the walls behind the long table where we sit. Laurie Rupe, former owner of Twin Cities Food Tours and our guide on the Downtown/Northeast Minneapolis Food Tour, explains how restaurant owner Rashmi Bhattachan once helped her grandmother prepare a feast for a Nepali king. As Laurie speaks, servers bring out plates of veggie pakora, a jumble of cabbage, onion and jalapeño dipped in garbanzo bean batter and fried to crispy deliciousness. Next comes momo, dumplings stuffed with savory meat, onions and spices.
“What we have here is yak momo,” Laurie says. I must look bewildered, because she says, “There’s a yak farmer not far outside the Twin Cities.”
Who knew? And that’s what makes these Midwest urban food tours so great. They all share a few hallmarks: For about $50, you get a knowledgeable guide who imparts local lore and leads groups to culinary destinations, each serving dishes you might not otherwise discover—or be willing to try—on your own.
“I really want people to experience this city and what the people here have to offer. You can find chains anywhere, but all of these stops are unique to Minneapolis,” Laurie says.
Some tours focus on a single food, like Milwaukee Food Tours’ pizza bus adventure, where guides dish history along with four kinds of pie (and one bowl of gelato). Others focus on a neighborhood, like Taste of Kansas City Food Tours’ journey through the Crossroads Arts District.
No matter the type of tour, people sign up not just for the eats, but for stories about landmarks, such as Minneapolis’ iconic Grain Belt Beer sign on Nicollet Island. I lived here most of my life and never noticed its bottle-cap background until now.
Back at Gorkha Palace, it’s not the familiar but the novel that impresses Mark and Judy Reier, from nearby Andover, as they try the yak momo. “This is why we came on this tour,” Mark says. “We thought that maybe we’d discover something new.”
Four fab food tours
These jaunts offer delicious eats, great guides and fascinating stories.
Milwaukee Food Tours In addition to the popular Pizza Bus Tour, you can choose from a bloody mary brunch tour, eats on Brady Street (an Italian and Polish enclave) or several other neighborhood-focused outings. Some visit nearby towns like Cedarburg. milwaukeefoodtours.com
Savor Ann Arbor Guide Marcie Greenfield leads customized outings around this Michigan college town. Follow a suggested itinerary—International Flavors and Strolling Tailgate are popular—or talk with her to create your own, and walk your way through a gourmet meal. (734) 709-4739; savorannarbor.com
Taste of Kansas City Food Tours Get the lowdown on 1930s Missouri political boss Tom Pendergast’s bootlegging and the Crossroads Art District’s renaissance between bites of Philly cheesesteak pizza at Grinders and two kinds of bruschetta at Harvey’s at Union Station. The tour involves an easy 2-mile stroll. www.tasteofkansascityfoodtours.com
Twin Cities Food Tours Expect international flavors and Minnesotan history on this three-hour walk. Learn about Neapolitan-style pizza at Punch Pizza, then discover old-world Polish treats at Kramarczuk’s deli. Finish the progressive meal with Greek desserts from Gardens of Salonica. twincitiesfoodtours.com