"Taste It Tours" Makes a Downtown Phoenician Want to Cry

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Lobster Wraps 1130.jpg
Lauren Saria
Lobster Wraps from 1130 The Restaurant
Ever find yourself thinking, "Wow, I really wish there was someone who could show me around downtown Phoenix's bustling food scene. It's all so overwhelming"?

Well . . . probably not. But anyway, Taste It Tours is here to satisfy your burning curiosity about all that downtown has to offer you and your stomach. And although the company advertises "Phoenix's premier food tasting . . . walking tour," the three-hour excursion can best be summed up as a food tour, yes, but not one designed for the culinarily enlightened (a.k.a. the foodie).

The tours take diners "inside the restaurants that have impacted Downtown Phoenix's culinary scene." Developed by Jessica Combest, the company takes tour-goers to three to seven eateries. Combest, an Arizona native, decided to create her own way to share downtown culture with visitors after going on several food tours herself.

Curious, we forked over $59 for a Phoenix Walking Tour and happened to get rescheduled/upgraded to the Dine Around Tour -- a $68 value -- due to a company schedule conflict.

The tour began at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Hotel San Carlos' Ghost Lounge. After introductions and a sample of the bar's margaritas, our tour guide shared a few nuggets of the hotel's star-studded history. Admittedly, even to this local, the tour offered a surprising amount of knowledge about the buildings and history of downtown Phoenix.

Hanny's proscuttio plate.jpg
Lauren Saria
A sampling of prosciutto, Parmesan reggiano, olives, and cantaloupe from Hanny's
At the second restaurant, Hanny's, our stopover included a visit to the creepy-doll tea party in the basement (which had gone unnoticed during my previous visits) and a peek into the burned-out elevator shaft, which, our guide told us, Phoenix firefighters used to practice their skills. For those who've spent any real time downtown, Hanny's would be a familiar point of interest, but my fellow tour-goers seemed thrilled to take in the unique building and a few pieces of their flatbread pizzas.


Location Info

Map

Ghost Lounge - CLOSED

202 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

Hanny's

40 N. 1st St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

1130 The Restaurant

455 N. Third St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

My Big Fat Greek Restaurant

525 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Athenian Express Cafe

814 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Jobot Coffee

918 N. Fifth St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

Pane Bianco

4404 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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10 comments
Jay Veniard
Jay Veniard

This will be the last comment made by Taste It Tours. First we agree that there are a lot of great eating establishments in Downtown Phoenix. Had the author of this article identified herself like the authors of the AZ Republic, Downtown Devil, Fox 10 News ABC 15 News, Jet Set Magazine, AAA, etc., etc., and asked us why we chose the restaurants we chose, I think the article might have been a bit different because we would have been able to tell about the logistics that go into creating a food tour. We are just stumped as to why the author said she was an ASU student taking pictures for her photography class.To run a successful food tour you have to take into consideration that it is a walking food tour, this one happens to be in the evening, therefore, we have to account for where we are going in relation to the other places we go and the area of Downtown particular restaurants are in. We can't take our guest down dimly lit side streets and have them fear getting mugged. We also have to take into consideration that our tours are up to 16 people, restaurants like the Breadfruit can't handle that big of a group during their peak dinner service. Trust me we wanted Breadfruit, but it just wouldn't work. We have to work with what we have within the logistics that makes our tour bearable for walking. Another thing I want to point is that on a food tour it is as much about the presentation as it is the food and as much as the author blasted us for using Big Fat Greek, you have to admit the setting on the patio is awesome and the show that they give our guests with the flaming cheese is a show stopper and since 75% of our guests are from out of town they really like Big Fat Greek and don't care that there are several in the Valley. Furthermore, the particular location we use is owned by a gentleman named Juan who owns 2 Big Fat Greeks in the Valley and has passion for his restaurant and the food they put out, including the homemade Baklava that is made in house daily.The next thing I want to point out is that the author of this article mentioned that the manager of 1130 endlessly pimped out their restaurant. That's the point, it's free advertising for them. It's no secret why 1130 has the most repeat visitors then any of our other restaurant partners. Any of you who have ever been on a food tour know that the 20 minutes or so that tour goers are in the restaurant, is 20 minutes that the restaurants get to tell you why you should come back. Would you have know that 1130 has this very large private dining room that can be rented out for FREE. Most people wouldn’t know that, because of our tour now they do and have booked 2 parties with people who learned about the FREE room on our tour. My question is, has the author of this article ever been on any other food tours other than ours?As for the comment about our tour being an over-priced tourist trap, we take offense to that considering that the prices of food tours around the country vary in price from $40 to over $100. And we take into offense that the author did not have her facts straight when she said there was a $10 alcohol charge on a $70 ticket. Our tickets are $68 and full price tickets include alcohol. I really wish the author would have taken into consideration that we are shining a light on the food and history culture that Downtown Phoenix has to offer and rather than bash us, maybe applaud us for bringing people, Phoenix natives, to the Downtown area, an area that a lot of people don't think about when they think of food. I sure know that everyone involved with the Downtown Urban revitalization is happy that we chose Downtown for our tour and they have welcomed us with open arms.To conclude, in the world of food you can't please everyone because everyone claims they are a foodie. What makes someone a foodie? What we don't appreciate is that the author of this article didn't take the time to ask us what went in to the creation of our tour and why we chose the restaurants we chose. We ask the author, if she hasn't been on other food tours, which she said she she hasn't, we know because we ask everyone at the beginning of the tour if they have ever been on a food tour and she said NO, please go on other food tours and then compare ours to the others you go on. Finally, because this is the first time we have heard of anyone absolutely hating our tour or I guess we should say, making someone cry, we want to offer the author her MONEY BACK because we believe in a good customer experience and if she feels it was an over prices tourist trap that is not out goal so please call us and we will refund your money. Thank you.

Jay Veniard | Co-Owner
Taste It Tours

Amy Silverman
Amy Silverman

Mr. Veniard: I'm managing editor of New Times, and I edit Lauren Saria. She did not misrepresent herself in any way to anyone associated with your tour. She is, in fact, a student at ASU. She was also working as a reviewer for Chow Bella, and just like all of New Times/Chow Bella's reviewers (including Laura Hahnefeld) she did not volunteer that she works for a media outlet -- for obvious reasons. She's an ethical journalist, not doing public relations. Our goal is to experience the tour the way anyone else would. She liked some things, didn't like others. I'm not sure what the problem is here -- but I guess I won't find out since that was your last comment.

Jesse
Jesse

Breadfruit, sure. But Jobot? With their microwaved tortillas sprinkled with red brick dust?

vicelord
vicelord

So you get to experience absolutely ZERO percent of the fantastic chef owned and operated restaurants downtown has to offer? You get none of the charm of small operations? Instead of you get corporate crap like 1130 and My Big Fat Greek Ripoff? I'll skip this crap, if I want garbage food I'll go to Tilted Kilt and at least get some boobs with my meal.

Alex
Alex

As a matter of fact... 1130 the restaurant is not a coorporation... It is a single owner establishment and they support local business by using their products. If you want to slander an establishment make sure you get your research done first. Thanks.

Reader Guy
Reader Guy

This is the kind of tour you would pimp endlessly if you came up with it yourself.  Or if it sponsored/advertised with the New Times..

Jay Veniard
Jay Veniard

One more thing I have to mention. And for the sake of full disclosure, I am one of the owners of Taste It Tours. For the price of our full price tickets there is not an extra $10 charge for alcohol.

Jay Veniard
Jay Veniard

Wow!!! We are really surprised that you didn't enjoy our tour. We have had a ton of positive feedback on our tour, even from self-proclaimed "foodies" and have never had anyone leave one of our tours hungry. We truly wish we could have delivered you a better experience.

Guest
Guest

We did a tour a month ago.  As foodies, 2 thumbs down!

Jay Veniard
Jay Veniard

Just curious what tour you did? The Evening Dine Around or the Daytime Walking Tour?

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