3 food tours every Atlantan should do

The soul of a city is solidly encrusted in a mixture of its food, drizzled with the personality of the people who play lead on the stage of the local evolution. While Atlanta is gaining notoriety as a dominating culinary force, its foundations and roots are nothing new. Food tours are a perfect opportunity for locals, and visitors alike, to literally taste the history and discover new sights.

Atlanta Food Walks

What it is all about

With a background in food and storytelling, Akila McConnell, of Atlanta Food Walks, is the perfect addition to Atlanta's culinary tourism scene. A "college course in Southern food 101 crushed down into 3 hours," AFW mixes tastings with the history and evolution of Southern cuisine. From Native American influences to the Civil Rights era, participants are immersed as much in the how's and why's as the actual ingredients. The story begins in the Castleberry Hill area, hops through Five Points, onto Fairlie-Poplar and then Sweet Auburn. You won't find any food snobbery on this tour, just memorable moments for your taste buds. In fact, Akila shies away from the word "foodie" due to its often elitist insinuations. Ironically, she does refer to Dr. King as a foodie, for lack of a better word. Akila notices that through this different and grounding perspective into his life it allows tour participants to be "more connected to Dr. King through his love of food."

Don't assume that food tours are just for out-of-towners. In fact, Atlanta Magazine referred to Atlanta Food Walks as a "service targeted at locals." When asked why she feels Atlanta Food Walks has been given that distinction, Akila conjectures that it has a lot to do with where they go. Many locals are often intimated with areas of downtown, yet leave the tour pleasantly surprised as they experience areas they would never have necessarily gone to on their own.

The nitty-gritty

  • Tours are offered on Thursdays through Saturdays at 11am. For more information, see atlantafoodwalks.com.
  • 7 stops are included and broken down into 2 heavy tastings, followed by some walking, 2 light tastings, 2 heavy tastings and ending with 1 light tasting.
  • One of the stops does include an alcoholic offering
  • Food samplings include items ranging from seafood to BBQ and even soul food. "All you have to do is enjoy eating!"
  • Tour lasts about 3.5 hours and covers approximately 2 miles of walking.

Marietta Food Tours

What it's all about

Brian Benefield describes the feel of Marietta Food Tours as a "throwback to old town USA." Co-Founder and self-described "#2 tour guide,"Brian is a rare bread of born and raised Atlanta native. He and his wife, Cecilie Benefield, first birthed the idea of their food tour business while on a similar tour in the Bahamas, during one of Atlanta's infamous winter lock downs. With foundations laid by experiencing food tours in other areas such as California, Marietta seemed a perfect locale to share their love of the area and its delectable distinctions. The Marietta Square is one of those places that was the "center of life before mega malls. Where you went to grocery shop and eat." Most of the stops are mom-and-pop restaurants that are locally owned and well-established. It isn't all about the culinary offerings; Brian and Cecilie drizzle interesting facts, history and even architectural wisdom about the surrounding Marietta community. If your expectations revolve around biscuits and gravy, you'll be surprised to see stops that include Colombian cuisine and tastes from the Land Down Under.

The nitty-gritty

  • Tours are offered on Saturdays at 11am. For more information, see mariettafoodtours.com.
  • One of the stops does include an alcoholic offering
  • Tour last about 3 hours and covers approximately 1.5 miles of walking.
  • Eat a light breakfast as the tour will be the equivalent of a heavy lunch.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for a to-go box.

Peachtree Food Tour

What it's all about

John Hannula has been referred to as a docent, a historian, an Atlanta vacation consultant; rarely ever just a guide. His Classic Peachtree Tour centers around Peachtree Street in Midtown. While that may seem a limited area, much history and happenings have traversed Peachtree Street. His job isn't just situated on Peachtree Street, it's also his home. A retired businessman, storyteller and traveler, John is a triple threat when it comes to the food tour world. You'll hear about the expected notables such as Margaret Mitchell and Clark Gable, it's the inclusion of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Jimmy Hoffa that are delightfully unexpected. Burgers, greens and even booze are a few of the offerings you'll delight in as John tells his tales.

The nitty-gritty

  • Tours start at 11:45 and are available Wednesdays through Sundays. For more information, see peachtreefoodtours.com.
  • Tour lasts about 4.5 hours and covers approximately 2 miles of walking.
  • Alcohol is served on the tour and requires proper identification that you are over 21 years of age.

Other area food tours:

-Georgia Food Tours offers food tours in the Athens and Roswell areas. See their schedule for more information.
-Midtown, Beltline and Decatur food tours are offered by Food Daze Tour and Events.
-ATL-Cruzers offers private 3-hour food tours of Atlanta.
-A Taste of the South walking tour with samples is offered through Sweet Peach Tours.

Food tour etiquette

  • You do not need to tip at each restaurant location. While you are never obligated, your tour guides do appreciate tips.
  • Proper attire should be centered around being comfortable. Dress for the weather and for walking. Most tours operate rain or shine.
  • Come into the tour with an open mind. A great deal of thought is given by the tours operators as to what choices you will be sampling.
  • Be 100% engaged. To really get soaked into the cultural background of the area and the food, listen to the wisdom of your tour guide.
  • Be courteous to promptings of your guide. You are on a set time line so that food offerings are hot or otherwise properly ready.
  • Most specific tours have a set list of restaurants and often publicize them on their website.
  • Tours have posted cutoff times to sign up. Some are the night before, while others may be several hours before. Plan ahead. Many tours are booked up weeks in advance.
  • Some food tours may offer coupons or specials to return to various restaurants and locales that were highlighted on the tour.
  • Some tours can accommodate dietary restrictions if you give your tour operator ample notice.