Cooking Classes & Food Tours in New York City’s Outer Boroughs
Between cooking classes, traditional food tours, and new Airbnb Experiences, there are hundreds of options when it comes to culinary tourism in NYC. While it may be tempting (and more convenient) to stick to the neighborhoods between Lower Manhattan and Midtown, the most interesting neighborhoods and culinary experiences lie beyond the island of Manhattan, in the outer boroughs.
Here are seven different options, which range from well established, global companies like Urban Adventures to small, owner/operator businesses like Bronx Historical Tours and A Slice of Brooklyn.
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Bronx Historical Tours
If you want to experience Arthur Avenue, start with The Bronx Little Italy Experience. It’s a 3 1/2 hour walking tour, mostly focused on Arthur Ave and 187th Street. After this tour, you’ll feel like more of a local. Alexandra has lived in nearly every corner of The Bronx and will introduce you to the local bakers, butchers, and other shopkeepers. The tour meets at Grand Central Station and ends around lunchtime, which is ideal, since more than any other Bronx tour, this one will make you build up an appetite.
Read more about it here.
A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours
This is the original Brooklyn pizza tour. It starts with lunch at Grimaldi’s in DUMBO and ends with an early dinner at L & B Spumoni Gardens in Gravesend. In between, you visit a handful of cultural attractions, most of which are film and food-focused. What makes this tour unique is that the guides are from Brooklyn. You’ll hear it in their strong Brooklyn accents, and their passion for New York’s most populous borough is unrivaled. Another unique thing about this tour is that it allows you to skip the line at Grimaldi’s. For many, that will be worth the price alone, as during pre-COVID times, patrons waited in line for up to two hours.
They also offer a Brooklyn Chocolate Tour.
Here is a list of my favorite NYC pizza spots.
Culinary Backstreets has been running urban food tours since 2009. They currently offer two different tours in Queens. The focus is on the small, family-run cafes, food trucks, and restaurants that they visit and what those places mean to the neighborhood. While on the Corona’s Culinary Essentials tour, I had the chance to hear many inspiring stories of how Mexican, Colombian, and Ecuadorian chefs ending up leaving it all behind to try their luck in America’s most diverse borough.
Like the most memorable food tours I’ve joined, from Sydney to Tokyo, Culinary Backstreets tours are not just about food. While there is food at every stop, there’s also a seemingly endless history lesson between every bite. While I always want to know what I’m eating, I also prefer to know the history behind it.
You can be confident that you won’t be full after one or two stops. You’ll get to sample a handful of different local staples, ranging from sweet to savory. Their guides speak nearly perfect English and will explain everything before any member of the group touches a concha or takes a single bite of their mini taco.
When you make your online reservation, you can mention any dietary restrictions you have.
League of Kitchens
The League of Kitchens is an immersive culinary experience which connects curious foodies with immigrant cooks from around the world. Argentine, Bengali, Lebanese, Nepalese, and Uzbek (to name a handful) immigrants invite guests into their homes for intimate cooking workshops.
Back in 2018, I took an Uzbek cooking class with Damira Inatullaeva, who was born in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The League of Kitchens gives her the opportunity to do what she loves the most: hosting her friends and curious foodies from around the world for home-cooked meals in the Borough Park apartment she shares with her husband, Sahib. Damira offers three different workshops, one of which is all vegetarian. While most of her cooking equipment will be recognizable to guests, she does use some unique Uzbek-syle pots and pans, which she enthusiastically shares the origins of.
BonAppetour connects foodies and travelers with local home chefs around the world. Their mission is to make home-dining an integral part of every travel experience. From Chinese Hot Pot in Astoria to Mom’s Tacos in Astoria, you can choose from a range of unique dining experiences hosted by their carefully selected host community.
Here is a complete list of in-home BonAppetour dining experiences in New York.
Probably the best-known company for city tours, Urban Adventures has a strong foothold in New York and offers a mix of public, private, and customized tours. Neighborhood Eats Brownstone Brooklyn is one of their best sellers. One of their DUMBO tours starts with a classic NYC Ferry Ride and includes a chance to make your own ice cream sandwich at Jacques Torres. They also offer brewery tours. Be sure to notify them of any dietary restrictions at the time of booking.
Here is a complete list.
Airbnb Experiences offer the best opportunity for variety. There are more than 150 food-focused options. And when you join the experience, your guide will most likely be the one who designed the experience. So, you won’t have to worry about having a guide with very little personal connection to the tour or dining experience they are giving you. Whether you take a pasta-making class, learn to cook Eastern European pastries, or devour a Goofellas burger in the same chair where Robert DeNiro sat in the 1990 Scorsese classic, your options are only limited by the imaginations of the various hosts.
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On September 29, I’ll be hosting a TIMA Elevate webinar on Culinary Tourism in New York’s Outer Boroughs.
All pictures were shot with my Panasonic Lumix ZS100 4K Point and Shoot Camera.
Have you joined any of the tours or taken any of the cooking classes in this list? If so, what did you think? Leave your comments and suggestions below!