International spots offer alternatives to turkey.
There are all sorts of citations and benchmarks confirming that Pittsburgh has a growing, improving food scene, but here’s another one.
There’s an organized food tour in ... Allentown?
Yep, this small hilltop neighborhood above South Side, where not much was happening for many years, has been experiencing a bit of a revival, which is amplified by the fact that ’Burgh Bits & Bites is starting a regular food walking tour there.
Owner Sylvia McCoy started doing the tours in 2008 in the Strip District, and since has added them in Bloomfield, Brookline, Lawrenceville, North Side and South Side. But unlike those, Allentown is an “edgy” neighborhood “in transition,” as the tour company describes it.
“Be prepared for this funky, heavy-metal vegan experience,” says this tour’s description. “This is not your mother’s food tour.”
Tour-goers will experience punk vegan vibe of The Onion Maiden and the “darkness brewing eternal” sensibility of Black Forge Coffee House. They’ll also get tastes of the classic diner that is Breakfast at Shelly’s, Black Market Deli and Beef Jerky that sells a variety of food, Leon’s Caribbean Restaurant and the Warrington Avenue landmark — Paisano’s Pizza.
The tour also makes some non-food stops, which include Work Hard Pittsburgh, a coworking space, and Stuart Day Guitars, a designer and builder of artisan instruments, as well as some local artwork. “There are these little things you might not know that we can point out along the way.”
And it all gets wrapped in local lore and history, which tour guides Beth Kurtz Taylor and Corinne Bechtel researched with local residents and the Hilltop Alliance. Allentown business district manager, Siena Kane, reached out to the company and asked it to start the tour.
“We are so happy that the tour is going live!” says Ms. Kane, who attended the second practice tour last week. Even she was a little surprised that the food tour is happening here, she says with a laugh. Compared to, say, the Strip District (a tour Ms. McCoy took her on), “We don’t have as many businesses, but we have a lot of unique businesses,” including the fine-dining destination Alla Famiglia, which is finishing an expansion. “Eating up here is a fun thing to do!”
Ms. McCoy said this tour is so different, they’re going to market it differently than their other tours — as a “spotlight on the neighborhood” tour. As such, she plans to run it regularly just four times a year to start, adding more tours if there is demand. The first official one looks to be scheduled for early December and the next one probably would happen in the spring.
Tickets cost the same as other tours, $43, and Ms. McCoy says a small portion of it will go back to the Hilltop Alliance to help it continue to grow the business district.
She’s not sure if the generally younger entrepreneurs here will change the demographic of tour-goers, which now tends to be more women in their 40s and 50s. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”
As for Allentown having enough intriguing food destinations for a tour, she says, “Yeah, it’s surprising, but it’s not. It kinda speaks to what Pittsburgh is becoming now.”
More at burghfoodtour.com.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.