A new guide touts several local food venues with hopes of drawing more people to the 13-state area defined as Appalachia, which includes Western Pennsylvania.
The “Bon Appetit Appalachia” tourism map guide was launched by the Appalachian Regional Commissions (ARC) earlier this month to attract both tourists and local folks to markets, farms, breweries, wineries, distilleries, festivals and of course, restaurants. The guide lists 283 food destinations in the Appalachia region; more than 600 are listed on the program‘s website.
Allegheny and surrounding counties are part of the region that consists of 420 counties in the 13 states. The ARC was created in 1965 to help promote the economic development of this area, including tourism.
“We’ve seen such a dramatic increase in activities and tourism around food. This guide is to increase the visibility and visitation of these culinary destinations, and also the opportunity to purchase healthy, local foods,” said Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of ARC.
He said ARC worked with local tourism bureaus in the states, its own council and other contacts in the food industry to help identify food venues that highlight local foods, beverages and food products. After receiving more than 1,000 nominations, they were then vetted by a committee to ensure that the venues not only made a good effort to highlight and support the local food industries, but also that they were tourist-ready.
“Over the last two years, I have toured many of these sites and the energy surrounding this project has been amazing. People are really excited about food destinations and promoting local foods,” he said.
In addition to the printed map guide, visitors can search for food destinations at the website visitappalachia.com.
At least some of the destinations weren’t told they were being included. Tiffani Emig, market manager for Pittsburgh Public Market, was surprised but delighted to know that the market is in the guide.
“We are always happy to be recognized. That is exactly what we are all about -- supporting and promoting small, local businesses [that] in turn are supporting local products,” she said. Now that the market knows about the guide, she said she will help promote it. “This is fantastic. We will have to help get the word out.”
That the Chop Shop, a small restaurant in Butler, was included was news to Bill Atkinson, the owner.
“That is great,” he said. “We focus on making food from scratch and laid-back, casual dining. To be noted is definitely an honor.”
Several other local food destinations in the guide are: the East End Food Co-op in Point Breeze, Kistaco Farm Market in Apollo, Schramm Farm and Orchard in Jeannette, Gateway Lodge Restaurant and Pub in Cooksburg, Harvest Valley Farm Market and Bakery in Middlesex, North Country Brewing Co. in Slippery Rock, Con Yeager Spice Store in Evans City, Cider House Farm Market in Harmony and Indiana Community Garden in Indiana.
The ARC paid $50,000 for the new guides. Each state will receive 25,000 copies, which will be available at several visitors bureaus, welcome centers and other tourism sites as well as by request. The guide also was included in the summer issue of Food Traveler Magazine.
Mr. Gohl said that ARC hopes to build upon the guide for other projects focusing on the culinary scene.
“We are only at a starting point,” he said. “I think the interest will continue to expand dramatically for healthy and local foods.”