Last weekend, Cazey and I had the pleasure of being tourists in our own city. We were invited to try the Carytown Food and History Tour, hosted by River City Food Tours. Our booking was last Saturday at 2PM on a perfect autumn afternoon - until the sun went down and it got a little chilly. The email reminder told us to bring a positive attitude, water, walking shoes, and to dress appropriately. Apparently we’re not good at following directions because we neglected to bring water and wear enough clothing once the sun went down a bit.
My first pro tip would be to follow the professional advice and bring water and a jacket. The water is crucial, as you’ll taste a lot of food and not every restaurant provides water.
The tour kicks off at Carytown Cupcakes and is hosted by entrepreneur Brian, who comes with a binder and brain full of Carytown facts for every tour. I knew this tour was going to be excellent from the start as he didn’t make us wait for dessert. We kicked off our 2.5-hour tour getting to taste test a vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cupcake with cinnamon icing and a gluten-free caramel apple cupcake. Maybe I’m too basic, but the pumpkin cupcake was my absolute favorite. I even happened to have thirds – and er – fourths of the cupcakes before departing to our second stop because apparently several people were dieting in our tour group.
Despite living here for a few years and eating at almost all of the stops on the tour at some point in my life, I had no idea who Carytown was named after nor the significance of the shopping center. Despite focusing mostly on food, the added historical knowledge makes the tour fun for tourists and locals alike.
Writing about the River City Food Tour is almost a catch-22, because I want to share about how fun it was to learn more about one of the most outstanding neighborhoods of Richmond, but part of the magic of the tour is walking along and not having the slightest idea of where we were going. The mystery kept it enticing, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.
Along the tour, we got to sample everything from buffalo fried oysters (it’s like they knew my all-time favorite sauce is buffalo sauce and blue cheese) to local peanuts (boldly ignoring my doctor’s specific order to avoid eating nuts) to jalapeño macaroni and cheese grilled cheese sandwich with a tomato bisque dipping sauce (this location changed it every time, so you could go on the tour every week and get something different). Bring an empty stomach, because if you don't manage to get fourths on cupcakes, you're not going to want supper after this. As one man put it at our sixth stop with food, he was "coping."
Brian is stellar at ensuring that everyone can try food at every stop and easily accommodates people who have food allergies. Apparently while I was drooling on myself over the buffalo fried oysters, the guy with the shellfish allergy was treated to a salmon specialty, which I also would like to try because I am shell-fish (and also punny).
As a visitor to Richmond, the tour is a great way to learn a little history and get to try a variety of local fare without having to commit to any one restaurant. As a local, I got an inside peek into a few restaurants that I haven’t tried and now realize that almost all of our local restaurants are more affordable than I think. As if I needed a reason to go out to eat more. Cazey even commented he felt like he was out of town in his own city.
As I was walking home after the tour, I called my mom and told her I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about this tour before. It’s literally a perfect way to entertain out of town guests while also letting them get to see various stops in Richmond (plus if you need two activities, Brian also leads a sweets tour, yum). Or if you’re in love with Richmond like I am, the food tour is just another way to remind yourself of how awesome our city is.