Chicago Food Planet Wicker Park Tasting Tour

George's Hotdogs serves 'em up Chicago style.

George's Hotdogs serves 'em up Chicago style.

Looking for an easy way to branch out and try new restaurants?

The folks over at Chicago Food Planet Food Tours offer food tasting and cultural walking tours – one of the Near North neighborhood and one of Wicker Park.

For $42 you’ll join roughly 15 others on a three-hour walking tour that takes you though the neighborhood to different places for tastings.

We went on the Wicker Park tour last weekend at Chicago Food Planet’s request, which included whirlwind visits to George’s Hot Dogs, Hot Chocolate, Goddess and the Grocer, Piece, Sultan’s Market, and iCream.

This tour is designed to make food in the neighborhood more accessible to locals who would likely not explore it on their own, or to visitors who want to break free of the city’s tourist traps but don’t know where to start.  If that’s you, you’ll get your money’s worth.  But if you’re a more experienced foodie, you’d likely be more satisfied with a self-directed day that’s more adventurous.

iCream | ice cream | making ice cream.

At iCream, you come up with an ice cream combo that's created before your eyes.

Still, the tour has several things to recommend it.  For one, it’s well planned.  We were easily herded from one place to the next, and the restaurants were prepared for us, even though some of the storefronts are extremely small.

The places on the tour were selected as much for their location as their notoriety.  In fact, I’d guess Goddess and the Grocer and Sultan’s Market are on the tour because of their proximity to the other things, not because they have particularly outstanding food.

Our guide was knowledgeable about the establishments we visited and the neighborhood, enthusiastically sharing tidbits about history and architecture along our route.  His running commentary added a lot to the tour, but there were times it seemed that were led down side streets merely to kill time between tastings rather than see something of significance. Even so, the tastings were well spaced out, so we had room to try a little bit of everything.

iCream | that guy from Florida.

The end result and final tasting at iCream.

I also appreciated the information packet we were given to take away – it includes a number of discount coupons, a full list of restaurants in the area, and a map, so planning our next neighborhood visit will be easy.

We were certainly reminded of some restaurants we want to try while touring, so don’t be surprised if we go back to Wicker Park soon!

Piece serves up more than just good thin crust pizza. It's a brewery too!

Piece serves up more than just good thin crust pizza. It's a brewery too!

We were asked to review this tour; all food and drink was provided to us free of charge.