Touring, eating

When I travel to other cities, I’m always tempted by the idea of food walking tours. You get to roam a neighborhood, learn a little local history and eat along the way. At their best, the tours would give you a taste of a place in a few short hours, including samples from some top-tier restaurants. They sound too good to be true, which is why I’ve never bothered.

It never occurred to me, however, to test one out in my own backyard. Or that I might feel a sense of discovery somewhere I walk through so often.

Enter Sacramento’s Local Roots Food Tours. I received an invite to one last week, which turned out to be the coming out party of sorts for Dawnie Andrak and Tim Bailey, who bought the company roughly a year ago but have been tinkering quietly until now. That night, they unveiled a new modern, attractive website and plans to add East Sacramento and R Street tours soon in addition its current lineup.

We got an abbreviated version of the downtown historical tour, a typically three-hour, potentially eight-stop ordeal. It started at Brasserie Capitale’s Café à Coté with wine and passed appetizers: gravlax on toast points, deviled eggs, meatballs, shrimp. Then, Mother, where I felt immediately anxious that our group of 25 was going to stampede through the perpetually crowded restaurant like a Sac Brew Bike party—but without the wooing, fortunately. Somehow, the place was quiet, and our group huddled relatively out of the way, nibbling on squash-topped focaccia and fried mushrooms. Fullness quickly set in.

All the while, our guide peppered us with fun facts and observations. We passed the “rococo as heck” Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament with new eyes. We traversed Bishop Gallegos Square and learned why he was so cool. We received an oral history of the Crest Theatre, basically in its current state since 1948. And we peered over Coin-Op Game Room with a city-altering flood in mind.

We hit up the Allspicery, a refreshing stop with tonic water so delicious it made me crave a gin and tonic even though gin gives me a rash. Plus, the spice shopkeeper stayed open late, which made the group feel supremely special. Then, Andy’s Candy Apothecary one-upped that by opening the closed shop just for us.

I always feel like a kid in a candy store in that candy store, but the childlike wonder was heightened on this occasion—probably because there were more free samples than usual. The best local stuff floated around: a Ginger Elizabeth bar and sample after sample of Puur Chocolat treats. My heart fluttered with sugar.

Ultimately, the evening solidified that these food walking tours aren’t for me—but they are certainly for some people, particularly locals who don’t frequent the grid. The Sacramento Bee has written a slew of stories recently geared toward the Sacramentan scared of going downtown (but who really wants to visit the Golden 1 Center), and one of these food tours would make for a helpful stepping stone. More at