When traveling, you can expect to spend a little more money on meals. Not only are you likely eating out at restaurants more, but in vacation mode it doesn’t seem as outlandish to try the fanciest restaurant in town. But one Chicago food tour is making us question how much is too much for an authentic dining experience. A thread on the r/Chicago Reddit page is ablaze today after event company Fever posted about an offering called the Chicago Foodie Lovers Tour. The ticket cost? $532.50.
You’ve got to hand it to Fever for at least being upfront about what’s included in this package—the company is not making grand statements about luxury accommodations or high-end dishes. But that makes the price tag even more baffling. Here’s what the included items would actually cost, with generous estimations:
- Bottled water: $1, on average
- A Portillo’s hot dog: $4.99 at the River North location
- A small Garrett’s popcorn: a regular tin of the signature stuff goes for $34
- A 6-inch Al’s Italian Beef sandwich: $8.79 at the River North location
- A slice of deep dish pizza: $10.95 for a personal deep dish pizza at Giordano’s
- A Do-rite Donut: $4.45 for the most expensive single donut
- Entry to Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, and Buckingham Fountain: free
- Total: $64.18
So that leaves $468.32, which very well could go to the tour guide at a rate of $117/hour (it’s a private tour as opposed to a group one). There is mention of an Uber being included in the price as well, though details on where that Uber is picking you up from/taking you to are not mentioned. Even considering the farthest journey within reason, that’s still quite the upcharge.
There are definitely perks to having someone guide you through your meal, providing little-known facts and history as you go, and that expertise certainly deserves to be compensated (here’s where we remind you that it is commonplace to tip your tour guides on any tour, and we encourage you to do so!). But you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy those perks.
If you’re a planner and want the full guided experience, first check for reviews on a site like TripAdvisor, where you can easily see pricing, tour length, and customer feedback. For the most authentic tours, search local event pages as opposed to national and generic ones. Here in Chicago, Choose Chicago provides a list of specific food tour companies that cater to different neighborhoods, menu items, and modes of transportation.
To plan your own Chicago food outing, there are a few good places to start. Social media, of course, is always brimming with options: TikTokers are not afraid to be brutally honest about their favorite and least favorite restaurants in any given city. You’ll just have to determine whether you think their tastes align with yours.
When I go to a new city, I first grab a copy of the local newspaper (an alt-weekly is best if the city you’re visiting still has one). Flipping through the dining coverage, as well as the ads for restaurants and bars, should whet your appetite as you start your journey. From there, let the locals be your guide: Ask your servers or any friendly bar patrons what their favorite spot is. This will provide a more unique experience of the local culinary scene than a typical food tour might.
That being said, the classics are the classics for a reason. If there’s a dish you know you need to try while you’re in a particular city, don’t be afraid to go to the most well-known place. If you’re feeling up to it, try the same dish at several local restaurants and determine for yourself which one has the best version. You’ll be leading a food tour of your own in no time.