Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pay-What-You-Wish Food Tour in Greenwich Village

Like everyone, I love food, but I'm also cheap, so Free Tours by Foot was right up my alley.

It's free in the sense that you don't pay anything up front, you purchase the free tickets via EventBrite then throw in a dollar or two per restaurant you stop at to sample something. At the end of the tour you are welcome to tip your tour guide as you wish. I'll start with the end of the tour and tell you that our tour guide was a lot of fun, so she got a good tip. I wish I could remember her name, but I've heard a lot of the tour guides are pretty good.

Our first stop (Washington Square Park) did not include any food samples, but our tour guide did give us a bit of history. If you know what a Potter's Field is, then you already know the history. I did not. When she said that I joked "like an artists' commune?" but a Potter's Field is far from that. Basically it's a large grave. So when you walk through Washington Square Park, Madison Square Park or Bryant Park, you're walking all over dead bodies.

Basically, back in the day, when the city's population mostly lived in the most southern part of the island and yellow fever hit, they took all the bodies to these parks, safely away from everyone else. About one hundred years later when they decided to build the famous arch, they found all these bodies in the ground and just sort of shoved them to the side. Fun.

On that morbid note, here's when the food started:

Location: Mamoun's Falafel
                119 MacDougal Street
                New York, NY 10012
I don't think I've had a falafel that I didn't like, so don't take my word for it, but there were great. For the $1 we got three with a hot and yogurt dipping sauce. Our guide warned us that the hot sauce was very hot. I like spicy and I didn't think it was too bad, but if you don't like hot/spicy, I'd skip it.

Location: Artichoke Pizza
                111 MacDougal Street 
                New York, NY 10012
This one of two places on the tour that I have previously visited, but I didn't mind. They definitely have more than artichoke pizza, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't at least try their artichoke pizza. It's super creamy and delicious and the crust stays crunchy so it's not like you have to end up eating it with a fork because it gets so soggy. 

Location: Faicco's Italian Specialties (no website available)
                 260 Bleecker St (between Cornelia St and Morton St) 
                 New York, NY 10014
I had first heard of Faicco's from a cute movie called Little Manhattan with a baby Josh Hutcherson and tried one of their famous Italian Special sandwich. Definitely worth the $11 but you'll probably want to split it with someone. Or just take a rest after eating it all. On this tour we tried their arancini/rice balls. If you're not familiar with them, an arancini is rice and cheese rolled into balls, breaded and fried. They get their name because they resemble little oranges, or arancina, in Italian.

They're famous for their rice balls, but I was a bit underwhelmed. Maybe I need more herbs or spices, but they were sorta blah. 

                69 7th Ave S (between Commerce St and S 7 Ave)
                New York, NY 10014
I've been dreaming about this pizza since we sampled it. Apparently the secret to their delicious thin-crust is that instead of rolling the dough out on standard flour, it's a mixture of Parmesan cheese and herbs. We sampled their famous Nonna Maria, named after the owner's grandmother, which has homemade marinara sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, olive oil and fresh garlic. 

Location: Bantam Bagels
                283 Bleecker Street (between Jones St and Commerce St)
                New York, NY 10014
Famously introduced to the world via Shark Tank, Bantam Bagels are the bagel version of doughnut holes injected with various fillings. Our guide warned us to look for the hole in the bagel where they injected the filling and bite there, otherwise the filling will squirt out all over you. I did not listen. And sadly we didn't think to get a picture before I cleaned myself off. I was really looking forward to that cheddar dijon cream cheese filling in my pretzel bagel. There was still a little left but overall, it was a let down. Besides big grains of salt on top it didn't remind me much of a pretzel nor did it have a bagel taste. I was hoping it would be like Usinger's delicious pretzel buns if anything. This was one of two places where we went in ourselves and bought what we wanted, I'd skip this in the future.

Location: Sugar and Plumm
                257 Bleecker Street (between Leroy St and Cornelia St)
                New York, NY 10014
Our last stop was for dessert of course. This was a sort of free for all stop where you could buy whatever you wanted, no set samples. Surprisingly I wasn't feeling the sweets but they put out little samples of their red velvet cupcakes and brownies, and those were delicious. A friend lives near the location on the Upper West Side and said their fishbowl sundae was amazing, but you definitely need a few people to eat it. 

Again, if you're visiting or just want to find something cheap and fun to do, I'd definitely suggest Free Tours by Foot. Besides the Greenwich Village Food Tour they also have one for the Lower East Side, a ghost tour, Gramercy Thrift and Vintage, a street art tour, and many many more. 

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