Boston North End Market Tour - trip report

Old Jul 15th, 2010, 04:40 AM
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Boston North End Market Tour - trip report

This is something others have mentioned here and on my list of things to do - even though I live here. Run by Michele topor's company - they also do a Chinatown food tour.

My 19 year old daughter (fellow foodie) and I bought tickets on-line for a Wednesday (7/14) 10 AM tour - $50 each plus the usual silly service charge.. Indicated on website that tour goes on regardless of weather - which was threatening. Took MBTA into Boston Haymarket stop and walked about a block to meeting place. Total of 14 on tour - and at 10 AM sharp when 2 had not arrived tour guide called their cell phone and left message at tour office of our route - a nice touch both to call and to start tour on-time.

North End is tiny - about 6 blocks square - area and he said there are over 100 food establishments within this area. We visited 7 - about half of which I was familiar with, but I learned something in each one. First Maria's pastry shop - where we learned ingredients and history of perhaps 6 different pastry types - and tasted each one. Then on to several general Italian specialty markets, a cheese shop, sausage/meat shop and onto a liquor store. All involved tasting of some products. This did not feel like they were advertising various stores or products - learned about variations in olives, olive oil, types of cheeses, etc. as well as some tiny regional differences in food in various regions of Italy.

Some real positives - we were told tour company pays something to each of the shops to cover cost of tasted items - and to avoid bias in their recommendations. We also received some handouts - including map, list of various specialty shops and restaurants. So we were not scribbling down things as we walked. Ground rules were clearly explained both on website and at start of tour - very limited bathroom facilities on tour, shop after the tour so as not to delay everyone else, and we were told where to stand in the tiny shops so as not to interfere with normal business.

Attendees were all from out of town and a mix of couples, a few teens. This is not a tour I would take kids under age of perhaps 13 or so on. No strollers allowed in shops - and would be inappropriate for a baby or bored toddler - stores are too crowded with perched merchandise and small enough so there would be little room to deal with squawking kid. Walking distance is less than a mile - all flat, although sidewalks in North End are narrow and sometimes uneven. Pace is slow enough so if you are not a fast walker it is fine. Many shops had 1 or 2 steps to enter. Nearest parking and MBTA station is maybe 1/8 mile away - there is essentially no street parking for non-residents in North End and you will get a ticket. if you try Even if weather is bad, you are outside for only short periods of time (it rained on and off while we were on tour), so even in winter it would be OK.

Since we live here it will be a great resource since I now know new places I can return to shop - but even if we did not, the knowledge gained would be useful in any specialty Italian market in your own city. Highly recommend - worth the $50 fee. Take the AM tour and then shop and stay for lunch.
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 04:52 AM
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Thanks for the detailed report, gail. It sounds great.

Have you taken any other food tours in Boston? I know dfrostnh has taken the Michele Topor's Chinatown tour and has written about it here.

There are 2 food tours in Brookline (one on Jewish food; the other on Russian), which I'm curious about. Then there's an Eastie food tour of East Boston, which I'll probably will try out this summer. I'm not familiar with E Boston at all (unless you count Logan), so the Eastie tour is more attractive to me. http://www.tastethistours.com/
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 08:21 AM
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Gail, glad you finally went on the tour. Four of us did the North End tour on our annual weekend trip (it was Boston that year) and loved it. It was the first time I tasted fresh figs and had to buy some to take home (as well as go back for a box of goodies from Maria's). I made DH, the city hater, go with me on the Chinatown tour. He loved it despite his fear of driving into Boston (directions to a parking garage were clear enough for an out-of-town country boy). YK, hope you try the Eastie tour and report back.
I think the value of taking the food tours is learning something you didn't know about things you thought you were already familiar with and learning a lot about things you haven't tried or known about. My three friends became lemoncello addicts.
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Old Jul 18th, 2010, 07:22 AM
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Oh, I really want to do both the North End and the Chinatown ones. Isn't there a chocolate tour too? Maybe I'm mistaken. Now I just need to dump the kids on my parents...ha ha ha.
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Old Jul 18th, 2010, 07:25 AM
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rizzo0904, there IS a chocolate walking tour in Boston. I don't think I've read any reviews about it though:
http://www.bostonchocolatewalkingtours.com/
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Old Jul 18th, 2010, 11:46 AM
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Thanks for a nice review Gail. As my daughter is now living in Boston, I'm happy to hear of fun things to do when I visit!
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Old Jul 18th, 2010, 07:50 PM
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Thanks for this report. I hope we can take at least one of these tours the next time we are in Boston.
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Old Aug 25th, 2012, 05:48 AM
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I'm so excited - we booked a tour for this Sat! Thanks for the detailed report.

My father-in-law is visiting from Cleveland and we were looking for something different to do. We live in western MA, so booked the 1:00 tour to allow plenty of time to get there. My Father-in-law is Italian and was really interested in this tour when I mentioned it to him.

It is also his birthday on Sunday, so this will be our gift to him! We will probably drive in to the city - any suggestions for closest parking? I know it will be expensive, but I don't want to make him walk any extra (he's turning 78 and in good shape, but sometimes his leg bothers him).
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Old Aug 25th, 2012, 08:16 AM
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I don't know where to park, but I do have a suggestion for his birthday -- when the tour ends, go back and do a taste test of cannolis from Mike's, Maria's and Modern -- everyone has their favorite (mine is Mike's)! Great birthday gift!
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Old Aug 25th, 2012, 08:18 AM
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Just found this parking map:

http://www.northendboston.com/directions_and_parking
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Old Aug 25th, 2012, 05:28 PM
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If you don't mind walking a little bit (0.5 mile), you can park at the Broad St garage:
http://boston.centralparking.com/Res...d-Parking.html

By printing the web coupon out in advance, you can park for $10 on a weekend.
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Old Aug 29th, 2012, 07:56 PM
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Gail, do you have a link to the North End tour website?

Thanks!
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Old Aug 30th, 2012, 12:55 AM
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bostonfoodtours.com
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Old Aug 30th, 2012, 06:55 PM
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Thanks!
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