Tenements, Tales, and Tastes: A Historical Food Tour of Lower Manhattan

I love being a tourist in my backyard and learning about the history, neighborhoods, and cultures that define New York City. 

I am also in love with walking tours because other than being a great way to meet people, they offer you information on a city’s layout and history. Combine a walking tour with food, and I am in paradise. 

I recently took Urban Oyster’s Tenements, Tales, and Tastes Tour of the Lower East Side. The tour gives people a glimpse into New York’s immigrant history and how it has shaped New York’s cultural and historical sites in the Lower East Side, Chinatown, and Little Italy.


The Tenements, Tastes, and Tales tour began near City Hall in Lower Manhattan where we learned about the history of Dutch discovering and settling present day New York City, which was formerly known as New Amsterdam.

We then continued by exploring the surrounding neighborhoods learning about the history and changes that the city underwent from the time that the African slaves lived in New York to the time when the early Irish settlers moved into the area.

Fresh dumplings being made in Chinatown

Next, we walked over to the Five Points neighborhood, which is known as one of the most notorious neighborhoods in New York’s history. We talked about the neighborhood’s sketchy history before making our way over to Chinatown, where we visited a small local Chinese dumpling restaurant.

After eating in Chinatown, we ventured over to a Little Italy, where we sampled prosciutto and fresh mozzarella at Alleva, the oldest Italian cheese shop in America.

Fresh salted mozzarella cheese at Alleva

We spoke with one of the employees in the shop and learned a bit about the history of the Little Italy and about the immigrants that settled there. We also discussed the gentrification occurring in neighborhoods throughout the New York City, which has been deeply impacting the demographics of many city’s neighborhoods, including Manhattan’s Little Italy.

We left Little Italy and made our way over to the Bowery neighborhood to eat some knishes at Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery. We discussed New York’s Jewish population and their immigration history in New York City.

Knishes at Yonah Shimmel

Following our Knish tasting, we walked down Houston Street and learned about some of  the Jewish businesses in the area that have been in business for decades such as Russ & Daughters (1914) and Katz’s Delicatessen (1888).

After leaving the Houston Street area, we walked through the Essex Street Market and learned the history of how food markets came to exist within New York City.

We continued our walk and learned about the time when Puerto Rican immigrants started moving into the city and then we concluded the tour by eating fresh German pretzels at Lorely, the first Biergarten in New York City of its kind.


Final Thoughts about the Tour:

I thoroughly enjoyed taking the tour, trying out foods I might have otherwise never known about, and learning about the extensive history of New York City.

Tour Guide: My tour guide was very knowledgeable, professional, and courteous.

Group Size: I like how Urban Oyster intentionally keeps groups small so that there is a more personal feel to the tour; this particular tour can only have 12 people at a time, and the day I went there were only three people on my tour, so it almost felt like it was a private tour.

I definitely recommend this tour for anyone who is interested in learning about how immigrants played a major role in the foundation of the city and how immigration has shaped New York’s food scene.

Cost: The cost of the tour is $65 and can be booked on the Urban Adventures website. 


Disclosure: I was honored to be a guest of Urban Oyster on the Tenements, Tales, and Tastes Tour; and as always, all opinions are my own.

By | 2017-07-30T01:10:10+00:00 April 18th, 2014|Culinary Tourism, New York City|2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. rebecca Apr 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    yum!!! food tours! my kind of travel

    • Chanel Apr 19, 2014 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      Food tours are wonderful! 😀

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