There are countless ways to explore New York City and all types of tours are available to guide the way. Helicopter tours, boat tours, museum tours, building tours – there is a sightseeing adventure for everyone. And who could forget about NYC food tours? Few would argue that the best way to get in touch with the Big Apple is to eat your way through it.
More than just an easy opportunity to grab a taste of the city’s diverse culinary options, NYC food tours introduce first-time-visitors and locals to the heart of different communities through the businesses that fuel them.
When you’re going on a trip, sometimes the best thing to do is to follow your stomach. In recent years, food tourism has become more and more popular.
I’d also venture to say that gastronomical experiences are forever. While you may not be able to keep track of all the information learned on a traditional tour, things become harder to forget when there is something delicious to associate them with.
Sugartooth Tours takes this concept and applies it only to desserts. With walking NYC dessert tours including cupcake and ice cream tours, and neighborhood tours that feature all that is sugary and delightful, it’s safe to say that it’s the sweetest tour company in New York City.
A sweet adventure
On a warm day in June, I was treated to a Sugartooth sample tour, which included several selections from two of their NYC food tours: the Village to Village Cupcake Crawl and the Ice Cream Summer Sundays Frozen Treats Tour. Check out the full list of tours here.
The tour was scheduled to start around late afternoon, which couldn’t have been more perfect. That’s usually around the time my sweet tooth starts to act up – or at least it’s when I can no longer suppress it. My sweet tooth didn’t even know what it was in for.
I met my guide Annie in the East Village in front of our first stop, cupcake bakery Butter Lane. A friendly and knowledgeable host right from the start, Annie invited me to sit on a bench outside, where for about ten minutes she talked about the shop and enlightened me to the backstory of cupcakes before they were a craze. Did you know that the earliest form of cupcakes as we know them today can be traced back to the 18th century?
Sugartooth’s guides are trained and licensed New York City tour guides, so in addition to dishing on the best dessert spots in town they also sprinkle in local tidbits and culinary and cultural history lessons along the way.
The company also keeps their NYC dessert tours small (generally 3-16 people) to ensure a more personal and conversational experience.
Inside of the bakery – a favorite spot for NYU students – I was allowed any cupcake of my choice from the case. Decisions, decisions. Annie pointed out that Butter Lane is dedicated to using all-natural, high-quality ingredients with no artificial coloring. With that in mind, I went for a vanilla cupcake with strawberry icing, dyed naturally pink by the fruit, of course.
Because they skip the big name bakeshops and focus on smaller, neighborhood businesses when choosing their stops, you can look forward to discovering a lot of new favorites on a Sugartooth tour.
“There’s a great deal of research that goes into creating each tour, and of course, tasting the best desserts in the city,” said co-founder and owner, Sarah Morgan in an email. “We look to feature shops that have a unique story, a tie to New York, [that give] back to the city and offer a superior quality product.”
As we walked across the street to Davey’s Ice Cream, a sample from the ice cream tour, Annie explained that most of her customers have never heard of or gone to the majority of places that she takes them, even if they are locals (and many are).
Owned by graphic designer-turned ice cream man, David Yoo, Davy’s won me over with a full-sized chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, made with speculoos cookie ice cream and covered in rainbow sprinkles. This cool and colorful shop is known for its funky ice cream flavors, which are made batch by batch on-site from raw, local ingredients over a four-day production schedule.
Most places on the tour will give either full or generous-sized portions of their desserts. My advice is to make sure you leave plenty of room to enjoy all that is in store!
On our way to the final stop of the tour, we crossed over St. Marks Place and Annie chatted about the street’s role in the East Village’s history, its place in hippie and punk culture and how some of that spirit still lingers there today.
When we arrived at Sweet Generation, I chose a mini black and white cupcake dusted with pretty gold flecks. More than just their delicious handmade treats, what’s great about Sweet Generation is their positive impact on the community. Every purchase at the bakery goes towards their internship program, which teaches job skills to at-risk youth, some of which have gone on to fill full-time positions.
Sad that it was over but excited about all of the new bakeries and facts that I’d learned about in only an hour’s time, I floated home on a sugar high. I can’t think of many better ways to learn more about New York City.
More about Sugartooth NYC food tours
For theater performers Sarah Morgan and Allyson Tolbert, food tours were a way for them to discover more about the cities that they were visiting when touring with national Broadway productions. “We believe that one of the best ways to explore the city and get to know the city is through its food,” said Sarah.
The two decided to start Sugartooth Tours in 2012, when upon returning to NYC, the search for an ice cream tour for Allyson’s birthday yielded no results.
“We saw that there was a niche that other tour companies weren’t selling and we decided to start our own,” Sarah explained. “The idea was originally for an ice cream tour; however, we ended up expanding upon that so that we would have multiple types of choices that run year round.”
While some of the tours are themed around one dessert, others feature many different types of sweets in one neighborhood. Tours include the Find Heaven in Hell’s Kitchen Dessert Tour, which is one of their most popular, and the Bright Lights & Broadway Bites Dessert Tour, led by real actors. Select tours are also offered seasonally, such as the Union Square Holiday Market Dessert Tour.
All tours are by foot. They range from 1-3 hours and typically stop at six places. Although the walks are leisurely, they cover a decent amount of ground (usually about 1.5 miles, depending on the tour) and operate in all types of weather, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the elements.
Most tours are $50, plus a small fee from the ticketing agent and gratuity.
To learn more about Sugartooth’s NYC food tours or to book a tour, visit www.sugartoothtours.com.