As part of Ecorazzi Eats Restaurant Week, Urban Food Crawl not only won a special place in our hearts, but also won the chance to be featured in an article. So be prepared to be wowed by this non-traditional, yet unique food tour business that will knock your vegan socks off!
First opened in August 2011 by Jen Bardekoff and Sheri Wheeler, Urban Food Crawl (UFC) goes above and beyond to introduce diners, vegans and non-vegans, to vegan delicacies and local Los Angeles restaurants.
The UFC tours Downtown LA every Saturday and takes diners to six different restaurants introducing them to new eateries and foods. Whilst walking on the three mile tour, diners get to enjoy a variety of food and explore the sites of downtown!
Diners don’t have to worry about getting full, because instead of munching on a full course, the tour is set up like it’s a full meal. It starts with smaller plates leads to entrees and then finishes with desserts.
Bardekoff and Wheeler picked restaurants they both loved and felt had great vegan choices. “They were all down for it,” Bardekoff said of the selected dining establishments. The tours go during the restaurants’ off peak hours, in between dinner and lunch, so a big group isn’t invading.
Five out of the six restaurants serve everything, with one only serving vegan. Some of the restaurants include Babycakes NYC, Pitfire Pizza and Mas Malo. So, even if you aren’t vegan, you can try something else.
For both co-owners this is a part-time job, but their dedication shines through. With both being vegans, who love attending food events, they decided it was time they start their own that provides vegan options.
“So, basically we wanted to create something that anyone could go to, vegan or people who just want to try good, vegan food, and we thought food tours would be a great way to introduce people to different vegan foods in the area and also support local businesses, and just create a fun, weekly event,” Bardekoff said.
Even though it’s still growing, Bardekoff and Wheeler have seen quite an increase in the popularity of their business.
“We’ve gotten such a great response from not just vegans, but the food community in general,” Bardekoff said. “It’s really great to see people come on our tours, people who are visiting from Australia or London and they’ve just found out about us.”
With such a positive response, they get all types of eaters on the tour besides vegans.
“We definitely have a lot of people who aren’t vegans, who either want to try vegan food or they’re coming with someone who is vegan or they’re thinking about incorporating more vegan food into their diet, so they’re curious about where to go.”
The tour has such an impact that people dine at the restaurants even after the food crawl is over. The diners are not only supporting local businesses, but showing these eateries that their vegan options are appreciated, Bardekoff said.
The UFC is much more than a place for people to enjoy a day of food and as Bardekoff said, “I think it’s really great for people to be able to do different types of food events and try out different foods that they wouldn’t expect to be vegan and to support different eateries that have really good vegan food. I don’t think there are a lot of other food tours that specialize in vegan foods, so I think our tour is pretty unique.
“It’s really fun to meet a different group of people each week, they come from all over, they’re all different ages, all different occupations, but they all just have a love of food and they are all just so excited to have an afternoon of just eating,” she continued.
The UFC keeps growing. They recently added the ‘Silverlake’ tour on Saturdays, which crawls through the Silver Lake neighborhood within LA. Bardekoff and Wheeler are also incorporating food events. For example, they had their first annual vegan cupcake competition, ‘Cupcakes + Art,’ supporting local bakers and cupcake-themed art from local artists.
“I love being able to organize something that introduces people to different food and just having people meet each other and become friends afterwards and just experience this great lineup of food,” Bardekoff said.
Even without celebrity diners and no awards . . . yet, the Urban Food Crawl seems to be doing quite well and making a dent in the food community.