Grub crawl


Crawling through Toronto restaurants will generally get you kicked out of the place. Except when you’re on a Dishcrawl, a new kind of group culinary tour starting in Toronto this October.

Originating in San Francisco earlier this year, Dishcrawl is organized from the ground up. It’s spouted up in four different cities around the Bay area, and then moved to New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Ottawa and Montreal and now in Toronto.

Gretchen Wilson, Toronto Ambassador for Dishcrawl, tells NOW about her plans for the city, the first event on October 5th, and building a food-oriented community in town.

What inspired you to bring Dishcrawl to Toronto?

I think it needs it. The fact that it was doing so well in Ottawa, and Montreal as well. I was just like, this should be in Toronto! Toronto’s a great city and we have so much to offer food-wise. There’s so many different cultures and different districts throughout. So we thought we’d bring it here, and we’re already sold out. We sold out in three days!

How does that compare to other cities?

The last one in Ottawa sold-out in half an hour, and the other ones, usually about two-three weeks. So, fairly fast.

What city has Dishcrawl been most popular?

Oddly enough, Ottawa! I don’t know why to be honest. It just struck a chord there. It’s been extremely successful there to the point where they’re sold-out every month.

How did you get involved with Dishcrawl?

Founder Tracy Lee is very serendipitous. I just emailed her and said you know what? That’s a great idea. I’m an event planner here in Toronto and I’d love to bring it here.

What can participants expect from an evening?

Well we do different ones, but the average one is usually about 50 people.

We split the group into two and we go to four different restaurants. So its sort of staggered.

Where we’re going to go is a secret. I’ll usually send an email two days before to the group who has purchased the tickets and let them know the address of the first restaurant and we all meet there and talk about what the night is going to be like, without giving away any details about what restaurants we’re going to go to.

Then we start at the restaurant and they get to meet the chef and the chef presents a dish. We get a small three-ounce portion at each restaurant and then we all walk to the next restaurant.

We want to get that local feel, where we get to meet everyone and actually get to meet the owners of the restaurants.

Why are the locations secret?

It’s just a little bit more fun.

There’s a social media/online community aspect to your website. Where do you hope to go with that?

That’s sort of where we’re headed, we really want to make it community-based. So we try to make it a little bit more focused on some of the different areas. So Toronto won’t be just Toronto, it’ll be community-based. So we can develop a community around those restaurants in the specific areas.

How receptive are restaurant owners to the idea?

Getting the city warmed-up to it is not a huge challenge at first, but they’re a bit skeptical. But once we get it going a little bit, restaurants are calling us from other cities. It’s already creating a bit of a buzz, so it’s free advertising for them too.

How does dishcrawl generate its money?

Just from the participants. So we don’t actually get a huge portion. We do pay the restaurants, they do get a portion. That’s actually kind of the fun part. We’ve had restaurants come back to us and ask if they need to give us free food for this, but we say, no, we actually pay you! So we do make some proceeds, but we try to make sure that we take care of the restaurants as well.

What are some of your plans for future events?

They’re still in the works, but I think for Toronto we’re going to stick to districts just for the first bit and then I’m going to be looking for feedback from customers about what they want. We’d love to do an all-meat one!



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