Confidential to MillionMileMark.com Readers: I’m a good friend of John Hannula, the owner and tour guide at Peachtree Food Tours. Because we’re buddies, this post makes an exception to my “I don’t write about comped or discounted tours” policy.
That said: the opinions below represent how I really feel … and had the tour not been as fantastic as it was, I would have followed Mama’s advice (“If you can’t say anything good, then don’t say anything.”) In the end, if I didn’t write about Peachtree Food Tours, I’d be doing you a disservice … because this tour is fantastic.
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We’re on Peachtree Street, joining our friend, John (the tour guide) and three strangers for a Saturday morning food tour with Peachtree Food Tours.
We live a block off of Peachtree Street, and I walk up and down Peachtree Street almost every day. So I think of myself as someone who knows a lot about my neighborhood — and, particularly, about the dozens of restaurants that line the streets we think of as “ours.”
As the tour gets going, though, I find out that I have a lot to learn — both about the history of Peachtree Street (which didn’t get its name because of a peach orchard, by the way) and about the broad range of great food that has escaped our notice in the seven years we’ve lived here.
Part of the joy of a Peachtree Food Tours event is the way the experience unfolds. John doesn’t reveal up front which restaurants you’ll visit — and, in this review, neither will I. I will tell you, though, that the mystery (“Where are we headed next?”) adds a great deal to the fun of sampling some of the best food Midtown has to offer.
Today’s menu includes shrimp and grits:
That shrimp may no longer be swimming in the sea, but he arrives at our table swimming in butter (and pillow-soft grits … and greens .. and andouille sausage). Clyde is the World’s Pickiest Grits Eater — he’s turned them down or sent them back in great restaurants all over the world — but these disappear without the slightest complaint.
One member of our tour group is surprised the chef pairs the dish with a Riesling, but instead of being sticky sweet, this vintage is rounded and citrusy — the perfect compliment for such a rich entree.
My favorite stop serves an award-winning burger — regularly featured on any number of “World’s Best Lists” — that has a donut for a bun:
The texture of that sweet donut gives way to gooey cheddar, crunchy strips of bacon, and a fat, savory patty of medium-rare ground beef. The restaurant chops each burger into fourths, then skewers each quarter burger to make it easier to eat appetizer-style. I love the results … and I’m glad the tour is portion-controlled, because we’re only steps away from buttermilk-soaked jalepeno fried chicken and home fries:
The chicken is as crispy as it is juicy. The touch of jalepeno pepper gives it a nice, warm glow — like an ember, not a bonfire — which I think makes it as good or better than “Atlanta’s Best Fried Chicken” (the Monday night special at Roxx on Cheshire Bridge) or the tasty but inconsistent yard bird being served up nightly at the Colonnade. A lot of people must share this opinion, because the joint is packed. (Good thing they’ve saved seats for us!)
After snagging dessert at a European-themed local coffee house, we end up at a bakery, loading up a bag full of exotic pastries (ever had a bacon-infused, cheese-filled Black Pig?):
All told, we stop in at six places. Despite the fact I live right smack in the middle of it all, four of the six are new experiences for me. Unlike many food tours we’ve taken, the stops are well-spaced, with just enough (easy) walking from Point A to Point B.
Between bites, John shares the history of the street in his charming and enthusiastic way. He’s a storyteller through and through, and he knows how to pace and scale each surprising snippet. How did Ponce de Leon Avenue get its name? (It’s not named after the Spanish explorer, you know.) What Peachtree Street property prompted Doris Day to sue The Mob? (Yes, that Doris Day.) Which Midtown property has the highest security? (It’s not the Federal Reserve!) And Margaret Mitchell met a violent end practically in my own front yard. (Who knew?)
As the tour ends, the paying customers are clearly delighted — and we’re as proud as we can be. John’s had a lot of jobs and a lot of incarnations through the years, but it’s really apparent that, with Peachtree Food Tours, he’s found his calling. We’ve taken food tours all over the planet, and John’s ranks right up there with the very best. Just enough food … just enough alcohol … just enough history … just enough walking … and all of that offered up by a guy who clearly loves his city, this food, and his work.
By the end of the tour, you’ll count John among your own friends. If you’re looking for an engaging, educational, and delicious way to learn more about Midtown Atlanta … you should book a Peachtree Food Tour now.