Manayunk exists as a unique neighborhood in Philadelphia. Whether it's the hills, canal, bars, architecture, or shopping, Manayunk provides something a little different than other city sections.
Beginning Thursday, a new food touring company spotlights another Manayunk entity—its eateries.
Chew Philadelphia will provide walking groups tours of food establishments that embody the City of Brotherly Love.
Elyse Castillo arrived in Manayunk six days after her son's birth. She immediately fell in love with the area and felt it was perfect for her Philadelphia plan—a food walking tour. With her husband, Jason Blank, she knew the Main Street area was where she would launch Chew Philadelphia.
"We immediately thought of Manayunk. It's a great location with the towpath and highway. The hills provide a unique landscape. There's so many good eateries, and there's so much history in a 300-year-old neighborhood," she said.
Chew Philadelphia will start by touring six Manayunk-area restaurants—offering tastes at each—and providing background on the town's history and architecture. Castillo said there will eventually be eight stops.
What Represents Philly?
Castillo sought family-owned locales. Places well entrenched in the community or set in interesting buildings helped, too.
For the launch, , , , , and will host tour tastings.
Castillo is from Chicago and comes from a background in tourism. Plus, Blank is from the neighborhood, so he has the local part covered.
"We wanted places that cared about their food. For a food tour specific to Philly, we looked for people who were making it for decades," she said.
Getting restaurants onboard, Castillo said, was the easy part. Chew Philadelphia covers the cost of food in the ticket price, so there's no loss for the restaurants.
"It's going directly to the Manayunk businesses. It's not food in exchange for marketing. We pay them for all the food," she said.
Castillo said with the restaurants chosen, it was easy to cover all bases with Philly foods.
"Each place had an idea what their staple item was. We talked to them make sure it is relevant," she said.
The Tour Itself
Chew Philadelphia will run once a day Thursday through Saturday, April to November. It costs $45 for adults, and $25 for children. The 90-minute tour starts at 11:30 a.m. and treks approximately 1.7 miles through Manayunk. There's a 14-person limit.
For the launch, Castillo will give tours to get a good feel what works with customers and restaurants.
As there's a lot of eating, Chew Philadelphia is working to find that right proportion size for each tomato pie, soft pretzel and cupcake.
"Sorrentino's is doing the cheesesteaks, so we're trying to get a really good example of a Philly cheesesteak, but in the appropriate size," she said.
They strive to leave people full and satisfied.
"We don't want them so huge, people couldn't enjoy everything," she said.
Chew Philadelphia certainly offers a crash course in neighborhood Philadelphia delicacies to the traveler, but Castillo said the tour has merit for the local and tourist alike.
"I think local people are interested. If they've lived here their whole lives, I guarantee we will be able to tell them new things. Plus it's a good alternative if you have family coming into town," she said.
Now, the focus is getting the Manayunk tour established. But Castillo wouldn't mind one day expanding.
"It's our first location. So, we'll definitely focus on this only for two years. We'd like to do other locations, but it's going to be a challenge to find a neighborhood as perfect as Manayunk," she said.
Visit the group's website to sign up. Private tours are also available on other days.