When the pandemic first hit us in March of 2020, food tours in Portland shut down. Along with everything else in Portland. And the world for that matter!
Here in Portland, we were slow to reopen. This was a good thing, as far as controlling the spread of the virus. Many restaurants pivoted to take out only. While take out is not the same experience as dining onsite, it was a lifeline to keep many establishments afloat.
We adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic with outdoor dining
By late June, outdoor dining reopened and boy was that liberating! I guess the saying “appreciate the little things” aptly applies to one of life’s greatest pleasures, dining with friends at eateries. And in those few summer months, we learned a lot about the virus as well as a lot about how to resume living safely amidst the pandemic. Namely, about how practicing public health measures (mask wearing, social distancing, frequent hand washing and avoiding indoor spaces with strangers). This would allow businesses to reopen, and patrons to remain safe.
And Portland by Mouth pivoted as well, adapting the beloved Vibrant Kerns Hood food tour to be outdoor dining only. And in some ways, it was easy to dovetail a tour with the public health measures that were in place, although it took some time and research and extra effort. On the one hand, the quirky wine shop, Pairings Portland, was no longer allowing onsite drinking (they pivoted to home wine delivery). Yet, new businesses were cropping up. Tropicale, a Mexican restaurant serving piña coladas in hollowed out pineapples, opened up across the street. And as it turns out, this ended up being a perfect fit. If there is one constant in the restaurant industry, it is that change is inevitable and frequent!
Private food tours in Portland unroll. . .
But you know what, once we figured things out and made dates available, guests joyfully started signing up. Another adaptation for the pandemic is that we switched to offering private tours only. Meaning, guests would be guaranteed that they would be only with their friends and/or family. Besides a safety precaution, this also guarantees lots of personal attention from the guide.
Some guests were local, and it truly is fun to turn Portlanders on to places in their backyard. There are so many great places to eat in any given hood, that venturing out to a hood you don’t live or work in, opens many doors to undiscovered bites.
Some groups were part local and part visitor. For instance, family coming to visit their children who live in Portland. Or a mom’s 60th birthday, with all her kids and in-laws joining in the celebration.
And even though business travel was way down, those who were in Portland for work were eager to make it a long weekend and add a purely fun day onto their trip.
We can and will – safely indulge in having fun, eating and enjoying the city
Portland by Mouth proudly presents food tours that take safety into account during the Covid-19 pandemic. A visit to Pambiche takes place outside. We visit The Ocean, which is the pod of micro restaurants on NE 24th and Glisan, and we dine outside. They have covered areas and heaters, so regardless of season, dining there is a pleasure. We admire Providore Fine Foods from the outside, as strolling inside this European market just for fun is on hold for a while. We still visit Wolf and Bears at Pod 28, one of Portland’s iconic food cart pods. The food carts have been one of the most resislient business models in the pandemic. In face, some food cart owners report that they are busier than they were before. And while the beloved Alma Chocolate is no longer in business, Fifty Licks artisanal ice cream makes a fine dessert, as all the guests can attest.
And one change that was made in the pandemic, that I hope will stick around, is that most places have set up a system for online ordering. This makes ensuring that our food is ready when we arrive, a breeze.
I will admit, whenever I make a change to a tour, I get a little nervous. I hope that the new stop gets as many ooh’s and aah’s the former one did. At the end of every tour we each have the opportunity to go around and name our favorite dish or eatery. And you know what, the new spot often ends up being a favorite of many guests. The pandemic safe Vibrant Kerns Hood food tour was no exception. Which is to say- everyone just loves the pina coladas and locally sourced and made ice cream!
And the beat goes on
One more thing. All the guests shared something in common. And that is that they were THRILLED to be on a pandemic safe food tour and bringing some normalcy back into their lives.
The 2021 season has officially kicked off. The Vibrant Kerns Hood is up. And I am excited to announce that we will be kicking off a new Mississippi Brunch tour in a couple of weeks! I hope to share some great food and stories with you this year!