Kingston Food Tour History
What’s a great way to combine a passion for food and travel? Start your own food tour company, of course! Kingston Food Tours founder and owner Heather Ford had experienced food tours across Europe and North America. Heather felt that her hometown of Kingston, Ontario, would be a great place to have one as well.
We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly.
– Anna Thomas
Kingston is a tourist destination with hundreds of years of history, a vibrant food scene and is an overall great place to visit and live. For three generations, Heather’s family has been promoting Kingston to guests staying at Green Acres Inn, her family-owned and operated business. Always helping guests find the perfect restaurant and activities to enhance their stay, a food tour business seemed like a natural progression.
Launched in June of 2016, Kingston Food Tours’ goal is to have you fall in love with Kingston while on a fun, educational and delicious tour. They do that by having their tour guides interweave stories about the history of Kingston while you walk and stop at strategic spots for a bite.
We decided that we would like to experience our first food tour in our home town. Groups can be of various numbers but max out at 12. The day we went on the tour, our group of 5 was made up of a couple from northern Ontario, a man from upstate New York and the two of us.
We met up with our group and tour guide Will, in front of the Kingston Visitor Information Centre. This is an appropriate starting point since it’s located across from iconic City Hall, right in historic downtown. After introductions were made, Will outlined the tour and we headed off to our first of eight stops.
Tequila & Tacos ~ Dianne’s Fish Shack & Smokehouse
Named for the owner’s mother, they bill themselves as “…a classic East Coast Kitchen meets the flavours of Mexico!” Once settled in, Will gave us the back story on the restaurant, as well as a bit of Tequila history, all while sipping on delicious margaritas. There is much more to this intriguing spirit than most people know. Here they serve 30 different types of tequila.
Our refreshing classic margarita was paired with a delicious beer-battered Baja fish taco. Just the right amount of pico de gallo, avocado-tomatillo salsa, salsa roja, shredded Napa cabbage, pickled red onions, and cilantro are wrapped up in a corn tortilla. The owners are proud of their standing as an Ocean Wise sustainable seafood partner.
Our food tour route to our next stop led us behind the tourist information center. Here we had a great view of the waterfront and the world-famous Martello towers. Will took the opportunity to share a bit about the history of the present City Hall and how it has evolved.
Heritage Landmark ~ Pan Chancho
A short walk up Princess Street, not only gives us time to digest the fantastic food we just sampled but provides us with an opportunity to discover Rocheleau Court. Kingston is known as the Limestone City. One of the hidden gems is the pedestrian walkways and alleys behind the limestone buildings that used to lead to stables many years ago.
Local Fare ~ Atomica
A stroll through this walkway takes you by the entrance to the restaurant patios of the locally owned and operated Chez Piggy, The Toucan and Chien Noir. We emerged on Brock Street right next to Atomica, food tour stop #3. Will got us settled at a table at the back of the restaurant with a great view of the pizza prep station and oven.
We were treated to a glass of locally brewed McKinnon Brothers Brewing Company Red Fox Summer Ale and a slice of fresh, from the oven, Donair Pizza. The Donair pizza has an east coast flair with sweet garlic sauce, mozzarella, spiced shaved beef, tomato, red onion and arugula. While we enjoyed our sampling, Will shared the history of the McKinnon Brothers and their local farm that has been in the family for generations. He continued to share more Kingston lore and historical facts.
Food Worth Fighting For ~ General Brock’s Commissary
A short walk across the street found us at General Brock’s Commissary. The original commissary is where soldiers and their families, from the War of 1812, could purchase food and supplies. The current store sells locally produced products from Ontario and Quebec. We had samples of ice cream and a refreshing maple drink. The deli case was full of artisanal cheeses and deli meats. Everywhere you look there are paintings and signs referring to General Brock. We even heard a rumour that he occasionally shows up in person during food tours, although he was busy elsewhere on the day we visited. The store is stocked with unique items that made us want to come back to shop after the tour.
Tasting Bar ~ Kingston Olive Oil Company
Our next food tour stop was a few steps away at Kingston Olive Oil Company. We gathered around the Olive Oil and Balsamic tasting bar. After hearing about the history and health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, we got down to the business of tasting. A fresh baguette was paired with a variety of oils and flavored balsamic vinegar. We were also given suggestions on using olive oil in Italian, Indian, Latin or Asian fusion. The flavours of the olive oils and balsamic vinegar are unique and well worth considering for your kitchen.
A Taste of Italy ~ Olivea
Olivea is a local family-run Italian restaurant. Every year, the owners take a group of staff members to Italy to learn more about Italian food, wine and culture to better serve their customers. Their tag line is “A Little Taste of Italy in Historic Downtown Kingston.” At this food tour stop, we sampled gnocchi with beef cheek ragù, truffle and parmesan. Not a single morsel was left in anyone’s bowl as a testament to how amazing this dish is.
A Local Favourite ~ The Common Market
Luckily our next stop was a couple of blocks away, giving us time to digest the delicious food we had tasted thus far. The Common Market is a cafe with a twist. Located in a low historic limestone building facing the waterfront, they have a selection of artisanal coffee, baked goods, gourmet foods and a fair trade organic espresso bar. We were treated to a delightfully smooth Spanish cortado. Don’t know what type of coffee this is? Another great reason to visit.
A Sweet Ending ~ Mia Gelato
No meal is complete without dessert. Our final food tour stop took us to Mia Gelato. They make and serve authentic Italian gelato, sorbetto and frozen yogurt. They have tried and true flavours, but our indulgence was a tasty peach sorbetto — a refreshing way to end our food tour.
What a great way to spend almost 3 hours! Having lived in Kingston for most of our lives, we still learned something new about the city and area. We had previously eaten at most of the places we visited on the food tour but were able to try new things that we may not have ordered before but will now. A bonus of the tour is that you are given coupons to encourage you to revisit these places. At the end of the food tour, we went back to a couple of stores and purchased some of their products.
Types of Food Tours
We did the Classic Kingston tour, but they also run another tour called Beer & Bites.
On this tour, you will visit a variety of local pubs, microbreweries and other locations. It features seven different local beers accompanied by a few delicious bites. While this tour may be more “beer-centric,” food is still involved and there is still lots of Kingston history to be shared.
When You Go
Kingston Food Tours runs year-round, and stops may vary. Check out the website for available days and tours.
- Classic Food Tour: Adults $69.00 – Children (4-14) $59.00
- Beer and Bites: Adults $69.00 (Participants must be 19 years of age or older)
Note: We were guests of Kingston Food Tours, but as always, opinions expressed are our own.
For other Voyage Writers articles about Kingston, Ontario check these out:
Travel Here: Discover Your Home Turf.
A Local Canadian Guide to What To Do in Kingston Ontario