"Restaurants have been absolutely vital to the success of Cleveland's neighborhoods," explains Todd Gauman over beers at ABC Tavern. "The West Side Market has been in Ohio City for over 100 years, but it took Great Lakes Brewing Co. to really set things in motion. Look at what Lola did for Tremont."
For Gauman, a longtime events organizer, the germ for a culinary-themed adventure was born. When it kicks off with its inaugural tour on April 28, NEO Food Tours. will use the power and draw of restaurants to introduce diners to neighborhoods.
"These restaurants give people a reason to come explore these neighborhoods," he adds.
Every other Thursday evening, Gauman and his team will lead curious and hungry explorers through Cleveland's historic neighborhoods. Their partners in this adventure are the chefs and restaurateurs who call those blocks home.
These all-weather walking tours will feature between four and six restaurants on a guided walking tour through a particular neighborhood. At each, attendees will sit, eat, drink and chat with the chef or owner (or both). Often progressive in nature, the dishes will move from starter to main to dessert.
Up first is Ohio City, with Dragonfly, Momocho, Light Bistro and Flying Fig on the dance card. Future tours will tastefully explore Little Italy, Tremont, E. Fourth Street, and Shaker Square.
Gauman chose the name Mandala Collective for his events company, appreciating the symbolism of these temporary Buddhist works.
"Mandalas are these beautiful works of art done in sand that exists for a brief time before being wiped away," he explains. "I look at events the same way. We do all this work planning a creative event and then it's gone and you start fresh on the next one."
Tickets are $75 per person. To purchase click here.