Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 2/7/16
Jersey City, previously an overshadowed city reserved for commuters, is no longer just the underdog neighbor to bustling New York City and upscale Hoboken. These days, the cultural hub is known for housing a lively arts scene, a diverse community and all that a foodie could ever want.
That’s why Alessia Aron, a 2010 Rutgers University graduate, and Janis Borroto, both of Jersey City, took it upon themselves to launch Jersey Girls Food Tours in mid-2014 — they knew that they could showcase all that the culinary world of Jersey City had to offer while also giving tourgoers an inside look at the up-and-coming destination.
“You can easily go out to dinner tonight to get a taste of what a city has to offer, but for those who are looking for a different way to experience a city, this is the way to do it,” said Aron, who, with an Argentine, Italian and Israeli background, has always appreciated the cultural significance of food.
Jersey Girls Food Tours currently offers a Best of Downtown tour, a Valentine’s Day Dessert Tour, the Booze ‘n’ Bites tour, the Eat for a Cause Food Tour as well as a Rutherford food tour and a Hamilton Park food tour, a list that is ever growing as the team looks to expand throughout the state.
The tours range from $65 to $75, usually with optional $15 drink pairings, and vary from 2½ to 3 hours with a maximum of 16 people for public tours and no cap for private tours, which include about a half-mile in total of relaxed walking. Each tour stops at about five to seven locations with 20 to 25 minutes at each location, and enough food is served throughout the tour to amount to a satisfying meal.
Food tours are popular ways for tourists to eat their way through big cities like New York City and Seattle, which Aron experienced when she visited the rainy destination in 2009. However, she also realized that despite the wealth of culinary delights that existed in the Garden State, there weren’t many ways for tourists and unknowing residents to experience it.
“I always kept the idea of starting a food tour in the back of my mind after I did one in Seattle,” said Aron. “New York City has at least 60 of them just across the river, but I wondered why New Jersey didn’t offer more of them.”
For about six months in 2013, Aron operated food tours part time for Dishcrawl, a now-defunct company that ran food tours throughout the United States and Canada. However, Aron quickly realized that her success with Dishcrawl was due to the relationships that she cultivated with local restaurants, and when she met fellow foodie Borroto when she booked on a Dishcrawl tour, the pair became friends and realized that they could start their own company together with a Jersey City insider’s perspective.
“Other tours tend to cover the places that always have a line, so the tours get you in the door, but our tours focus more on the story of the establishment and the experience itself,” said Aron. “That also means that our tours don’t have a consistent lineup — they grow and change as Jersey City’s food scene changes.”
However, one thing at Jersey Girls Food Tours remains consistent — the quality and the amount of food offered. Aron said that these are two of the things guests remark about most often, as well as how they enjoy when on Jersey Girls Food Tours, owners and chefs of eateries frequently take the time out of their day to come and speak to the tourgoers.
Aron said the most popular tour by far is the Best of Downtown food tour, in which guests embark on a $75 three-hour tour with a $15 optional drink pairing to explore five locations that may include Porta Pizza, Orale Mexican Kitchen, Pet Shop, Wurstbar, Van Hook Cheese Shop, Pasta Dal Cuore and more.
In this tour, guests get a comprehensive overview of Jersey City’s mouthwatering downtown, which is why media sources like The Daily News, The New York Post, Fox News and others have named Jersey City as the hot new food destination in the NYC area. Upcoming dates include Feb. 12 and 25 as well as March 4, 11, 18 and 26.
Jersey Girls Food Tours will also be hosting their three-hour Valentine’s Day Dessert Tour for the first time on Feb. 11 for $65 per person and include an alcoholic drink pairing as well as tastings from Talde, Cocoa Bakery, Cool Vines and L’atelier du Chocolat. Plus, guests will take home a stuffed goodie bag with four to five more desserts. Not geared specifically toward singles or couples, the Valentine’s Day Dessert Tour is a must for those of any relationship status with a sweet tooth.
Looking forward, Jersey Girls Food Tours has been growing since they launched in 2014 — they are hiring an additional tour guide and word-of-mouth has gained them popularity with corporations, birthday celebrations, bachelorette parties and more.
They also plan on expanding to new cities, with Highland Park and Rutherford being the more recent additions. More are possibly on the way, including New Brunswick, Red Bank, Asbury Park, Morristown and other foodie cities in New Jersey.
“Our tours are for everyone — from foodies actively seeking food tour experiences, to high school students to just people looking for something fun to do this weekend,” said Aron. “Anyone who is looking to experience the food scene in a new way will have a great time with Jersey Girls Food Tours.”