SJSU in the News: San Jose State Alumna Organizes “Dishcrawls” for Foodies, Restaurants

Dishcrawl: A new way to experience food

Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News April 12, 2011

By Laura Casey
Bay Area News Group

As any 20-something knows, the Golden Rule of a boozy pub crawl is to pace yourself. It’s also a good rule for Dishcrawls, the hot, social foodie event sweeping the Bay Area.

For three hours, adventurous diners stroll and nosh their way through four restaurants, sampling as much as they’d like, for the price of a $26 ticket. It’s a recipe for dietary disaster — and palate delight.

At a recent Dishcrawl in downtown Pleasanton, for example, the offerings included sweet pastries and savory bites at Bibiane Bakery, cold smoked salmon and carrot ginger soup at Nonni’s Bistro, sausage and pepperoni slices at Gay Nineties Pizza, and all-you-can eat chicken tikka masala and naan at India Garden.

By the time the 40 or so Dishcrawlers licked the final traces of curry off their lips at 10 p.m., they were practically waddling. Many were moaning about overly full bellies and insufficient self-restraint. But when faced with such temptation, what’s a foodie to do?

Every few days, a new Dishcrawl takes foodies through different culinary terrain — a vegan foray in Berkeley, for example; a stroll through San Francisco’s Mission district; or an exploration of San Jose’s eclectic delights.

For diners, it’s a chance to discover new places. For restaurants, of course, it’s an opportunity to woo and interact with future customers, says Dishcrawl founder and San Jose State grad Tracy Lee. At every stop, the chefs have a chance to talk about their creations to the gathered masses.

“When do chefs get to stand before 40 to 50 people and talk about their craft?” Lee says. “It becomes a platform for artisans to talk to the people who love their work.”

It’s not just a Bay Area phenomenon, either. There are Dishcrawls in Montreal and New York, as well. These events draw a wide range of ages, from 20-somethings to boomers. Lee says she hopes to do crawls for singles soon.

The Pleasanton event was the first in Dishcrawl’s Tri-Valley launch, which will include Dublin and Livermore events, too. On a recent Tuesday evening, several dozen hungry gourmets gathered at the rendezvous point to don Dishcrawl buttons and start sampling treats at Bibiane.

John Gilreath of Dublin noshed on a chicken salad sandwich outside the bakery, chatting with other crawlers, whom he had just met. He had read about the event online and thought it sounded like a fun way to experiment with new food.

“I like food,” he says, patting his belly. “This is perfect, because you get to try a lot of different things.”

At Nonni’s, Cynthia DeLand of Pleasanton unleashed a happy “mmmmm” as she tasted the restaurant’s signature cold-smoked salmon. She had been there before, when it was a Hawaiian restaurant, but this was her first visit to the new bistro, helmed by Icelandic chef Jon Magnusson. After sampling the salmon and dipping a spoon into the savory soup, she and her husband asked for a menu.

“I really want to try this,” she says, pointing to the goat cheese crepe on the menu. “We’ll have to come back.”

– Mountain View: A “Lunch in 60” lunchcrawl is slated for 11:30 a.m. April 19; $10.

– Oakland: No Worries will host a seven-course vegan Filipino dinner with cooking demonstrations at 7 p.m. April 19; $42.

– San Jose: Crawlers will explore restaurants on San Fernando Street at 7 p.m. April 26; $26

– Pleasanton: Dishcrawl returns to downtown Pleasanton at 7 p.m. April 28; $26.

Exact locations of the crawls are revealed two days before the event. Visit www.dishcrawl.com to learn more and to sign up for a crawl.