Chattanooga may not have the “big city” vibe of Nashville or Atlanta, but Paige Southard of EATS food tours believes our local food scene is up there with the cream of the crop. Southard is an operating partner of EATS—the first guided food tours in our city. Taking cues from tours in New York and Los Angeles, EATS gives patrons a ride around the city on a double-decker bus and makes stops at notable downtown restaurants.
By Jenna Haines
Photos By Med Dement
Full PDF here.
Who it features: Over a dozen restaurants and bars have agreed to work with the tours, including Fork & Pie Bar, Alleia, Terra Mae, Elemental, Meeting Place, Honest Pint, Terminal Brewhouse and Hair of the Dog.
“We’ve hand-selected the restaurants to be specifically LOCAL. Places that are locally owned or use local products,” Southard says. “That’s something that really sets our food scene apart from other cities. Chattanooga really takes pride in using the farms that are here and the downtown bakeries for bread or pizza dough or other products.”
Who it’s for: Scheduled on weekends, the tours are intended to attract both locals and tourists—from 20s- and 30s-age foodies to patrons in their late 60s.
“We want to keep it interesting and fun for locals because they’re a significant part of our market,” Southard says. “So we might keep one or two standard tours, and then maybe have a wild card every so often to change it up.”
And as of now, Southard says EATS Food Tours has two available tour options: “Farm to Fork”—a culinary-based tour where chefs and restaurant owners come out and interact with the guest, and the “Boozy Brunch”—a BYOB chauffeured social hour that focuses on late-morning to early-afternoon foods.
“We’re also going to roll out with a pub crawl for the public and custom food and drinking tours for private groups,” she adds.
How it started: The company started as an idea at The Company Lab’s 2012 “48-Hour Launch,” a program in Chattanooga where people compete for the best start-up business idea. EATS Food Tours won the competition, but the idea didn’t materialize for another year. Tiffanie Robinson functioned as the initial founder, but Elizabeth Wells and Southard have since taken over as operating partners of the day-to-day logistics (Robinson still serves as a co-partner).
As the company grows and the number of tours increases, Southard says she can see EATS Food Tours eventually expanding to other cities in the surrounding area. But as of right now, they’re still focused on their recent launch this July and planning future tours.
How to sign up: To experience the tour yourself, Southard says patrons can purchase tickets on their website. And although they are tailoring to the masses, they’re very interested in working with corporate clients and private parties (from corporate events to alternative rehearsal dinners) and are willing to work out group rates, private rentals and customized tours for specific groups.
“Ultimately, we provide a complete experience with food tastings, transportation via vintage Double Decker bus, exclusive discounted drink specials, and chef and restaurant owner interaction,” Southard says. “This will not be your average dining experience.”