Want to eat your way through Downtown Indy’s history and culture? Spend an afternoon with a guide from Food Tour Corp., which began offering walking tours of the Mass Ave. area in February.
The business, based in Washington, D.C., has branched out to take part in Indy’s culinary boom. It was founded in 2007 by Indy native Jeff Swedarsky, a 1999 North Central grad who has degrees from Indiana and Purdue universities.
Swedarsky doesn’t have any formal culinary training; he said he just loves food.
We met up just outside the Front Page Tavern on a recent Saturday afternoon. Swedarsky and guides Julie Southworth and Jill Mattingly hosted the tour, which was a tad unorganized, but I’m attributing this to the company’s newness in the city.
We weaved from restaurant to restaurant, taking detours through neighborhoods and peeping inside historic stores like Stout’s Shoes. The $55 ticket included five courses, each at a different location, with drinks at most spots.
Here are 10 interesting things I learned on Indy’s food tour:
- The Athenaeum was known as the German House until after WWII, when the war left a sour taste in the community’s mouth.
- The sinus-cleansing mustard at the Rathskeller tends to catch people off guard. It hurts so good.
- The sausages, wursts and other meats at the Rathskeller are prepared at Indy’s Claus’ German Sausage and Meats.
- Indiana’s signature food item, the pork tenderloin, is a descendent of the traditional German schnitzel. It all makes so much sense!
- Founded in the 1840s, the Lockerbie Square neighborhood is the oldest residential area in Indy. The people who lived there included a mix of skilled workers and wealthier residents. The sidewalks are still lined with the original granite, and a few cobblestone roads 8remain uncovered.
- It was illegal to make and sell wine in Indiana before the 1970s. That all changed when 12 wine enthusiasts, including the folks of Easley Winery, formed a guild and requested that the ban be lifted.
- In the 1920s and ’30s, the Real Silk Hosiery Mills was the largest shipper of c.o.d. packages in America. It also was the first company to advertize lingerie on a full magazine page. How risqué!
- The Henry of Henry’s Coffee Bistro on East Street is a fictional character crafted by the owners. I don’t care. The coffee and brownies are still fantastic.
- Mass Ave. used to have cable cars and tracks. Ah, mass transit; we could use some more of that.
- James Whitcomb Riley’s house wasn’t really his house. He just ended up living there with homeowners and friends for 23 years.
- Tours of the Mass Ave. area are from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturdays; Food Tour Corp. also plans to launch tours in the Warehouse District and Fountain Square. Visit www.indianapolisfoodtours.com.