The story below is a preview from our November/December 2016 issue. For the full story Subscribe today, view our FREE interactive digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
As Larry Landolt and I sit down to chat over our Brambleton Deli lunch (him, the turkey club; me, the Philly cheesesteak), his eyes light up with excitement. He’s passionate not only about food and drink, but the experiences people can have while breaking bread together. As the founder of “Experience Local” (formerly Tour Roanoke), Landolt is creating unique food and beverage experiences for visitors and locals alike thanks to his interactive tours.
Landolt was looking for the next chapter in his life when he came across food tours. As he dug deeper, discovering food tours in many other cities, he wondered if such a thing could fit here in Roanoke. He and his wife traveled to Chicago where they attended a food tour school (yes, they exist!), and were excited about what they could bring back home.
The Food Tours started three years ago, with Craft Beer Tours quickly following a year later. That led to Wine Tours, which led to working with Step On tours, a Lexington food tour, corporate gatherings...and so on. The success of his company is due to Landolt’s enthusiasm, as well as the unique premise of touting Roanoke’s history during the ride.
“We were just going to do this cute little food tour,” Landolt says, “but people ask lots of questions. We became ambassadors to the city, which is an interesting component I hadn’t anticipated. We’ve had people on tour talk about moving or retiring here, so I feel sort of responsible for bringing them and showcasing the best of what we have to offer.”
The tours are fun and informative. With one iconic recipe on Roanoke’s map (the peanut soup at Hotel Roanoke), there are of course other iconic locations such as Texas Tavern. Due to the Lebanese community that dominated the food scene so many years ago, a downtown Lebanese restaurant is always included.
“The premise of all the tours we try to do is pretty simple,” Landolt says. “How can we tell the story of a city or the neighborhood through its food? How does the food showcase the history, our icons and locations?”