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Thursday, October 25,2012

A new kind of crawl

Dishcrawl is Boulder’s latest culinary adventure

By Adelina Shee
Photo courtesy of Dishcrawl

While Boulder’s infamous Halloween “Mall Crawl” was discontinued many years ago, the community is getting a different kind of “crawl,” one that is more about getting tasted than getting wasted.

Dishcrawl is similar to regular bar crawls, except instead of drinking, participants savor dishes from local chefs and restaurants. It will descend on four Pearl Street restaurants on Nov. 13.

Dishcrawl is an idea that originated in the Bay Area of California. Tracy Lee, the founder, says that the idea for the business came when she began to feel unhappy about working 40-hour weeks at her corporate job. What came out of that was an innovative food adventure.

“I just decided to start my own company and I wanted to do a tech startup and a food blog at the same time,” says Lee. “So everything sort of came together when we decided to do a food startup.”

Since its launch two years ago, the business has expanded to more than 30 different cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Vancouver and Toronto. She says that the business centers on bringing people together with good food and giving them the chance to know their local restaurant businesses better.

“Things like that are so lost these days,” she says. “People get so busy, everything is so much online, and what we realize with doing these events is we actually bring the community together, and we’re allowing them to get to know their local restaurants and local businesses in their own backyard.”

The first Dishcrawl event was held in Santa Fe, where 80 people came out and “crawled” their way through restaurants downtown. Lee says that she was quite overwhelmed by the size of the group and has since decided to organize Dishcrawls on a smaller scale.

“Typically Dishcrawls are anywhere between 20 to 60 people,” she says. “We decided to make the Dishcrawls a little bit smaller, you know, more intimate, but we do a lot of larger events and for different markets.” The larger events that Lee talks about are referred to as Dishwalks or Beerwalks, which are self-guided food and drink adventures through multiple restaurants. Dishwalks consist of eight restaurants, while Dishcrawls typically only have about four, making them more intimate.

A local Dishcrawl event usually happens on a monthly basis, and can be anything from dining at a gluten-free or vegan restaurant to visiting a number of restaurants and trying a multitude of different types of cuisines.

During Dishcrawls, Lee says, restaurant owners and chefs are able to step out of the kitchen or office to talk about their food and mingle with the group of customers, giving businesses a chance to connect with the community.

“We spend so much time helping them promote their local businesses as well, from social media,” she says. “We invite bloggers out as well and encourage the whole community to help explore these businesses.”

Lee says that the expansion of Dishcrawl came with the help of what she calls an “ambassador program” where locals from different places can sign up to be representatives of Dishcrawl and help bring the event to their own city.

Peter Likins is Boulder’s ambassador for Dishcrawl. He wanted to engage with the community after hearing that Boulder was named one of the “foodiest” towns in America, and Dishcrawls were a good match for his natural foodie side.

“I found out about it online and it looked really interesting, and I thought of it being sort of a social phenomenon … kind of like engaging the locals, getting people together and co-mingling,” says Likins. “And then I noticed the other aspect of it is doing a lot to promote the restaurants and local business, and that aligns with my goals pretty well.”

Likins is putting the finishing touches on the first Dishcrawl Nov. 13 event, which begins at 7 p.m. However, he isn’t allowed to disclose the names of the restaurants that have agreed to participate.

“I’m not allowed to tell actually, until 48 hours before the event,” he says. “But that’s part of the allure, it’s kind of a mystery, like you know the neighborhood, but who in the neighborhood is participating, so that’s kind of the fun of it too.”

Like Likins, Jennifer Roos of Boulder considers herself a foodie. She runs Boulderfoodie, a personal food blog that details her experiences from attending food events and farm dinners as well as serves as a repository for personal recipes.

Roos says that she is looking forward to attending Dishcrawl Boulder because it sounds different.

“I’ve gone on a local downtown tour, but this sounds really cool because it’s a bigger group,” she says.

Roos believes events like these are a great place to meet people who share similar interests and also a chance to get to know more about local food.

“When you’re obsessed with food, you kind of think you’re a little weird sometimes,” she says. “It’s so fun to find somebody that’s as into it as you are.”

To make reservations or to view the restaurants when they are posted, visit www.dishcrawl.com/boulder.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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