How to plan your own food crawl
    Photo by Aine Dougherty/North by Northwestern

    Food crawl [foÍžod krôl] (n.): a delicious edible adventure, related to the idea of a bar crawl, in which one embarks on a journey to discover the tastiest treats of their choosing by visiting a variety of different eateries in a certain city or neighborhood. 

    A food crawl is a great way to break up the monotony of Winter Quarter (or put on some extra padding to survive the cold temperatures). You could always participate in an organized tour, such as this Chicago Food Crawl, but it’s much more fun to design your own. Check out this foolproof guide on how to plan and carry out the D.I.Y. food crawl of your dreams. 

    Explore Your Cravings

    Obviously, the first step to executing a flawless food crawl is deciding what type of food you won’t mind stuffing down your throat for a whole afternoon. You could go in a few different directions here—focus on a certain type of cuisine, like Italian or Thai food, or concentrate on a specific food item, like doughnuts or pie.  If you feel like being trendy, healthy and basic all at the same time, green smoothies are also an option. While choosing a theme, keep in mind that your portions should be small. Narrow your food crawl experience to something like, “Where can I find the best meatballs in Chicago?” instead of planning to inhale five giant platters of fettuccine alfredo and penne à la vodka in one sitting. If you need inspiration, check out these NBN articles about taco crawling and dessert crawling.   

    Gather Some Friends

    What’s a feast without friends, right? Pick and choose wisely. Think carefully about who would you want by your side while you’re scarfing down 12 doughnuts in a row (and possibly sending them back up if you’re not careful). Whether you invite one friend or 10, which many friends could be beneficial if you decide to share dishes among yourselves, keep in mind that you’ll be doing a good amount of traveling during your trip. And, unlike a bar crawl, you (most likely) won’t be getting drunk along the way, so you won’t have the booze to keep you warm and toasty. Make sure your buddies understand what they’re getting themselves into, and make it clear that you will not tolerate any complaining, belly-aching or quitting. And above all—no judgment, please.

    Do Your Research

    Once you’ve settled on an idea and found the perfect squad to accompany you in your gluttony, you need to consult the restaurant Bible: Yelp. It’s perfect for food crawling purposes because you can just type in whatever you’re looking for (doughnuts, anyone? Mexican food?), and Yelp will show you all of the appropriate places nearby. Not only that, but you’ll also get ratings, reviews and pictures so you can drool over the delicious food you’re about to eat before you even leave your house. Google is also another obvious resource. Search something along the lines of “best sushi in Chicago” or “good cupcakes in Lincoln Park” and go from there. #ProTip: Keep your list under ten restaurants, and set aside at least a whole afternoon for your endeavor.

    Plan Your Route

    Your restaurants should probably be in walking distance of each other, unless you’re a real expert at public transportation. (#ProTip: Do NOT rack up a giant Über bill.) You could theoretically choose any neighborhood in Chicago, but check that your preferred region has a variety of restaurants concentrated in one area, so your feet (and your wallet) don’t hurt by the end of the night. For example, there’s a Glazed and Infused doughnut shop right across the street from Stan’s Donuts & Coffee in Wicker Park. So, once you’ve chosen your favorites, decide the order in which you’ll visit them and make sure the route is clear and sensible (you don’t want to risk a meltdown mid-food crawl). Bottom line: If you’re willing to put in the time to research and plan thoroughly, your stomach won’t be disappointed. 

    Eat Until You Can’t Breathe Anymore

    Do I even need to explain this one? Once all of the planning is complete, all you have left to do is enjoy yourself. #ProTip: Eat slowly. Pace yourself and take breaks. Carry around a water bottle to cleanse your palate (and stay hydrated) between destinations. And most importantly, take lots of pictures. After all, if you didn’t post exquisite food on Instagram, did you even go on a food crawl…?


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