CARLSBAD — Every couple of days a group of 10 or fewer people will casually walk the streets, bouncing from restaurant to restaurant.
It marks the return of the Carlsbad Food Tours, which offers residents opportunities to visit a number of Carlsbad Village eateries for three hours. The small operation returned Sept. 14 after several months on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to owner Cherimarie Poulos, who started the tours in 2014.
Poulos said her goal is to introduce her customers to the food and history of the city. With the tours returning, everyone is required to wear masks or a face shield and the guides have hand sanitizer.
“I was getting ready to retire and I went on one of these tours in Carmel, Calif., and I thought, ‘now this is a fun job for retirement,’” Poulos said. “I said, ‘I think I want to start one of these.’”
After taking a course from Shane Coast, who owns Chicago Food Planet, she came back to Carlsbad and started the tours. Being a new concept, though, had its challenges, but the tours picked up momentum and at its height even hosting company parties of up to 60 people.
Poulos said her company was running five to six tours per week, which run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Carlsbad Village.
But since the pandemic, Poulos shut down and had to re-evaluate. Several places had to drop off due to the economics, but most have re-engaged with the tour, Poulos said. She started selling Taste of Carlsbad boxes, which featured a number of different products.
“I just kept track of what was going on in the Village,” Poulos said. “We waited longer than some businesses because we are associated with restaurants.”
Tour guide Ben Mastracco, who also hosts the YouTube channel “Comedy Kitchen,” said the tour is slowly starting to pick up as people adjust to safety protocols and health guidelines. After thorough COVID-19 training and working in a grocery store, he said it feels good to be back, even if on a limited basis.
A tour features five restaurant stops and one wine tasting to give the attendees a variety of foods and drink in Carlsbad. Additionally, each tour guide adds in a bit of city history and notes about the architecture.
Poulos said her favorite piece of Carlsbad’s history is how the city was named. When Carlsbad was founded and the mineral water discovered, news traveled about another city in Europe that had similar water.
The town of Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), established in 1350, is also known as Carlsbad, leading to the naming of Carlsbad, Calif.
“The water is 8.67, which is very alkalotic,” Poulos said. “Pretty soon people came to the train station to get the water and eventually we became a spa destination city.”