Chowing down Off the Eaten Track

New food tour group brings focus back to love of locavores

Bonnie Todd (left) and Alexis Ragan are the two behind Off the Eaten Track.

New food tour group brings focus back to love of locavores

Alexis Ragan and Bonnie Todd have more than just their 10-year friendship in common.

The two women spent over a decade in the food and hospitality industry and even more time travelling the world before realizing there was a dire need missing from their culinary appetite: a resource for locals and tourists to discover where the best places to eat exist.

“We’re both avid travellers — and eaters! — and we realized that there were two things we held dear when travelling abroad,” says Todd. “First, getting off the tourist grid and exploring hidden areas. And second, getting insider tips on where the locals eat. So we decided to combine these two values.”

Thus, they created their very own solution: Off The Eaten Track Culinary Walking Tours. Now, the two-person tour company is celebrating its first successful year in Vancouver by hopping a ferry over to the Island. Ragan and Todd are bringing their brand of locavore love to Victorians starting May 16, with two year-round tours starting just in time for tourist season — one focused on Cook Street Village and one in Oak Bay.

“It sounds cheesy, but these tours really give a personal face to the businesses that partner with us, and when you go in there and meet the owners or the chefs, you learn about the philosophies they use with their food,” says Ragan, who adds she has traipsed all over the world in search of the perfect bite and still loves what B.C. offers.

While food and tours aren’t a new concept to Islanders — especially as residents prepare again to share spectator space with thousands of visitors — Off The Eaten Track fills a new niche in Victoria. The tours, which last approximately two hours, combine a location education with a sampling of the best tastes eateries have to offer, all battered together with a healthy stroll to digest the food while giving participants a chance to make new connections with businesses and fellow foodies.

“What makes Off the Eaten Track different is that we bring out people who aren’t necessarily local; so people who come off the cruise ships who maybe would never have made it to Oak Bay or Cook Street Village will see these little gems,” says Todd. “And locals who do know about the areas will still learn new things about where they are eating and what they are supporting by doing so.”

Participants who join in the Cook Street Village tour will be taken through The Tin Roof Market & Deli, Pizzeria Prima Strada, The Beagle Pub, Hot and Cold Café and Bubby’s Kitchen. Oak Bay tourists will see Discovery Coffee, Sweet Delights, The Village Patisserie, The Whole Beast and Vis a Vis. Due to the alcoholic samples, guests must be 19+. While the two women plan to use the summer to test out the success of the Victoria tours, their Vancouver counterpart (which offers four main tours) will continue. Ragan says she hopes to expand the Victoria tours to other areas as business increases and new eateries show interest.

“The tours are really a more personal way to experience a culture and a restaurant than going to get food yourself,” says Todd. “A lot of people go back afterwards because they’ve found a new place they love, which is great for the businesses, but even better for the people who now know what’s in their neighbourhood.” M

To join a tour, visit: OffTheEatenTrackTours.ca/victoria. The Cook Street Village Culinary Tour runs Thursdays and Fridays, 2:30-4:30pm starting at the Tin Roof Market & Deli (101-1075 Pendergast). The Gourmet Oak Bay Culinary Tour runs Saturdays, 2:30-4:30pm starting at Discovery Coffee (1964 Oak Bay). Both tours are $65, and require 24-hour-in-advance registration. Maximum 12 guests per tour. Contact 778-918-4584, or info@offtheeatentracktours.ca.

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