Behind the Food: Canton Food Tours

Dan Kane chats with Barbara Abbott, creator of Canton Food Tours.

When Barbara Abbott launched Canton Food Tours in 2012, she was inspired by the galleries and restaurants popping up in downtown Canton.

But she wasn’t sure that others would share her excitement and pay for a downtown experience.

Four years and 5,000 customers later, Abbott knows that her intuition was correct. Business is booming, she says.

During her busy season of April to November, Abbott conducts an average of three to five Hall of Fame City Food Tours weekly. The walking tours last about three and a half hours, include four restaurant stops, plus visits to downtown galleries and shops, and plenty of local lore and trivia from the energetic and personable Abbott along the way. Tours are $58, or $68 with the addition of two alcoholic beverages.

For tour information, visit cantonfoodtours.com or call 330-495-0929. The Canton Food Tours office is at 555 Market Avenue N in downtown Canton.

Q: Things seem to be better than ever in the downtown Canton restaurant and bar scene. Would you agree?

A: “So much so that I have to rotate (places) quite a bit for the tours. I’ve really seen a difference. Downtown is a lot busier. Restaurants have started opening regularly on Mondays. That tells you right there.”

Q: Did you struggle at all when you first started offering tours?

A: “It was good right off the bat. The first year was 97 percent locals, meaning they lived within an hour of downtown. That was my goal, so they would come back and be their own tour guide.”

Q: Has your audience expanded a lot since then?

A: “I have a solid base of locals, but in the past year or so, I’ve been getting a lot of out-of-town visitors. People are finding me from Googling ‘things to do in Canton,’ which is awesome. I’m attracting multi-day visitors.”

Q: Do your local customers ever come back with their friends?

A: “I get an awful lot of repeat visitors. There are two families vying to be my top customers. They’re on their sixth or seventh tours. I get family groups for birthdays, anniversaries and get-
togethers around the holidays. Another spike I’ve seen is corporate tours. I’ve had folks from Goodyear, FedEx, realtors and attorney’s offices. People will bring their staff or clients. For private group tours on the day and time of your choice, all you need is a minimum of six people.”

Q: What are some of the food stops on your tours these days?

A: “We go to Bender’s, then to George’s, Hazel & Rye or Deli Ohio, then usually to Canton Brewing Company. Lucca is always good. Fronimo’s is definitely on the list. We’re going to start going in for waffles at Cultured Coffee. I typically try to end up at Basil. That takes us all the way through town. Since we don’t order off the menu, if people are concerned about dietary restrictions, we can accommodate those if we know in advance.”

Q: Do you have any new tours planned for the future?

A: “I’m working on a Savor & Sip tour, which will be a transportation-based tour to two or three wineries and breweries. I’m kind of taking the show on the road in the fall.”

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass