When Moon resident Sylvia McCoy decided to start a business in 2008, she wasn’t thinking about the economic outlook.
Her plan was to give Pittsburghers a taste of the city’s neighborhoods via the company's first organized culinary tour.
“I realized quickly after doing some research that there are no culinary tours in Pittsburgh, and there’s one in almost every city,” McCoy said.
She founded the ‘Burgh Bits and Bites Food Tour that year, starting with a Strip District tour and soon expanding through city neighborhoods, including Brookline.
The walking tour includes several local eateries in each neighborhood and discussions about the history of the neighborhood and the businesses and landmarks there.
“When I started the business, it really was just that I was going to put this out there,” she said. “I felt so confident and happy, I thought that even if I just shared it with 20 people it would be good.”
McCoy, who also is a docent with the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, is originally from Pittsburgh but lived in Switzerland for several years. When she moved back to the area and settled in Moon Township, she began to realize how much is unique about her home city.
She wants the tour to help create connections between people and neighborhoods they aren’t familiar with. Her hope is that rather than be intimidated by new places, people will be encouraged to try new local places that they’ve never visited.
“I love to have people see new things about their own city. I love to show them these hidden treasurers,” she said. “I’m still finding new things all the time.”
McCoy considers Brookline and Dormont to be some of those treasures, and the Brookline tour—available now—is one of her many favorites.
“When I take people to Brookline, I want them to say, ‘I just love this place,’” she said. “Who would have thought that if you’re sitting in a Mediterranean restaurant in Pittsburgh that the pita you’re eating could have been made in Brookline?”
, , , Kribel's Bakery and more are part of the Brookline tour.
The tours are mainly focused on city neighborhoods, although with a little help from foodie Culinary Cory it will soon branch out into Dormont.
Cory VanHorn—or food blogger Culinary Cory, whose Web site is available by clicking here—was tasked with forming a new tour for McCoy while working as her summer intern. He picked Dormont, and he and other local food bloggers tested the Dormont tour earlier this year.
“It’s a very unexpected place,” VanHorn said. “Domont is a beautiful area. It’s a place rich in history, and the passion for the local businesses is incredible to see.”
The Dormont tour should be available to the public in February, McCoy said, although private tours are available now. Stops include , and several more along Potomac Avenue.
Being a small business owner means having a small advertising budget, so McCoy relies mainly on word-of-mouth references to keep her tours afloat.
So far, it’s working. McCoy said she now feels lucky to own a business that was able to flourish and thrive in a tough economy.
“I didn’t let the economy intimidate me,” she said. “I thought if it works that’s great. If it’s not, it’s not, but this is what I need to be doing right now,”
Tours are available in the Strip District, Bloomfield’s Little Italy, Mount Washington, Lawrenceville and Brookline. For more information about tours and ticket info, check out the ‘Burgh Bits and Bites Food Tour Web site.