Lead the Way 

Cristina McCarter’s City Tasting Tours.

Everybody has his or her passion.

For Cristina McCarter, it's food.

"I'm always looking for different places to eat, or if there's a new place, I have to go try it," the sales assistant says.

McCarter, a Flyer employee, knows something a lot of folks don't — how to put that passion to work.

Recently she relaunched City Tasting Tours, a tour business that takes foodies or those who aspire to be such on walking tours to various restaurants in Memphis neighborhoods.

"Everybody has been so nice, making suggestions," McCarter says. "It's a lot of fun."

McCarter originally worked as a tour guide for the business back in 2011, but eventually it was put on hold until McCarter got a phone call in October.

"The owner called me and asked, 'Do you want to take our business and make it your own thing?'" she says. "I thought why not make a hobby into something I'm making money off of."

That hobby started with Yelp, when McCarter would take photos of the food she was eating and post it on the website of crowd-sourced reviews.

Her reviews turned to blogging by way of her friends' pushing her to do so, and lovingmymemphis.com was born.

click to enlarge Cristina McCarter and “tourists” - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Cristina McCarter and “tourists”

"Then it became 'Cristina knows where to go.'" My friends would call me and say they were coming into town. I have a list I copy and paste now. I let them know about food and drink events or if there's a festival going on. I'm like a concierge," she says.

She first became a tour guide for City Tasting Tours when she saw an ad for the job.

"I thought, why not get paid to eat?" she says.

McCarter held her first tour as the "one-woman-show" that is now City Tasting Tours on May 14th, focusing on South Main and Beale Street.

Included in the tour was Central BBQ, Ray'z World Famous Dr. Bar-B-Que, Cafe Pontotoc, Alfred's on Beale, and Dyer's Burgers.

Each tour visits five restaurants, and the restaurants are the same for the month.

June will include Central BBQ and Earnestine & Hazel's and a few other stops along the way, ending at King Jerry Lawler's Hall of Fame Bar and Grille, where those lucky enough to have booked a spot will sample the King's deep-fried ribs, homemade pork rinds, and crawfish corn chowder.

"The restaurants love it. It's a gain for them. They potentially have 12 new customers in their restaurant each week, and a lot of them become repeat customers," McCarter says.

Many of the stops feature a showcase of the chef — in the case of Ray'z, a tour of the pit — and every tour is dotted with morsels of stories, fun facts, and insider info from McCarter herself.

"I talk about what I love about the city, what locals do, what the city has going on, where it's improving, a little bit of history," the Memphis native says. "I'm still learning. They seem to like it. [The first tour] they told me I should be on Shark Tank."

Each tour is limited to 12 people and takes place every Saturday.

Dish sizes vary depending on the food. For appetizers like pork rinds, they're served buffet style. Corn chowder, however, would be served in individual dishes.

Tours are $55 per person and 21 and up, with deals and discounts offered frequently.

Except for June 25th, tours are sold out until July. They run every Saturday until October, and all tours are rain or shine.

"I usually send out a list of tips two days before the tour, such as if there's an event going on to park accordingly, wear comfortable shoes, bring shades. And I send the menu out ahead of time," she says.

As of now, McCarter's tours concentrate on the downtown area, but she plans on expanding to Midtown soon and eventually further east.

"I hope to continue to get a lot of locals. They can try something different and learn a little about Memphis that they might not know," she says.

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