Layla Ali-Ahmad is a self-admitted foodie, but she’s done more than just eat.
In fact, Ali-Ahmad , 28, is the founder/owner of Beach City Food Tours, a guided walking tour offering residents and tourists a chance to taste and sip offerings from some of Long Beach’s most popular eateries and food shops.
What makes it fun? Ali-Ahmad says attendees will enjoy this growing food lover’s city, and see it through a unique sensory journey while learning about its history, art and culture along the way. The tour is currently available for Downtown Long Beach, but will expand to other parts of the city over the next few months, perhaps Belmont Shore, she says.
So who should take a BCFT? Well, if you love food and travel, BCFT is for you. It’s also for:
- Hungry locals who want to know more about the city they live in;
- Tourists looking to get a real flavor for the city in one afternoon;
- Businesses looking for a new team building experience;
- Couples looking for a fun date activity; and
- Solo travelers looking to meet locals and other travelers.
A Bright Idea
Ali-Ahmad says the idea was born from a mutual love of food and travel – and Long Beach, a city she proudly calls home.
“Long Beach is becoming known for its great food shops and delicious restaurants, but many people are unsure where to venture first, or they simply want to try new things. Our tour is designed to give the food lover a unique and delicious view of the city,” she shares.
Some of the stops on the “menu” in the Downtown Long Beach guided food tour include:
- George’s Greek Cafe
- Pier 76 Fish Grill
- Michael’s Pizzeria
- Recreational Coffee
- Rainbow Juices
- The Pie Bar
- MADE by Millworks
The tours boast an intimate experience with four-12 attendees and about 1.5 miles of walking to the different venues. Each tour is about three hours and priced at $68 per person on the weekend and $65, Monday – Friday. Children ages three-12 may attend for $35 each. Private tours are also available. Alcohol can be added, with a limit of two drinks, for an extra $15.
“I tell people to come hungry,” she says. “We start out with a bang with flaming cheese (Saganaki) at George’s Greek Café and end with dessert at The Pie Bar.”
Tours began in August and will continue year-round.
“We’re fortunate here in Southern California, in that we don’t have to worry about ‘seasons,’ ” she says.
Always a Food Lover
As for Ali-Ahmad she was born and raised in Orange County, and moved to Long Beach in 2010, after college.
“I immediately fell in love with the city. The people, the vibe, the food … all of it! I knew I never wanted to leave. I also believe Long Beach is severely underrated. It the only city between San Diego and San Francisco with a metropolitan downtown on the water, and it’s easily accessed from LA and OC.”
She says there are a lot of amazing chefs and shop owners that have a genuine love for Long Beach and the people in it.
“The best part for me is that I love highlighting the collaborations happening between our tour partners. It really is one big small town,” she says.
Although she has a full time day job Ali-Ahmad is hoping the tours will turn into a full time gig at some point. She actually spent 5 years at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, getting a degree in Civil Engineering. After working for 3 years in consulting, she knew engineering wasn’t for her.
“I needed to be in an industry that made me happy. I needed to feel closer to my two passions: food and travel,” she says. “I left engineering to work for Wine Exchange, and online wine retailer in Orange County. I worked in the store and sold French wine to local bars and restaurants.”
Then, in June 2014, at the age of 26, she was diagnosed with Stage three breast cancer.
“I was engaged at the time and my husband and I pushed back our wedding a year so I could undergo treatment. After a year of chemo, surgery and radiation, I was finally in the clear,” she shares.
She got married in September 2015 in San Luis Obispo, and embarked on a three-week honeymoon tour of Europe.
“While in Edinburgh, Scotland, we decided to take a food tour of the city. I had been on a couple food tours before, but this particular one piqued my interest. That night, I researched food tour companies in the Long Beach area and came up short. That was the moment I knew I was going to start Beach City Food Tours,” she says.
Ali-Ahmad adds that she’s always been that person that “drags friends and family on new and interesting food adventures.”
“I have a mutual love for food and travel, and I finally found a way to combine the two in a way that makes sense for me. I’m genuinely excited to take people around the city I love and call home. The look on their faces when I reveal the next tasting samples are priceless. It doesn’t feel like work.”
If you want to catch one of her tours visit beachcityfoodtours.com, or call 888-279-1392 to book your tour.