By: Kindall D.
I parallel park my car in a free parking space that I lucked up and found on a Saturday in beautiful and scenic downtown Memphis, Tn. It appears to only be a short walking distance from a restaurant called The Green Beetle, the oldest tavern in Memphis, which is the first stop on a tour of four other different local Memphis restaurants that I will be paying a visit to for the very first time. I get out and start speed walking up the sidewalk since I was running a few minutes late. I walk for what seems like to be a bit longer than what I was expecting when I hear a faint call of my name from behind. I stop and turn around to see Cristina McCarter, the tour guide, yelling to me that I was walking past the restaurant. I turn around and head towards her a bit embarrassed being that I am also Memphis, born and raised, but had no clue where the heck I was going. I walk into the restaurant only to see that everyone else on the tour, which I later found out they were all actual tourists not from Memphis, already there chowing down on fried catfish and fried green tomatoes. I had never been to this restaurant or ANY of the other four restaurants, Belle: A Southern Bistro, Front St. Deli, Rendezvous BBQ and Cupcake Cutie, that were on the list of tour stops for the day.
What a “true” Memphian I am.
Cristina McCarter though, knows all the ins and outs of every nook and cranny of Memphis, especially the midtown and downtown areas where a plethora of local restaurants and eateries can be found, making it the perfect place to run her business, City Tasting Tours, a food tasting tour company that was started just last year in 2016.
This walking tour through downtown Memphis features five different restaurants and they change every month, giving you the chance to experience everything downtown Memphis has to offer. Not only do you get to sample a delicious dish at each restaurant stop but you also get an interesting history lesson on each of the restaurants too making this not only a food tasting tour but a cultural experience too.
Memphis, TN, has often been shown in a negative light by highlighting the high crime rate in the city. You may have heard some of the news stories about the crime here or you may have caught an episode of A&E’s reality crime t.v. show, The First 48, where cameras follow detectives in the wake of homicides as they race against the clock to solve them. Memphis was a constant on the show before the city decided to no longer be featured. McCarter is not a fan of the negativity at all and refuses to let that be her city’s call to fame.
“I wanted to brand this as a company that is to support local restaurants and make visitors and locals alike more aware of what the city has to offer through food! It’s my way of bringing positivity and shining light on the great things in this city while bringing people together from all walks of Earth.”
That’s exactly what she is doing too. Recently, McCarter had THIRTY black pharmacists all on a tour.
I also got to know more about this local Memphian wife and mother that likes to march to the beat of her own drum or literally, dance to the rhythm of her washing machine. I also took away some vital gems and motivation when I asked her for advice on following your passions and being an entrepreneur despite challenges.
Tell Us More About Yourself.
“I’m a Native Memphian. I grew up in North Memphis and as adult I moved to Midtown with my husband and now our family lives in Sea Isle, East Memphis. We have a 3 year old son together named Elijah. My family is mostly military and entrepreneurs. Being a small business owner is hard but honestly being a mom and wife are my hardest task. I pride myself on being real and staying true to myself no matter what else comes my way. It’s my way of staying humble. I became a mom and a wife, but I’m still going to be silly Cristina that will dance to the beat of the washing machine.”
“I basically found a way to monetize my passion in a way that I was familiar with.”
What Inspired You To Start Your Own Brand/Business?
“I’ve worked for a ton of businesses. My position with Yelp helped open my eyes to doing food tours and it wasn’t until the next year after that, that I actually decided to get things going. My love for local businesses also enhanced from my Loving My Memphis Blog. I always share where I am and what I’m eating. I basically found a way to monetize my passion in a way that I was familiar with.”
What Personal Challenges Have You Faced Pursuing Your Business?
“My biggest challenge is time. If I go hard in one area I will soon slack off in another. Either I will push an idea to the side or I won’t clean the house or spend the weekends with my family. Both will frustrate me equally too! Not until last Saturday did I realize I haven’t had a Saturday off since May 2016! Also, not having start up capital for my company is a struggle. I didn’t grow up with a rich or privileged family. We had the typical working poor family struggles and honestly, we still do and that’s what drives me to do more now! I just want to provide more for Elijah and give myself a decent chance at life. It’s really hard otherwise.”
What’s One Piece Of Advice You Would Give To Other Aspiring Entrepreneurs?
“Write everything down! I have like 4 notebooks because I have to write down my thoughts in order for them to seem real. I also have been a collector of articles on entrepreneurship since 2011! When I worked at a startup firm after college, I knew I wanted to own my own business, I just didn’t know what kind yet. Of course, while Yelping and blogging, I realized that food was my niche. Add in my personality and there’s the entertainment factor; that’s perfect for a food tasting tour company! I say that to say this, when I was cleaning up one day I found articles I kept from 2011 and it reinstated that this is what I am suppose to do. So, I say never stop researching, keep a good and HONEST group of people around, not just a bunch of ‘yes’ men and women. Find other people like you to keep you motivated because you will get down. Pray, meditate and organize everything. A planner is my best friend. Oh, and get out of your own way! Don’t beat yourself up too much. Mistakes will be made but fix them and keep it moving!”
This tour definitely made a true local out of me. I thought I was doing a pretty good job at exploring what my hometown, Memphis, TN, has to offer but I was surely wrong! I experienced restaurants I’ve never been to and learned so much history that I had no idea about. Definitely more than just eating delicious foods.
If you’re ever in the Memphis, TN area be sure to check out City Tasting Tours. For tour booking details be sure to visit www.citytastingtours.com.