Food Tour of Chinatown in New York: Dining Posted May 23, 2005 Having written two books about New York City (New York City with Kids and Relocating to New York) I can tell you that the value of a paid walking tour is not to be found in the food. You're paying for several things: The comfort level of knowing you won't get lost in an unfamiliar, scary, intimidating place. The time savings of having someone else do all the research. The expertise of the tour guide, who is a live person who can answer questions. Some people go on these tours in the hopes of meeting other travelers.Having grown up in the region I was never a "tour person" util I started working on guidebooks, at which point I had to go on various tours in order to evaluate them. What amazed me was how much I learned and how enjoyable a well-run tour can be. The experience actually changed the way I travel. My procedure these days, upon arriving in an unfamiliar city, is almost always to get on the first available general overview bus tour, whatever is the local equivalent of the Gray Line tours that go around New York on those double-decker buses. In about three hours, you totally get the lay of the land in a new city and you are able to sort out a lot of the good and bad recommendations that you came to town with ("That's the castle everybody was talking about? Forget it!"). I've also started taking some cultural walking tours, especially ones where access has been arranged that might not otherwise be so easy to achieve, like getting into the synagogue in old Jewish London.There are some things you should look out for: A small group size (not a busload of people). A company that has been in business for awhile. Leaders who have seniority (not students). A tone that you identify with in the literature. For me, as someone who prefers down-to-earth, non-glitzy operators, I favor a company called Adventures on a Shoestring. Howard Goldberg, the wonderfully eccentric owner, has operated these tours for more than 40 years. They are very economical -- the tour fee is only $5 (or at least it was last time I checked, maybe three years ago when I was working on the second edition of NYC w/ Kids) plus you have to pay for whatever food you eat (for example on the Brighton Beach/Little Odessa tour he arranged for a light lunch at Primorski for a flat fee of $5 each including the tip) -- and the tours in and of themselves are real New York experiences on account of Howard and the eclectic clientele. He has no online presence, of course. Call 212-265-2663 for details. He does a Chinatown tour. I've not been on that one but everything he does is good. Another company I can recommend is Big Onion http://www.bigonion.com -- the tour fee is $15 and there are discounts for seniors and students.