Dishcrawl's Christine Carlson: 5 Questions

Everest on Grand: Could it be one of the mystery spots on the Dishcrawl?
Everest on Grand: Could it be one of the mystery spots on the Dishcrawl?
Bre McGee

If you've done the Light Rail bar crawl or a Pedal Pub outing, you're probably familiar with the concept of progressive partying, but the appeal of something like that fades quickly after too many weekends spent on a party bus. Thankfully, an organization called Dishcrawl, which has just recently popped up in the Twin Cities, takes the fun of touring but applies it to dining out. It's like a more grownup, food-centered version of bar-hopping, intended to help local gourmands get together and discover some new favorite restaurants.

The Hot Dish caught up with Dishcrawl's local ambassador, Christine Carlson, to learn more about the organization and how it works, and to get some details on its next event, Tuesday, March 26, on St. Paul's Grand Avenue.

The basic goal of Dishcrawl, Carlson says, is to "bring the community together through progressive dining events" and to "connect restaurant owners with both new and returning customers." As an added layer of intrigue, the crawl's exact dining establishments are not revealed until the day of the tour, and the meeting place for the start of the event is also kept secret until 48 hours prior. 

1. The Hot Dish: How did Dishcrawl get started, and how did you get involved with it?

Christine Carlson: The Dishcrawl concept got started in California by Tracy Lee, the founder, who described Dishcrawl as a fun way to bridge the gap between consumers and business owners, via social media.

As for how I got started: I was feeling pretty down after leaving my job as a high school English teacher. I was so burned out on the system and left pretty abruptly. I had no idea what I was going to do for a paycheck, but I knew it needed to be something I was really passionate about. I love socializing, and I love eating at restaurants, and I came across an ad somewhere, I can't even remember where, that said something along the lines of, "Do you love socializing? Do you love going to new restaurants? Do you want to make money doing both?" and I pretty much figured it was too good to be true, but I took a chance and checked out the company. Then I was lucky enough to have them hire me!

2. HD: What's the biggest challenge in organizing something like this? What does it take to make a crawl successful?

Carlson: My favorite part of organizing an event is visiting the restaurants and talking with people, but there is quite a bit of behind-the-scenes work on my to-do list every day. To make a Dishcrawl successful, you have to love the concept and believe in the concept. The way to get people on board is to keep reminding them that we're out there and we have events coming up. It's not their job to remember we exist, it's my job to remind them, and it's not like I'm selling something that people don't want. I'm pairing people who love food with chefs and restaurateurs--it's a win all around.

3. HD: What kind of a crowd would you say you draw, both in terms of numbers and the demographic of people that attend Dishcrawl?

Carlson:  The size of a DIshcrawl can range anywhere from 10 to 40 people, depending on the venue size and intimacy. Our larger events can be anywhere from 100 to 400 people. Dishcrawls usually attract people anywhere from 30 to 55 years of age. Sometimes people come to a Dishcrawl in their neighborhood just to meet people. Let's face it, it's tough to meet people in a large city, tough to break the ice. If people are gathered around plates of food, it's pretty easy to start a conversation. That's my job too, to be an ice-breaker. I can walk up and ask someone, "How did you hear about this event?" and match them up with another person who found out about us from, say, the same neighborhood publication.

4. HD: What have been some of the themes of past Dishcrawls in the Twin Cities? Where did they stop?

Carlson:  There has only been one Dishcrawl thus far in the Twin Cities, where we featured Sakura, Hunan Garden, Black Sheep Pizza, and Keys Bakery & Cafe. We will be introducing themes here soon, but other cities have seen Vegan, Gluten Free, Brunch, Dessert, Gangnam, etc., and we will have our larger events coming soon. Those include Neighborfoods, Brew Benefits, and Whisky Waltzes. We're just getting started in the Twin Cities, and that makes it very exciting to lead the way.

5. HD: Can you give us any clues about where this Grand Avenue one might go? Aside from "places along Grand Avenue."

Carlson:  What I love about keeping the restaurants a secret is that it does away with having people buy tickets based on what restaurants we will be visiting. Sometimes people have a misguided perception about certain restaurants. Maybe the restaurant is new and nobody has heard of it, maybe a person visited on an off night and had a less-than-stellar experience, maybe the restaurant has done a complete overhaul and can't shake some negative reviews still hanging around. Keeping the locations a secret gives participating restaurants a chance to put their best foot forward (or should I say best food forward?) and get people excited about the adventure ahead.

If you're interested in participating, tickets for the March 26 Dishcrawl are $45 (includes food and drink at four establishments) and can be purchased here.

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