Eating Our Way Through the Vista
Two Gals and a Fork Culinary Tours Show You What’s Hot
By Warren Hughes
As longtime friends and travelers, Gloria Freeman and Janet Jordan know the best way to get to know a great city is to enjoy a good meal and take in the sights along the way.
That’s also how they were inspired to launch “Two Gals and a Fork” which showcases Columbia with its culinary choices and distinctive culture.
Both Columbia residents and out-of-town tourists alike join the “Two Gals” who host two and a half hour adventures, sampling incredible cuisine while discovering what makes Columbia so special.
“New restaurants are opening so fast, it’s almost impossible for an individual to keep up,” Freeman says. “We hear on almost every tour that we offer a unique way to check out all that Columbia has to offer.”
Participants have the opportunity to talk with chefs and restauranteurs and, along the way, Historic Columbia Foundation guides share interesting and entertaining stories about local and state history. The tours can also be customized based on client interests.
The two women were a continent away taking in the sights and scenes of Seattle when they were inspired to bring the idea back home. Between them, Freeman and Jordan have more than 50 years of nonprofit management and meeting planning experience, so the successful partnership was a natural progression.
As association executives, they met at a convention of colleagues more than 20 years ago. “We quickly found we had many things in common. We both love to travel, shop and enjoy great food. As best friends, it was interesting to see how we fell into our own niche in the partnership without ever stipulating who does what. The venture just blended itself like a perfect wine and food pairing,” says Jordan.
The business launched in May 2014 with its focus on the Vista culinary scene. The partners collaborated with the Historic Columbia Foundation to provide tour guides as a topping for the experience. “Besides tasting great foods, our participants learn the history, culture, entertainment, and restaurant offerings of our great city,” says Jordan.
“The adventure of starting and running our ‘Two Gals’ company has been awesome. In laying the groundwork, we reached out to many of our colleagues in the hospitality industry who were extremely supportive. We have gained so many new friends and associates by working with restaurant managers and staff, and we’ve met so many wonderful people on our tours. It’s truly a fun and rewarding experience leading Two Gals and a Fork Food Tours,” says Freeman.
The partners say they relish introducing their tour guests to Columbia’s burgeoning, world-class culinary scene. Both work full-time - Freeman has been with the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance for 41 years and Janet owns her own meeting management company, "Meetings Management and More." The “Two Gals” know what it takes to host the perfect event and how to ensure guests have a unique and flawless experience.
“Most of our tour guests haven’t visited all of the area’s restaurants and aren’t acquainted with Columbia’s rich history. They love the food and are astounded by the history and beauty of the buildings that have been restored. They leave our tours with a newfound appreciation of our city,” Freeman says.
Sharing the history of Columbia brings a depth to the experience. Jordan added, “Historic Columbia is without a doubt a treasure for our city. As preservationists and historical experts, the HCF guides have elevated our company to a higher level. The marketing group, Experience Columbia SC, also has been supportive from the very beginning. It was one of the first organizations we contacted. They introduced us to the restaurants and even participated in meetings as we were presenting our tour concept to them,” she recalled. “Experience Columbia SC continues to support us by recommending us to interested groups for private customized tours.”
HCF Trustee Jeffery Payne has been a leader in providing the history aspect of the tours for almost five years. “Having a history tour as part of a food tour makes both that much more engaging” he says.
“I also enjoy introducing the city to newcomers, helping them better understand Columbia’s role in American history as well as showcasing our architectural and cultural assets,” added Payne, the vice president for human resources at AgFirst Farm Credit Bank.
“One of the greatest satisfactions I get from the tours is reintroducing the charms of our city to those who are from here. When guests say,” ‘I’ve lived here all my life and never knew that,’ I know I’ve done my job,” he said.
Betsy Kleinfelder, HCF visitor coordinator, says “Historic Columbia’s partnership with ‘Two Gals and a Fork’ is a great way to expand our reach throughout the city. Our guides are passionate about sharing Columbia’s unique and vibrant history and enjoy this fun, dynamic tour as a way to connect with both visitors and local residents alike.” All tips are donated to the foundation.
As communications director for Experience Columbia SC, Charlene Slaughter says. “Two Gals and a Fork are among our best cheerleaders for the heart of South Carolina. Our goal is to share stories and spread the word about Columbia as a top destination. All of this wouldn’t be possible without the partnerships we have with local businesses and ventures like ‘Two Gals and a Fork.’”
“The history our tour guides share makes everyone proud of Columbia,” Jordan says. “We’re proud to show off our city and its rich history, and we believe we have helped contribute to the success of our restaurant partners by introducing lots of new customers to them.”
She says, “A typical tour offers visits to five top restaurants serving innovative food. You`ll have opportunities to talk with people behind the scenes, while the history guides will entertain you with their stories.”
A recent “Brunch and Munch” Vista Food Tour included the Blue Marlin for shrimp and grits; the Mellow Mushroom for pizza and bruschetta; Pot Smokers BBQ for pulled pork, potato salad and bread; World of Beer for beer and pretzels; and Kaminsky’s for dessert.
The Two Gals plan to take their show on the road. “Expanding across the state is definitely in our future,” Freeman says. “We currently do tours in Columbia and Newberry and will bring Lexington online this summer.
“The Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau and restaurants in West Columbia have contacted us about giving tours in those areas, and we are looking at Greenville, Camden and Georgetown, as well as other areas around Columbia like North of Main and Five Points. We’re very excited about adding new destinations and hope to offer tours more frequently all across the state once we retire from our day jobs,” she added.
Put “Two Gals and a Fork” on your itinerary. Check out the website www.twogalsfoodtours.com or call 803-360-0578.