Enjoy a “Taste of Mercer Island” through new local food tours

May 6, 2019 | by Naomi Tomky

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Orna Samuelly loves to travel, and every place she visits, she takes a food tour. On each tour, she learns some history, gets a little insight into the city, and tastes great local food. So back home on Mercer Island, she considered all the local food businesses she loves, knew she wanted to share more about them with others, and decided it was time to run her own food tours.

Her new venture Taste of Mercer Island now offers food and walking tours through downtown Mercer Island. Each tour is about two hours for groups of four to 10 people, and involves walking one to two miles. Family friendly morning tours cost $50 per person, and the adults-only afternoon tours are $60. Each tour includes visits to five to seven restaurants, bars, and specialty food shops. Summer Sunday tours also include a visit to the Mercer Island Farmers Market.

Samuelly sees the tours as an activity for people new to the island to get to know the town or as a family friendly activity for people with visitors in town, since the morning tours are as good for small children as they are for grandparents.

“Places here are original, creative,” says Samuelly about why she wanted to share her own favorite spots with a larger audience. “It’s not just a sleepy place to ignore.” At each food stop, the owner or manager chats with the tour group, when they are available, and explains what they do and why they do it. When they are busy, Samuelly shares the shop’s story and some unique characteristics with tour guests. At some stops – like at the chocolate shop – the tour participants get a sense of the founders vision, learn how the product is made, and sample the confections.

In between stops, Samuelly talks to the group about some of Mercer Island’s history and points out interesting features and landmarks. She realized that despite living on Mercer Island for more than a half-dozen years, she didn’t know about these markers until she met with members of the Mercer Island Historical Society.

“We talk about the pre-bridge days,” she says, speaking about Mercer Island before the rapid development that occurred after the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge was completed and connected Mercer Island to Seattle. The tour highlights the evidence of the old times that still remain, like where the old street names are embedded in the sidewalks.

While Samuelly is starting small, with just the weekend tours on her home turf, she’s excited to share the island with new people or new information with people who have long been on the island. She also plans to begin her tour business with a manageable pace. “I’m not looking to do this full time,” she says – she also works at T-Mobile – but she hopes to grow the business, and maybe even expand to other places with food scenes worth sharing, “I like the idea of bringing this to communities.”

Learn more and sign up for a tour at the Taste Mercer Island website at: www.tasteofmercerisland.com

[Feature image: Orna Samuelly, owner and founder of Taste of Mercer Island]