Wiener crawl

A group dressed as hot dogs embarks on a wiener restaurant in Charleston.

Provided/Robert Donovan

Meet the food crawl

According to the online Urban Dictionary, a food crawl is “a multi-stop investigation of the best restaurants, meals, or specific (menu) item. Food crawls may last a few hours or much longer, depending on the type of crawl.”

Learn its backstory

Food crawling has no doubt existed in some form ever since two cooks decided to offer the same dish at the same time: In 1970, comedian Danny Kaye told Vogue readers that he embarked on a restaurant crawl as soon as he arrived in Shanghai.

But the format gained traction with the rise of the Food Network and other food media outlets, which often organized programs and articles around successive samplings. Around the same time, cities grasped the potential of inviting visitors into multiple restaurants: Downtown Tulsa held its first Restaurant Crawl in 1992.

Now, though, an increasing number of event companies are hosting stop-and-sample tours. On designated dates, Southern Stone Event Company in Daytona Beach sells “passports,” which allow holders to try different versions of the same dish at more than a dozen different restaurants. (It’s much like the Mac-Off or Shrimp-and-Grits Festival, except that eaters go to tasting stations at the restaurants instead of having the restaurants set up their tasting stations in one place.)

“It seems like there’s one every month,” Tom Pemrick of Tayton O’Brians in New Smyrna Beach said during a recent grilled cheese crawl.

Pemrick’s grilled corned beef hash-and-cheese on pumpernickel was up against a honey Havarti sandwich served with a shot of Grand Marnier; a shrimp grilled cheese; and French onion grilled cheese made with Gouda. Ultimately, crawlers chose AA Garden Fusion’s Vietnamese grilled cheese as the winner. The restaurant’s owner sighed when she got the news: “Now we have to put it on the menu,” she said.

Thanks to past crawls, the noodle house already serves New England clam chowder and chili.

And partake of it here

There are multiple culinary tour companies in Charleston, but none of them specializes in self-guided experiences. But because the city has so many restaurants with overlapping menus, it’s relatively easy to plan a crawl without professional help: Soft shell crab season always occasions informal crawls, and a group of locals last month donned hot dog costumes for a Wiener Crawl that stretched from Jack’s Cosmic Dogs to Artisan Meat Share.

— Hanna Raskin

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

Food editor and chief critic

Eating all of the chicken livers just as fast as I can.