The Scoop: Lost Plate is a family-run food tour company that operates in China, Cambodia, and the U.S. All tours are designed by locals to give people a taste of the neighborhood, and many attendees are eager to come back for seconds. Lost Plate can offer an array of fun date activities for food lovers. Couples can indulge in coffee and donuts in Portland, Oregon, or they can order a recipe box to enjoy a delicious dinner at home.
The idea for Lost Plate Food Tours began with a married couple in China. Brian was from Portland and his wife, Ruixi, was from the Sichuan Province, so they were both a little lost when they moved to Xian and started looking for a good meal.
Fortunately, Ruixi took the lead and acted as a food scout in the local neighborhoods. Her ability to identify local delicacies and communicate with shop owners proved invaluable to the couple when they were going on a date night or entertaining friends from out of town.
The couple decided to share their newfound insights with others by arranging official food tours in Xian, and it was an immediate hit with food lovers in the area. Today, Lost Plate conducts food tours throughout China and has expanded into Cambodia and the U.S. as well.
Brian’s sister Michelle has joined the company as the resident Portland food expert. She was born and raised in Portland, so she knows all the best local spots to get a bite to eat. She runs morning and evening tours that showcase the delicious side to the city.
“My brother and I always talked about starting a business together,” Michelle said. “We’re in two of the most random places ever — China and Portland — but we’re really a small family-run food tour company at heart.”
Lost Plate takes food lovers outside the typical tourist scene to explore local restaurants, food trucks, and coffee shops that serve unforgettable dishes with locally sourced ingredients.
A Family-Run Company Takes Couples to Local Eateries
Lost Plate started as a small husband-and-wife operation, and it has grown to encompass 75 guides in three countries. The company has partnered with over 100 restaurants and spent over $1.4 million in support of these local businesses.
Michelle said the food tour attendees in China tend to be solo travelers or families on vacation, while Portland’s food tours attract more local couples and friend groups. “The ages are all over the place,” she told us. “No matter their age or demographic, everyone is looking for a fun experience.”
Lost Plate’s Portland food tours have invited people to explore the local food scene and uncover hidden gems that are off the beaten path. Michelle is a third-generation Portlander, so she knows her way around these neighborhoods and can provide a lot of good background information, insider tips, and fun facts to her tour group.
Michelle themes her food tours to fit popular trends in the area. For instance, the Lost Plate morning tour is all about coffee and donuts, while the evening tour is more about cocktails and appetizers. She also put together a food cart, pod, and patio tour to showcase the pop-up culinary dishes taking the city by storm.
“We’re the only evening food tour in Portland,” Michelle told us. “We get you into the heart of the neighborhood to eat at places I’ve been going to for years.”
Lost Plate’s food tours have cropped up in cities all over the world, but the tour operators make it a point to favor local delicacies and local businesses so people can discover the unique flavors of the area. Each city offers something different from the rest, and daters can expand their palate by joining these flavor-focused tour groups.
Recipe Boxes Bring International Flavors to Your Home
The coronavirus pandemic has hit China and the U.S. particularly hard, and that has presented challenges for the Lost Plate team. During periods of lockdowns and reopenings, the food tour company has had to adapt to continue satisfying people’s appetites for local food and fun experiences.
Michelle told us that outdoor Instagram tours have become popular during the pandemic. Lost Plate’s photo walk tours give people the chance to get out of the house and take some eye-catching photos of the city. The guides can tell interesting stories about the city’s landmarks, and they also act as photographers for those who want to capture the perfect post for their social media profile.
Due to local restrictions, Lost Plate has had to pause some of its food tours and decrease the number of guests allowed on the food tours still in operation. The website has a health and safety page to give people the latest updates.
Lost Plate has made a name for itself by highlighting the international food scenes. The pandemic has made it more difficult for travelers to come to these food tours, so the team has found a way to go to them through its authentic recipes boxes.
Lost Plate currently has two recipe boxes available for purchase. One offers a taste of Asia and the other offers a taste of Portland. Couples can use these boxes as starter kits for a fun date night at home. It’s a great substitution for a food tour that can tide people over until they can travel safely again.
“We curated each recipe box with ingredients that are hard to find,” Michelle said. “Ruixi included her own family recipes that go back generations. I’ve made all the recipes myself, and they’re so good.”
Creating Special Memories That Last a Lifetime
Lost Plate has won over many food lovers over the years. Some even return to take multiple tours in multiple cities to further tantalize their taste buds. The stellar reviews speak for themselves. TripAdvisor has ranked Lost Plate as the top food tour in Beijing, and it has a five-star rating in Portland.
“My wife and I really enjoyed it,” Danial said of the BJ Breakfast Tour. “It is so local — we just strolled through the hutong trying so many foods, and they were all very tasty.”
“We’ve lived in Portland the last six years, but this tour took us to places we’d never been,” said a couple in a Google review. “Definitely recommend this tour to any visitors to Portland as well as locals who want to have a fun night out.”
Nick G. described Lost Plate as “a wonderful way to immerse yourself into the city’s culture.” He said he tried new foods at local restaurants he may not have found as a tourist exploring the food scene on his own.
Over the years, Michelle has seen quite a few couples enjoying a date night with Lost Plate’s food tours, and she said she’s always happy to recommend romantic spots for them to visit afterward. Last summer, Michelle advised a man to take his girlfriend to a rooftop patio to enjoy scenic views of Portland. The couple went there that night and got engaged.
“I got an email the next day saying he proposed and thanks for the recommendation,” Michelle said. “I joke that they’ll remember me forever because I basically made their engagement happen.”
Lost Plate Can Satisfy Food Lovers Everywhere
Brian and his wife have made a lot of mouths water in China, and now Michelle has taken up the food tour flag in Portland, Oregon. Lost Plate can help people navigate a world of restaurants, food trucks, and bars as if they were natives.
Even during the pandemic, Lost Plate continues to deliver unique flavors to food lovers of all types. Couples can book a tour to explore an eclectic foodscape, or they can order a recipe box to savor the tastes of a food tour from home.
“We love to support our community while showing off our city to travelers,” Michelle said. “The main thing we focus on is food and having fun. Food brings people together, and it’s a source of joy and happiness for so many people.”