San Diego

Bands, Beers and Bowls: SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-off Returns

The eighth annual SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-off returns Dec. 3 with bands, beers, and unique chili recipes

Even though last week's hot temperatures were (hopefully) an aberration, fall is upon us and San Diego is finally finding itself on the receiving end of chilly weather…and chili recipes?

On Sunday, Dec. 3, the eighth annual SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off returns to the junction of South Park and North Park (32nd and Thorn streets, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.) with a match-made-in-heaven combo of chili, beer, and bands. As in the last seven years, it's a philanthropic endeavor -- helmed by an all-volunteer staff -- that donates 100 percent of proceeds to McKinley Elementary School to help fund art, music, ceramic, dance, garden, and Spanish programming.

If you already feel your stomach grumbling, you’re not alone: More than 20,000 people are expected to wander the boulevard sampling unique chili recipes from over 40 celebrated San Diego foodie destinations -- including Carnitas Snack Shack, Fathom Bistro, Kindred, Lucha Libre, Small Bar, Tiger! Tiger!, Underbelly, Waypoint Public, and more -- all competing for first place in the Chili Hall of Fame.

Of course, chili tastes even better when it’s washed down with a brew or two and it looks like the cook-off has that covered too. Offerings galore will be available from AleSmith, Ballast Point, Fall Brewing, Green Flash, Societe, Stone, and many others. If that’s not enough to tempt you to come out and get involved, there’ll also be shops set up by local artisans, a dedicated kids play zone, and -- for those that may not want to get completely burnt out on chili -- a food truck court to boot.

While people-watching at an all-day event like this might be all the entertainment you’d need, the fest has tapped more than 10 great local bands to serenade the masses.

Sporting throwback rock & roll (along with Americana-ish) vibes, groups scheduled to perform throughout the day include Ypsitucky, the Bedbreakers, Downs Family Band, G Burns Jug Band, the Amandas, the Goldettes, and San Diego’s perennial good-time party band the Creepy Creeps.

The event is free if you’d just like to attend and rock out to the music but for those interested in tingling those taste buds, you’ve got a couple different options: SoNo Fest 2017 Logo Chili Mug and five-taster passes are available for $21.69 (includes service fee); paper bowls with five-taster passes are $16.52 (includes service fee); or you can head over in person to the San Diego Ceramic Connection (3216 Thorn St.), one of the event’s main sponsors, to purchase one of their handmade ceramic bowls, which also come with a five-taster pass. For passes and more info, visit

Either way, head out on Dec. 3 and mingle with the community -- just maybe don’t forget the Zantac, eh?

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow and runs the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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