King of the chili: Cook-off draws top restaurants, breweries in San Diego


For lovers of chili and beer, the SoNo Fest and Chili Cook-Off on Dec. 3 is the perfect warm-up to the winter season.

The festival, in its eighth year, is hosted by the communities of North Park and South Park at the intersection of 32nd and Thorn streets.

Presented by the McKinley Elementary School Foundation and San Diego Ceramic Connection, the festival will feature 40 restaurants pitted against each other in a contest for San Diego’s best bowl of chili. In addition to the competition will be 20 breweries, a holiday craft market, two music stages, a food truck court, a kids play zone and a cocktail component presented by Cutwater Spirits.

Since its inception in 2010, the festival has raised nearly $275,000, with 100% of proceeds guaranteeing yearly funding for the Spanish, art, and music programs at the school.

Don’t come to this event expecting the usual. This festival has featured recipes that have included Japanese Curry Chili from Underbelly and a Smoked Lamb Leg & Tri-Tip Chipotle Chili from Toronado. Other featured restaurants include Anthem Vegan, City Tacos, Soda & Swine, Uptown Tavern and more.

For patrons who appreciate a more sophisticated libation, newcomer Cutwater Spirits will be onsite with their famous canned cocktails including Spicy Bloody Mary and Vodka Mule.

San Diego Ceramic Connection will be selling festival ceramic bowls and mugs for $20, which includes five chili tastings (five additional tastings can be purchased for $15). Tickets go on sale Nov. 1 at