SoNo Fest and Chili Cook-Off Is Back

What began as a humble community potluck hosted by the San Diego Ceramic Connection has grown into one of the most anticipated holiday events of the year – the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off, which returns Sunday, December 3rd to the intersection of Thorn and 32nd Street to raise funds for McKinley Elementary School’s Spanish, art, and music program. This all-volunteer event has become one of the neighborhood’s largest festivals, with nearly 20,000 hungry patrons hitting the block to taste, sip, shop, and play their way through the best that North Park and South Park have to offer. Since its inception in 2010, the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off has raised over $275,000 for the elementary school’s International Baccalaureate program.

Drawing top restaurants and breweries from the bordering communities, the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off features over 40 local chefs, 20 breweries, and new this year, a cocktail component helmed by Cutwater Spirits. A holiday craft market, two music stages, a food truck court, and kids play zone round-out the all-ages affair.


* Cocktails by Cutwater Spirits *
** Expanded Kids Zone ** 


* City Tacos *
* Anthem Vegan *
* Dunedin North Park *
*  Waypoint Public *
* Hamilton’s *
* Small Bar *
* Soda & Swine *
* Underbelly *
* Uptown Tavern *

Sunday, December 3 | 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Intersection of 32nd & Thorn Street, North Park 

Ceramic bowl or festival mug: $20, includes 5 chili tastings | $20; Beer, Wine, & Spirits: $6
Tickets on sale starting November 1st at 

CHILI | Battling it out for bragging rights to the best pot of chili in the city, the festival features forty chefs from prominent restaurants in the neighborhood, each offering up a special chili inspired by their locale. Not limited to the traditional bean-and-beef chili recipes, participating chefs pull out all the stops with their creative concoctions – past winners have included a Japanese Curry Chili from Underbelly, a Smoked Lamb Leg & Tri-Tip Chipotle Chili from Toronado, and a Shrimp and Seafood “Sausage-Style” Smoked Chili with Smoked Jalapeño Cream from South Park Brewing Company. Vegetarian and vegan creations ensure there’s something for everyone, with standout tastings from such notable establishments as Kindred, Anthem Vegan, and more. Commemorative festival mugs and ceramic bowls from San Diego Ceramic Connection will be sold for $20, and will include five chili tastings. Five additional tastings can be purchased for $15. 

BEER | Drawing on North Park’s reputation as a craft beer mecca, SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off’s beer garden features 20 breweries from the surrounding areas. Hop heads will be able to purchase pours ($6 each) from newcomers such as a Bivouac Ciderworks and Boochcraft. New for this year, Cutwater Spirits will be cracking open their famous canned cocktails from their designated pop-up. Popular flavors including Gin & Tonic, and a Vodka Mule. Italian pizzeria Buona Forchetta’s vintage pizza truck will be slinging out their award-winning Neapolitan slices from inside the garden for those looking for a lite bite in-between sips.

SHOPPING | Those looking to partake in some last-minute holiday shopping can browse the Holiday Marketplace, where nearly 30 local makers and artisans will be offering their unique, homemade wares to eager shoppers. A curated mix of locally-made goods, including kid’s clothes, stationary, jewelry, and home décor, the holiday market features brands such as Craft Beard, Nomad West, and Loa Designs Jewelry.

ENTERTAINMENT | Truly an all-ages event, the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off features an interactive Kids Fest and two live music stages, offering entertainment long past the initial chili samplings. Over on 32nd Street, kids can run free in the SoNo Kids Fest, with multiple bounce houses, carnival games, face painters, and so much more. For music lovers, two stages belt out tunes from local bands all day long, including hometown favorites and local legends.

MCKINLEY ELEMENTARY | Looking to build a sustainable future and offer expanded opportunities for the neighborhood children, 100% of proceeds from the festival go directly to McKinley Elementary School. To date, the all-volunteer committee has managed to raise nearly $275,000. Funding the International Baccalaureate program, the SoNo Fest is directly responsible for the school’s ceramic, music, dance, garden, art, and Spanish programs, offering hundreds of students the opportunity to expand their educational horizons and ready themselves for middle school and beyond.

ABOUT THE SONO CHILI FEST & COOK-OFF: With an all-volunteer staff of parents, teachers, and local businesses working to raise funds for arts programming at McKinley Elementary School, the eighth annual SoNo Chili Fest & Cook-Off has evolved from a neighborhood chili exchange to one of San Diego’s most celebrated holiday traditions. Put on in conjunction with the San Diego Ceramic Connection, who provides a generous donation and supplies the keepsake bowls for the event, the festival has raised nearly $275,000 since its inception in 2010, with 100% of proceeds guaranteeing yearly funding for the Spanish, art, and music to hundreds of McKinley school children. Dominating the border boulevards of Thorn Street and 32nd, the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook Off invites top chefs and local restaurants from North Park and South Park to compete in a classic chili cook-off, feeding crowds of nearly 20,000. While nearly 40 restaurants compete for a place in the Chili Hall of Fame, an expansive beer and wine garden offers refreshing pints to thirsty patrons looking to refuel, and a dedicated kids zone provides play equipment and endless entertaining. Two stages play live music throughout the day, and a food truck court allows for a respite from the chili tastings. Hosting a holiday market alongside the chili samplings, local artisans offer homemade goods and unique gifts for hungry shoppers.  For more information, please visit, or follow them on Facebook