Five things you might not know about Mike Hess Brewing…


Another North Park brewery that is near and dear to our hearts, is Mike Hess Brewery. Located on Grim, just below University Ave, Hess Brewing is a large and airy space filled with all the production equipment necessary to grow produce some of the most popular beer in San Diego. Open and airy, long community tables allow for conversation to flow between parties and there is often a taco cart serving food in the back. There is so much to learn about Mike Hess Brewing, we thought we would break it down for you in five, bite sized, pieces:


1. After tasting all of the delicious beer, you can get a 32 oz draft beer of your choice to take home in what is known as a “purrowler,” a large can that is sealed right there while you watch!


2. Their Rye IPA, Habitus, took gold at the 2014 World Beer cup and just happened to unseat the reigning champ, Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye.


3. Mike is considered a national expert when it comes to opening and running nano-breweries and is sought out for advice from brewers across the country.


4. Mike Hess Brewing was named San Diego’s most popular brewery in a 2011 poll.


5. They are the first brewery to purchase a canning line for their beers and their cans can be found in stores and bottle shops all over California as well as Arizona.


With over 26 beers across 14 different styles, Mike Hess Brewing is must visit brewery here in San Diego. They are also awesome all around for joining us in our beer garden at the SoNo Fest this year. Stop by and taste their delicious beer on December 6th!

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Do you ever pull your SoNo Fest SDCC ceramic chili bowl from your cupboard and feel transported back to last year’s event? Can you still taste your favorite recipe when you close your eyes? Yes, us too.

We are feeling all the feels about how many talented Chefs have signed on to return to the #ChiliSmackDown competition this December. Without the generosity (and mad ladle skills) of these local culinary artists, the SoNo Fest would be no more. All hard labor and chili is graciously donated by the 40 participating restaurants! What they get in return (besides our lifetime adoration and praise) is a chance to reign supreme in the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off Hall of Champions. Professional judges and “the people” will honor their favorite dishes with awards like Most Unique and Best Overall, and the restaurants will have bragging rights for years to come.

2014 winners Small Bar (best overall), Kensington Cafe (best vegetarian), Waypoint Public (most unique) and Carnitas Snack Shack (people’s choice) are all rolling back in this year to defend their titles! Winners of years past Urban Solace (most unique 2012), Ritual Tavern & Blind Lady Alehouse (tie for best overall 2012), Sipz (best vegetarian 2013) and Rebecca’s Coffee House (best overall in 2009- our first year of competition!) will be at this year’s event, dishing up their best chili yet.

Newbies Streetcar Merchants, Hope 46, Kindred (in Alchemy’s former space in South Park), Cafe Madeline and Panchitas Bakery will be bringing the heat with some tough new competition. South and North Park has blossomed with new restaurants recently and these Chefs are in it to win it.

What’s your restaurant dream team for the upcoming smack-down? Make your predictions for who will be victorious in each of the 4 categories: Best Overall, Best Vegetarian, Most Unique and People’s Choice (hey, you have a say in that one!). We’ll meet you on 32nd street and Thorn on December 6th and see who comes out on top!

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Get ready for Beer and Chili from Monkey Paw Brewing!


Another acclaimed brewery joining us in the SoNo Fest beer garden this year is Monkey Paw Brewing. They’re going be in the beer garden and competing in our chili-cook off and we couldn’t be more excited!


Situated in the East Village, in what used to be a dive bar called The Jewel Box, Monkey Paw’s pub and tasting room retains all of that laid back charm while offering killer bar food and truly outstanding beer. Although they serve beers from many other breweries in the area, they have stand-outs from their own lineup that shouldn’t be missed.


Sweet Georgia Brown (5.8% ABV) started out as a traditional, Southern English Brown ale but has evolved into a caramel nosed rustic brown ale, heavy on the malts, light on the hops and incredibly drinkable. This beer has won numerous awards and medals and is a superior pair to the fried pretzel that they have on their menu.


Another one of their stand-out beers is Mighty Joe Young (6% ABV), an American Stout with a full bodied yet not too rich flavor profile. This stout might be hoppier than your average stout, which is probably the reason why I love it so much, but it’s still incredibly balanced with a malt-forward flavor that is reminiscent of iced coffee, dark chocolate and toast.


Monkey Paw is more than just beer though. Their menu of inspired bar food includes gooey cheese steaks, spicy wings and “stoner fries” which are waffle fries topped with any meat, cheese and veggie that you want. Yum!

We are super thankful to these guys for their SoNo Fest support, so stop by their pub the next time you are in the mood for a beer and a bite!

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SoNo Sponsors: Buona Forchetta + Community Realty Co. show their local love


Where would any of us be without the warm, plucked-out-of-Italy twinkle of lights and goodness that is Buona Forchetta? One shudders to think of the corner at 30th & Beech before owner Matteo Cattaneo transformed it into the lively, cozy, family dining destination that it is today. One ‘Buona Sera’ from any of the very friendly employees makes you believe you’ve crossed the Atlantic as you’re swept to a table under the lights and instantly transported to a little piece of Italia perfectly situated in South Park.  The always-packed pizzeria has been been turning out authentic wood-fired pizzas (thanks to the famed Sofia, a hand-crafted pizza oven) and handmade pastas since its inception in 2013 and it just keeps getting better.

Not only is the food something to marvel at (and eat too much of and maybe even bathe oneself in), owner Matteo Cattaneo is himself a neighborhood treasure. Ever present around South Park as a resident and business owner, his success hasn’t changed his amiable and genuine demeanor. He is quick to raise a hand in greeting or flash a wide smile to anyone he comes across.

It’s a natural fit then for Cattaneo to sponsor SoNo Fest (he’s also a McKinley dad) and bring the ever-popular Dante, his wood-fired pizza oven on the go, to serve the masses some of Buona Forchetta’s delectable goodness on wheels. Thank heavens, because I for one, wouldn’t want to imagine a world without Buona Forchetta in it.



Another local devotee, Community Realty Co., established in 2014 by Realtors and McKinley parents Jorge Vega and Jean Rivaldi, proudly lends its support as a SoNo Sponsor this year. Vega and Rivaldi forged a business relationship after a playground conversation turned to shop talk. Vega, an Altadena resident and Rivaldi, a South Parker, focus their attention and expertise on the local San Diego urban center that they both know and love so well.

Together they combine their varied backgrounds (marketing + product development + branding and real estate brokerage management + community housing) to bring a boutique real estate concierge service to the local area that focuses on detailed attention to each and every client.

Rivaldi hailed originally from Chicago and fell in love with South Park and North Park at first sight, “It reminds me of the urban walkable neighborhoods I was used to in Chicago, but almost with the hometown feel of Nebraska where I grew up. What we have here in these neighborhoods is very unique and special.”

Vega grew up in Northern California, but made his way to San Diego for college, and ever since it’s been home, “I love knowing all of my neighbors and really feeling like I belong to part of a community that comes together as friends.”

Vega and Rivaldi also feel strongly about supporting public education. In 2014 they started the Buy>Sell>Give Back campaign to support San Diego’s urban center public schools. For every transaction closed with Community Realty Co. in the area a minimum of $500 is donated to the public school of the buyer or seller’s choice. When a client doesn’t have a school preference, the funds go to McKinley School Foundation.


Thank you to both Buona Forchetta & Community Realty Co. for your generous support of SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off 2015!

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Beaver Fever at Belching Beaver Brewery


Belching Beaver Brewery is another one of the fabulous breweries that is supporting Mckinley Elementary at this year’s SoNo Fest. If you haven’t been to their charming tasting room in North Park yet, then you are missing out!


Belching Beaver launched onto the San Diego craft beer scene in 2012. They built a state-of-the-art space in Vista and have been offering truly delicious brews ever since! Their high quality beers have been consistent medal winners over the last few years which has helped them make a name for themselves here in the San Diego craft beer scene and beyond.


When their North Park taproom opened up a couple of years ago, local beer drinkers were thrilled with the diverse and creative beers which were offered there. Belching Beaver has a solid core line-up of beers which includes the gold medal winning, Beaver’s Milk Stout (ABV 5.3%). This beer is an absolute must-try! It’s dark in color yet surprisingly light to the taste. Silky and frothy, there is a hint of coffee flavoring that tapers off to a very slight sweetness that rounds out this beer so wonderfully at the end. Another medal winning stout that they are well known for is their Peanut Butter Stout (5.3% ABV). This irresistible blend of dark chocolate and roasted peanut butter helps make this stout truly outstanding. Ask for it as a float and they will put a scoop of ice cream in it for you too. Not only is the space inside the taproom inviting and airy, with open garage style doors in the front, but they often have food vendors selling anything from artisan grilled cheese sandwiches to gourmet tacos to wood fired pizza.


I had the pleasure of attending the Taste of North Park this last weekend and Belching Beaver was set up inside The Fresh Yard. One of the beers they were pouring was called Great Lei IPA and it was delicious! I was somewhat skeptical of the pina colada flavor profile, but after the first sip I was a happy coconut IPA convert! Thanks to its galaxy hops, this beer was refreshing and tropical without being sweet. I’m not sure how long this one will be around so get on over to their taproom for a pint soon!


And don’t forget to stop by Belching Beaver’s table in the SoNo Beer Garden for more of their award winning beers!


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SoNo Foodtruck

    Chili may be the main dish at the Sono Fest & Chili Cook Off every year, but our food (and treat) trucks will be on hand when you’re ready for something different. Why offer other dishes when we’ll have so much amazing chili to fill your bowls? You’ll be surprised how hungry you may be after taste testing your chili samples then playing with your kiddos in the Kids Zone, jamming out to the live music, shopping for holiday gifts from all the great local vendors and cooling off with a craft brew.

    You’ll see some familiar faces in our food truck lineup; McKinley parent Matteo of Buona Forchetta is bringing his gorgeous wood burning oven on wheels (Dante!) to the beer garden and will be serving up their award winning pizzas. Don’t take our word for it, check out the praise for their food here. Buona Forchetta is a huge asset to the McKinley community and the South / North Park neighborhoods; they participate in our Thursday pizza nights and donate proceeds back to our PTC, have supplied dinner for various meetings and open houses at the school and are just all around amazing people. Grab a brewski and a slice at the event and be sure you visit their location in South Park often!

Another returning food truck, Devilicious (perhaps you saw them on The Great Food Truck Race?), serves up lobster grilled cheese and hearty burgers, so save some room! Or pick up a plate of comfort food from Two for the Road; try their captain n’ crunch crabcakes or spinach and artichoke grilled cheese. Mmmm..

Regular SoNo chili cook off participant Carnitas Snack Shack is bringing their chili AND their brand new food truck this year. Chef Hanis is an amazing supporter of McKinley Elementary and serves up great eats at his North Park restaurant. Now you can look forward to their always-tasty chili recipe (we’re guessing pork will be an ingredient) and grabbing your favorite Carnitas dish at the festival!

Still hungry? Chef Daniel Rojas rolls Mexican infused sushi aboard his Sushi Uno food truck and dishes it up all over San Diego. They started in local farmers’ markets (our very own neighborhood North Park market!) in a 10×10 tent, then they made the leap to a truck and got rolling! You can find them at Thorn Street Brewery every week and at various other stops around town. They are new to the event this year and we couldn’t be happier. Order a tropical mango roll (my favorite) and don’t forget the jalapeno poppers. Speaking of something spicy, grab a dish from Hadd Sai Thai Food and feel the burn… in a good way. They bring the food of their homeland to the streets of our fine city. Be warned: everything they serve is very delicious and highly addictive.

Now it’s time to cool down with the best ice cream in North Park; Hammonds! Returning for a second year at SoNo, Hammonds will be bringing their Tropical Dreams ice cream. All of their ice creams and sorbets are handmade with a decadent creamy texture. Make sure you grab a scoop at SoNo and check out their shop on University Ave in North Park any day of the week.

Another SoNo newbie this year: Bullseye Kettle Corn & Shaved Ice. Check them out in the Kids Zone and treat yourself after all that chili tasting! Now that you know there are plenty of dining and sweet options at the festival this year, make sure you bring your appetite.



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Our mouths are watering already: the list of confirmed participating Chefs for this year’s SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off is in! Get ready for the #ChiliSmackDown, happening Sunday, December 6th!

Who served your favorite chili last year? Soda & Swine’s short rib, milk stout chili with guajillo peppers? Underbelly‘s spicy pork & beef with pickled scorpion peppers? Come see who is cooking up what at this year’s big event. All of 2014’s champions (Small Bar, Kensignton Cafe, Waypoint Public and Carnitas Snack Shack) are returning to battle it out again!

Find the complete list of participating chili participants on our website. The countdown to SoNo has begun!


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We are thrilled to announce a new judge to SoNo this year; Nathan Odom, an alumni of McKinley Elementary and Roosevelt International Baccalaureate Middle School. Nathan started cooking at the age of 6 and further honed his skills in the McKinley after school cooking club “Scratch” funded by SoNo. Nathan also just so happens to be the winner of MasterChef Junior, Season 3! He fought off fierce competition and helped to further put North Park on the Map for culinary genius with his incredible talent. He is the perfect person to judge our amazing chili entries from some of the best restaurants in town. Who better to participate than a McKinley alumni and Chef?

Nathan Odom-SONO-Blog

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Fall in love with Fall Brewing Company!

We are incredibly lucky to have such large field of quality, craft beer here in North Park and we wanted to introduce you to some of the fabulous breweries supporting us at SoNo Fest this year.


Up on the north end of 30th street, Fall Brewing Company is one of the newer breweries on the block but owner and brewmaster, Ray Astamendi, has been brewing great beer for many years. He opened Fall Brewing Company in November of 2014 and now has a fantastic lineup of 15 beers that are regularly on tap in their tasting room.


One of their most popular beers is their American IPA, Spirit of 77. Astamendi , or The Captain, as he’s affectionately known as, describes this beer as “Harkening back to the punk ethos of 1977 with the 3 ‘C’s’; Cascade, Chinook and Centennial, this is what an American IPA used to be.” Sounds intriguing? It should…it’s delicious.


Another must-try beer is A Beer Named Sue which is a California Common. What is California Common, you ask? No worries, we did the googling for you! California Common is a type of beer also known as Steam Beer, which was popular all along the West Coast during the California gold rush. Flavorwise, it’s a balanced mix of rich malt and Northern Brewer hops known for their woody rustic flavor.


Fall’s spacious and laid-back tasting room is a sweet spot to enjoy a pint on a weekend afternoon or evening after work. They have food trucks daily out front and both dogs and kids are welcome. Next time you are in the mood for a cold pint head on in to this brewery. I promise, you’ll fall for their excellent beer…sorry, we couldn’t resist.



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