San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival Throws Weekend-Long Epic Culinary Bash

By Ben Brown

Cocktail handoff at the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival grand tasting

The 18th annual San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival packed what could seem like a month of culinary festivity into one action-packed weekend, attracting more than 11,000 attendees and an international lineup of vendors representing some of the finest restaurants, wineries, breweries and distilleries across Southern and Baja California. The group’s collective goal: “Arrive at Awesome.”

Named to USA Today’s 10Best list for food festivals, the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival hosted a myriad of events across America’s finest city over Veteran’s Day weekend, from excusive lunches and dinners at some of the town’s most renowned dining destinations to a full-day expedition into Baja California. But it was Saturday’s Grand Tasting that stole the show, followed by Sunday’s new and improved Grand Fiesta.

The San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival’s grand tasting is about as momentous as a culinary event like this can get. Dozens of San Diego’s most lauded restaurants brought together around Downtown’s Embarcadero, where guests take in signature bites while enjoying majestic views of the bay, with yachts, the Rady Shell and the city skyline so close you can practically touch them. And what better to pair that melt-in-your-mouth braised short rib and risotto served three ways than with a star-studded wine list that encompasses just about every classic and new-age label stirring up conversation among the city’s afficionados.

Brawley-based Brandt Beef, the top-shelf supplier for several of San Diego’s top dining destinations, was back for another year to host a special collective with Ranch 45, Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, Hamburger Hut and more. And while ‘Brandt Beef Day Club’ didn’t quite get as wild as last year’s impromptu party at the event’s end, the area nevertheless drew a fun gathering of festive attendees from start to end.

Additional highlights from the grand tasting include Solare, one of Point Loma’s award-winning Italian destinations; Arlo, whose goat meatballs and octopus skewers drew the appeal of the eyes and tastebuds alike, and STK, who brought a taste of the elevated fare that’s made them a renowned name in cities nationwide. And while nobody would every question the culinary variety at a grand tasting event like this, it was all the same an even more robust lineup than last year, reflective of restaurants continuing along the road to recovery from an admittedly challenging time for the industry as a whole.

Sunday saw the weekend’s first-ever Grand Fiesta, a revamped rendition of the ‘Taco TKO’ event from years past. Bigger, grander and with mas fiesta, this coming-together of San Diego and Baja California’s finest tacos and tequilas wins the unofficial ‘most improved’ award for the festival as a whole…quite a feat given the high bar already set. With double the restaurants, more than triple the beverage vendors, additional space for mixing and mingling and an 8-person band performing live on stage, the Grand Fiesta saw a much venue at Liberty Station with superior crowd control for an exceptional guest experience overall.

The Taco TKO, or competition for best taco, was a subset of this year’s event but in even greater force than before, with 14 chefs vying for the title. Exceptional birria, pork and lamb shoulder, ahi, brisket and mole tacos and so much more made for a delicious contest. Coco Maya walked away with the top spot, and an honorable mention is owed to Not Not Tacos by Sam the Cooking Guy, whose Korean short rib and daikon tacos were made even more heavenly with the best homemade tortillas of the day.

The San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival raises funds for culinary, oenology and hospitality scholarships and grants. To date, the program has awarded more than $450,000 to individuals and partnering nonprofits. For more information on The San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival and to stay updated on what’s in store for 2023, visit

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