Skip to main content

Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Enjoy it All at Visalia’s Taste of Downtown

Aug 19, 2016 11:00AM ● By Ben Ralph

Taste the Night

September 2016
By Ben Ralph

Nothing brings people together more than food. With the world sometimes looking like an endless assortment of Kanye vs. Taylor, there’s the family dinner to bring us back to sanity, community and meatloaf (and when meatloaf unites you, the bond is not easily broken). Think of most major holidays. Is there a holiday that is not celebrated with some sort of feast? Entire religious practices are built on the act of abstaining from food as a sign of penitence, renunciation, self-control and enlightenment, and for those who have tried the act of the fast, the difficulty is fierce. Such is the power of food. 

Every living thing must eat, but perhaps one factor of being human is how we eat. Snakes, and some children, swallow their food whole. Vultures scavenge for rotting carcasses and indulge in the leftover meal of some other beast. And yet, humanity does it differently (yes, sometimes not, but differently enough). Every living thing must eat, but humans cook. Yes, there are tales of Bonobos that have cooked with fire; however, these tales also omit the fact that the matches, utensils and, yes, the actual hamburgers were supplied by humans (true story, FYI). If humans hadn’t helped, Bonobos would not have cooked hamburgers. Truly shocking. 

And so, cheating Bonobos aside, humans mastered the art of cooking. We can take food items and transform them through some of the most ingenious methods imaginable. Whether it’s the low and slow methods of Southern barbecue or the sugar balloons at Alinea in Chicago, the mundane is made extraordinary, and delicious. Professionals aside, is there anything better than a home-cooked meal prepared by grandmothers, mothers, fathers, uncles? A strong argument is no, especially after Grandma elevates Depression-era chicken n’ dumplings to levels of tastiness that would have possibly saved Tom Joad (literary joke…it’s okay not to laugh).  

Bad jokes aside, there will be no cheating Bonobos at the Taste of Downtown in Visalia, only good food and drink. An annual event featuring culinary creations by some of the best chefs around, the Taste of Downtown offers attendees a chance to sample delectable food and drink as they tour the heart of Visalia. According to Downtown Visalians, this is the 23rd event and one not to miss, though many do since the tickets sell out every year. According to Christi Metzner, coordinator of the event, 800 tickets will be available and more than 30 restaurants will participate. 

  The general idea is that an attendee has a card that allows them to sample from each participating restaurant once. And so the adventure begins, as participants do the Main Street-Oak Street loop either by foot or by trolley. Metzner also noted that each participant is encouraged to use an app that allows them to vote on their favorite tasting and help decide which restaurant will get the People’s Choice Award for this year. The prior winner was Fugazzi’s and the competition is always fierce. Channel 47 also has specific raters in order to determine their award for the best of downtown. 

  Though there’s a competitive flavor to the event, the main motivation, according to Metzner, is to showcase the downtown area and allow locals to taste and see that downtown Visalia is good. Literally. Along with the participating restaurants are the Band of the Sierra and Suncrest Bank, who host the wine and beer tastings. “They do their own thing,” Metzner noted, and historically this meant that not just beer and wine were made available, but so were various local treats, such as chocolate, food and other delectable morsels for attendees to indulge on as they sample various libations. 

With all this available one would believe that the fee would be stiff. However, $35 will get you in. A modest price to pay when the best of downtown Visalia cuisine will be made available for your humble partaking and scrutiny. Because of this, it is encouraged to get your tickets quick since there is no room for expanding the guest list. After all, one must be fair to the restaurants generously producing tasting items for 800 guests; and yet, with attendance and restaurant participation being steady all these years, it appears they do so gladly and with open doors, while locals join together to accept their hospitality.

To purchase tickets, contact Downtown Visalians at 

119 S. Church St., Visalia or (559)732-7737