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The Best Food and Drink Events in April and May

Eat.Drink.Read., Gator by the Bay, and Festival of Arts in North Park


Gator by the Bay

Eat. Drink. Read.

When: May 2, 6–8:30 p.m.
Where: San Diego Air & Space Museum, 2001 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park

I’m a food writer. Earned a living with words for 25 years. So there’s no chance I’m not supporting the annual fundraiser for the San Diego Council on Literacy, one of my favorite events of the year. There are over 560,000 adults in San Diego who have difficulty reading, which affects them and their kids. Money from this event supports SDCOL and its 29 affiliated literacy programs, which serve over 179,000 residents every year at no cost. Plus, it’s just one of my favorite events, theme-wise. Chefs pick a book or literary character and create a dish or tiny feast as an homage to it. And of course there will be beer, wine, and spirits on hand. Show up, eat and drink narratively, help humans read.

Cost: $65–$75


Gator by the Bay

When: May 9–12
Where: Spanish Landing, 3900 North Harbor Drive (across from the airport)

The Gator is exactly its name: a festival on the bay exploding with all things Southern and blues and river-French. Steel guitars, fiddles, accordions, triangles, harmonicas, upright basses, washboards. Over 100 musical acts perform on seven stages (including five-time Grammy nominee Marcia Ball, and Grammy-winning zydeco champs Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band). There’s a “French Quarter Food Court” with 10,000 pounds of live Louisiana crawfish, grilled oysters, gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, red beans and rice, crab cakes, alligator, frog legs, fried okra, lobster mac ’n’ cheese, po’boys, beignets. Chefs give cooking demos on some of the Southern classics. Mardi Gras-ness is everywhere. It’s as beautifully, loudly Southern as San Diego gets, minus the sticky oppressive swamp sweat. It takes four days to do it all for a reason. It’s also extremely kid-oriented, so parents don’t have to find a sitter unless they want to for psychological or metaphysical reasons.

Cost: $35–$200


Festival of Arts in North Park

When: May 11, 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Where: North Park

Well, this escalated quickly. What started as a small, cute arts event is now an annual thing for over 40,000 people. It’s got 150 visual artists, five live music stages with awesome, quality bands (do yourself a favor and sample some tracks from The Donkeys, and Lady Dottie and the Diamonds), all kinds of restaurants, an entire craft beer block with 35 brews. You get the picture. North Park is still one of San Diego’s most creative neighborhoods. The punks and poets may be a little older now and have kids, but they’re punk and poet kids. And it’s free. A day spent walking the streets is a day well spent.

Cost: Free


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