By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
Goodbye Taste of La Mesa. Hello Taste of San Diego – East.
After 10 years of running the popular foodie event in La Mesa, the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce is changing venues, and also changing its name.
“We just didn’t want to be La Mesa-centric anymore because we never were,” said La Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Mary England. “All of our restaurants weren’t from La Mesa. So it just made sense to change the name.”
This year’s Taste of San Diego – East will be held in an 11,000-square-foot ballroom in the Town & Country Hotel in Mission Valley. England said the move made sense because Taste of La Mesa had long outgrown the La Mesa Community Center and Town & Country, although located in San Diego, has been a member of the chamber since its inception.
“So of course they were the first location we approached,” she said.
The large ballroom will combine the event under one roof — a major improvement over past events at the Community Center, which were separated into two different buildings, one of which didn’t have air conditioning.
“It got to be too difficult to manage. It was like having two separate events,” England said, adding that because of the two separate buildings, she had to do two of everything such as have two announcers for the prize raffle. “The problem was either cut the number of restaurants, cut the number of tickets, or move. That was pretty much the dilemma we had.”
Parking will also be improved. Town & Country will provide guests with free onsite parking close to the event. At the previous location, the chamber had to hire traffic control, parking attendants and a shuttle to meet the needs of guests at the taste event. The limited parking also limited the number of VIP tickets sold because preferred parking was part of the package.
“I only had 136 parking spaces because we parked in a community lot on the grounds of the Community Center and they have swim meets going on and other events so I couldn’t control any of the lot,” England said.
Although moving a popular event is always risky, England said she surveyed sponsors and businesses over a year ago to see how they would feel about moving locations.
“Many of them had the comment, ‘What took you so long?,’” she said.
For attendees coming from La Mesa, the new location is a short drive west against rush-hour traffic, and England pointed out that previous Taste of La Mesa events drew people from all over.
“Not all the people that went to the La Mesa Community Center for the Taste of La Mesa were from La Mesa anyway,” she said. “We’ve been selling to Santee, Spring Valley, San Diego.”
The ample parking and spacious ballroom will give guests the room to “taste, savor and mingle while enjoying the great food samplings prepared by all of our chefs and their staffs,” England said.
This year’s list of participating restaurants include: Anthony’s Fish Grotto, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, BO-beau kitchen + garden, Brew Coffee Spot, Brigantine Restaurant of La Mesa, Cafe Carmel Bakery, Cali Comfort BBQ, Dream Dinners, Eccentric International Chefs, Edible Arrangements, Hooleys Public House, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Lantern Crest Senior Living, Little Roma, Los Pinos Taco Shop, Marie Callender’s, Outback Steakhouse – Mission Valley, Pick Up Stix, Ranch Events, Red Lobster, Surf Rider Pizza Co., Sycuan Casino Resort, Terra American Bistro, The Hills Local Pub, and Valley Farm Market.
Taste of San Diego – East will be held June 3 at Town & Country Hotel, 500 Hotel Circle North in Mission Valley. VIP tasting runs 5-8 p.m. and general admission tasting runs 6-8 p.m.
Ticket pricing prior to May 28 (pricing increases after that date), which includes complimentary parking and unlimited visits to all food vendors, is $60 for VIP tasting and $40 for general admission. Tickets may be purchased at lamesachamber.com or by calling the chamber office at 619-465-7700.
— Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.