We all have our favorite neighborhood dining spots, whether it’s your date-night go-to, a preferred bar stool (and drink list) for happy hour, or a place with a dish you can’t resist, no matter what else is on the menu. Dining rituals give us comfort: the satisfaction of knowing you’re gonna love what you get.
But what about the excitement of trying something new? Benicia boasts a range of cuisine, with both established and new eateries giving diners the chance to broaden their culinary horizons. Enter Taste of First Street (TOFS), the city’s annual event for food-loving locals and visitors.
Taking place from 6-9pm on Tuesday, August 21, TOFS brings together people, food, and the spirit of the downtown restaurant community. Celebrating its 10th year, the event is put on by Benicia Main Street, and features a sampling of cuisine from participating First Street restaurants. “People get in their routine of going to one or two or three restaurants,” says Deborah Housman, Event Coordinator of Benicia Main Street. “Taste of First Street gets people trying restaurants that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
So how does it work?
If you’re a ticket holder—aka “taster”—you’ll check in at one of two First Street locations to receive your plate and wine glass. (The plate is designed with an insert for the wine glass, making for easy transport.) Two glasses of wine are included with ticket cost, so you can start sipping your choice of red or white when you check in. Grab your second glass at either check-in spot. From there, tasters choose their route; each ticket lists the participating restaurants, so you can proceed as you wish.
On average, about 15 restaurants typically participate, with bite-sized or bigger samples served in front of each eatery. “People are well fed,” says Housman. “By the end of the night we hear a lot of comments from people that they didn’t realize they would be so full.”
While TOFS gives exposure to Benicia’s restaurant community, it’s also a fundraiser: all ticket proceeds go to Benicia Main Street, which supports and promotes the downtown community through various events. The restaurants, in turn, donate their time and food samples to the event.
With 300 tickets available, the event usually sells out, so Housman recommends securing tickets in advance. “People come with friends or on a date night,” she says. “This is also an event we suggest for people new to town, as you can try most of the restaurants downtown in one evening.”
TOFS tickets are $30 per adult or $55 for two adults. They can be purchased at Benicia Main Street, 90 First Street, or online at www.BeniciaMainStreet.org. The day of the event ticket prices go up to $35 per adult or $65 for two adults. “Taste of First Street has something for everyone,” says Housman. “People who are open to tasting and trying different foods—this is the event for them.”