One of my favorite things about Columbia is that we aren’t very pretentious. We don’t have many places that are too fancy for the average person to go; but we are home to the SC Philharmonic, we have do still have multiple ballet companies, and we have places where you can drop triple digits for a bottle of wine if you so desire. We’ve got ourselves in check, and we’re in touch with the realities of people’s wallets. So instead of a fancy, expensive food and wine festival like other cities in the Southeast, we bring everyone out during the day for Viva La Vista, a showcase of the best restaurants, bars, and desserteries all outside and lined up down Lincoln Street for a day of bite sized samples, full sized beers, and daylong fun.

This is my third year attending VLV, and a few changes were in effect this year. The best one was no more pesky tokens. Instead of exchanging your dollars for tokens for food, the middleman was cut out and the money went directly to the vendors. An unfortunate change was that instead of a free event, it became a gated, ticketed one due to the Vista Guild booking and bringing in The Wailers, a band that used to tour with Bob Marley. This caused some disgruntlement on social media for the event, but it looked like plenty of people still came out to enjoy it and the beautiful September weather.

I didn’t eat as much as I did in previous years, but I still got to try everything that I wanted to. After walking over from the parking garage Kara and I were roasting, so we cooled off with Rita’s Italian Ice. They had a crazy flavor, Red Sour Patch Kids, so naturally I gravitated towards it. It wasn’t as tangy as you’d think it might be, and really hit the spot.

Next I hit up Wild Wings Cafe for fried macaroni and cheese bites with Southwestern dipping sauce. Do they serve these there regularly? If so, I gotta get a whole serving soon. I thoroughly enjoyed them, enough that I almost got another sample, but there was more, different food to try.

Another classic from last year that I couldn’t help but get again was the blue cheese chips from Liberty. We kept seeking out the shade and ate these chips while sitting on the sidewalk.

I liked the special touch that the organizers provided for the football fans- a bar in the middle of Gervais Street, complete with a bunch of tvs to satiate those who couldn’t miss more than a few seconds of the action. Even though it was only the Clemson game on, plenty of people were gathered around.

And then we grabbed one last treat before retreating into the dark depths of the Wild Hare. Two mini cupcakes for two dollars from Cupcake was probably one of the best deals at the whole festival. But we did abandon the festival to sit in the dark, cool bar because while it wasn’t a hot day, it was still a little warm. A vodka soda with a lime finished off my VLV experience, which I look forward to again next year, though I really hope that the restaurants will start offering new variety of sample sized fare at the festival, because it seems like a lot of the same items have been there the past few years. There’s so much creativity in the part of town, let’s toast it with a cold one because again, we’re Columbia, and we’re just as excited about our food scene as any town with their own fancy-pansty food and wine festival, we just get a whole lot more bang for our buck when we celebrate it.