Downtown’s Chili Cook-Off ready to spice up things in March 


Get your palates ready for Downtown Ithaca’s 24th Annual Chili Cook-Off happening in March.

Downtown Ithaca typically hosts this crowd-drawing cook-off in early February; however, due to the Omicron variant sweeping through the community, the event is moving to one month later, Saturday, March 5, to keep everyone safe. 

“Dozens of restaurants and eateries participate and thousands of people show up for our Chili Cook-Off each year, and we want everyone to have the safest experience possible. To that end, we’ve worked with the Tompkins County Health Department to determine an ideal time to host this event, and early March seems to be a good fit,” says Scott Rougeau, special events director for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

New this year, guests will have a couple of opportunities to enjoy chilis. During the week leading up to the big event, folks will be able to enjoy bowlfuls of steaming sweet, spicy, tangy, meaty, vegan, and vegetarian chilis and chili-inspired items at participating restaurants. Guests can then come downtown on March 5 for even more chili options at the cook-off competition. Each of the chilies in the competition is freshly prepared by some of the region’s best chefs from over two dozen participating restaurants and eateries.  Locally and regionally produced brews, wines and ciders tastings will also be part of the event. 

The DIA is currently recruiting restaurants and some of the confirmed participants include Antlers Restaurant, a newcomer to the cook-off, Kilpatrick’s Publick House, Mahogany Grill, Lucky Hare Brewing Company, and The Hotel Ithaca. 

Culinary experts from these and other participating restaurants and eateries will be competing for the public’s votes to earn People’s Choice and Best Presentation honors. You’ll be able to vote for your favorites at the event. Meanwhile, a juried group will decide the top three entries for Best Meat Chili, Best Vegetarian Chili, and Best Local Beverage. The grand prize is the famed Chili Cook-Off trophy and plenty of bragging rights! If you’re a restaurant or eatery interested in participating in this event, you can complete the Chili Cook-Off registration form on 

“We look forward to the Chili Cook-Off every year, and we’re certainly thrilled to be able to organize it safely. The public is truly in for a treat. The competition is typically fierce but friendly, so we’re expecting many tasty chilies that everyone may enjoy. We thank the community for its continued support for this ultimate foodie and family-friendly event,” says Rougeau. 

For additional Chili Cook-Off information and to purchase tickets, visit

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