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story.lead_photo.caption News Tribune filePatrons enjoy a meal during a previous year's Downtown Dinner Dash event.

Come rain or shine, this year's Downtown Dinner Dash is on and offering a small taste of Jefferson City's finest local cuisine with everything from wings to spicy tuna sushiritos and trendy charcuterie boards.

Set for 6-9 p.m. tonight in the heart of downtown, the event bolsters local businesses and highlights cuisine carefully crafted by the area's own chefs.

Participating restaurants this year are Barvino, Bones In The Alley, La Chica Loca, Madison's Cafe, REVEL Catering & Events, Spectators, Sweet Smoke BBQ and The Grand Cafe. Big Whiskey's is also offering a curbside option for those not yet comfortable eating in a restaurant but who want to support the event, Downtown Association Vice President Natalie Newville said.

Since the Downtown Dinner Dash was canceled last year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Newville said she hopes this year can be a bounce back for the restaurants participating.

"This year, all of our restaurants are still open, and they're attempting to come back from the last year," she said. "Because they're open and they kind of have their own protocols in place, we knew we'd be able to move forward with the event."

In 2019, more than 100 people participated in the night of sampling, she said. Currently, the numbers are lower, but she hopes more people will purchase tickets to support the community.

"If you look at the list of those participating, they're the ones that donate to fundraisers in town and support our kids' sports teams and our schools," she said. "They are also giving to our community. We really hope that our community will come out and support them in this way."

Newville, who is participating in the night herself, is looking forward to sampling the menus and said it's a great way to try a different dish, perhaps something the chef doesn't usually make.

She and her accompanying friends and family are also looking forward to "spending a child-less evening downtown," she said.

Each participating restaurant will receive a portion of the $50 ticket, which includes gratuity for the wait staff, Newville said, and a smaller portion of the proceeds will also go back to the Downtown Association.

There were still spots open at each participating restaurant, with a couple of time slots sold out, as of Wednesday afternoon, and ticket sales end at noon today. In-person tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance through Square. For $50, attendees can order three "plate" items and three drinks (one at each stop of the night, 6, 7 and 8 p.m.). Big Whiskey's curbside option offers one appetizer and two entrees.

Following the dinner dash is an after party at River City Florist, 212 Madison St.

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