Defend Your Terrible Hometown: Modesto
Editor's Note: California has its fair share of pretty crappy places (hi, Fresno!), but like Snape in Harry Potter, they aren't actually as bad as you think(/probably secretly love your mom). Today, we're giving an actual native a shot at defending one of the crappiest: Modesto.
I am from Modesto, and I am not ashamed. But man, if I were, there would be plenty of reasons to be: Modesto may or may not have started the California housing market disaster in the mid-2000s. It’s ridden with crime, gangs, and car theft. It’s ugly. It’s hot. Its nicknames are “Meth-desto” and “Mo-les-to.” And it’s famous for young, female residents dying in mysterious ways.
It's why when someone finds out I'm from Modesto, I get the exact same five questions:
1. “I’ve heard of Modesto (I think I’ve been there on the way to Yosemite), is there an In-N-Out?”
Yes. There are two, actually. I haven’t been to either.
2. “Do you know Scott and Laci Peterson?”
I did. I once vacationed with them -- it’s a long story.
3. “Do you know Chandra Levy?”
I knew her, too; went to school and took ballet with her.
4. “Do you drink Boone's?”
Not anymore, but I did A LOT in high school (sorry Mom and Dad).
5. “Did you grow up on a farm?”
No. I grew up in a house. With a fence and everything. But, and I know this may come as a shock, for everything Modesto has working against it, it has many redeeming things working for it.
Here are the 13 reasons Modesto isn't actually The Worst:
The largest winery IN THE WORLD is based in Modesto
And while E.&J. Gallo Winery may be known for making Bartles & Jaymes, Boone’s Farm, and Thunderbird, it also produces some really amazing wine and lots of it. Who doesn’t like wine? Who?!
Three words: Warm. Summer. Nights.
No jacket, no sweater, no pants required. It’s hot in the day and it’s slightly less hot at night. Perfect for swimming, barbecuing, orchard parties, what-have-you, no matter what time of day it is.
You wouldn’t have Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Willow if it weren't for Modesto
You want those things, right??? George Lucas was born and raised here, and based his famous 1973 classic American Graffiti on cruising down McHenry Ave (a favorite pastime of all Modestans). Two other Hollywood notables from Modesto: Timothy Olyphant and Jeremy Renner. You know, the badass US Marshal in the best FX show ever and the new Bourne dude, respectively.
Oh this? It's just the best city motto ever: “Water Wealth Contentment Health”
WHAT MORE COULD YOU POSSIBLY NEED?? And not only is it funny, it's also a great example of crowdsourcing in 1911 -- this was the winning choice (second place, actually) of a motto-creating contest.
Modesto is home to The Jerk
Available on a Tiki patio bar at Minnie’s Restaurant and Bar (which is surrounded by tropical vegetation, water features, and lively patrons), this is a concoction of what I imagine to be sugary juices, sherbet, and a healthy dose of Bacardi 151 poured down the straw and floated on the top. Buying one for your unassuming friend will give you a good laugh when they unknowingly hit that secret stash of super-strong rum. And buying more than one will give you diabetes.
It’s REALLY centrally located
Want to go to San Francisco? Hour and a half. Want to go to Tahoe? Three hours. Santa Cruz? Two hours. Napa? Also two hours. Granted, these are all non-traffic scenarios, but if you time it right, you can go to the beach and back AND to the snow and back all in the same day.
Our Mexican food > your Mexican food
Like all of the neighboring towns up and down Hwy 99, Modesto has a lot of really good Mexican food, whether you’re talking taco trucks, taquerias, or upscale establishments like La Morenita and El Rosal. This local’s favorite, though? Family-owned Garcia Jo Jo’s. The last remaining location is on McHenry Ave and has all of its original charm, from the ‘70s-colored interior to the original loudspeaker at the drive-thru. Nothing is over $7, everything is served on Styrofoam, and all of it is delicious.
Everything grows in Modesto. Yep, even that. Uh huh, that, too.
You literally cannot beat the berries, tomatoes, peaches, nuts, etc., etc., ETC. There are still roadside produce stands and also an actual farmers market (with all the same stuff you find at the Ferry Building, but it’s local-er and costs half the price).
There’s actually culture in Modesto
There is a ballet company (the Central West Ballet), a symphony (the Modesto Symphony Orchestra), an opera group (the Townsend Opera), the Gallo Center for the Arts, and even a museum (The Great Valley Museum). Nobody believes me, but Modesto isn’t completely comprised of rednecks.
There’s one publicly maintained tree per every two people
That’s a lot of freaking trees (more than 100,000!) and doesn’t even include the trees on private property.
We have all the quaint, small-town activities you secretly wish your city had
Modesto may have a population of more than 200,000, but it definitely has that small-town feel (once you get past the strip malls that line the freeway). You can enjoy a picnic and a bottle of wine at Concert in the Park, peanuts and beer at a Minor League Baseball game, (Go Modesto Nuts!), dancing in the streets at X Fest, or ice blocking down the fairway at Del Rio Country Club.
There are parking lots and car washes. Everywhere.
This may not seem like something to get excited about, but after being a 15-year San Francisco resident, I miss them.
You can buy a house. With a yard. And a garage. Possibly even with a pool and a slide.
My sister has a palatial four-bedroom house with a huge yard and her mortgage is cheaper than my rent for a shared apartment. Definitely makes you think...
Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.
Erin Egleston is the Director of Sales and Partnerships at Liquor.com in San Francisco. When the long days of booze marketing are over, she can be found trying new restaurants or enjoying a glass of sauv blanc at her favorite bar, Perry's on Union.