WALLA WALLA -- When it comes to small towns and food, Santa Fe takes the cake.
The New Mexico city beat Walla Walla to be named Best Small Town for Food in the 2012 Best of the Road contest through Rand McNally and USA Today.
The winning communities in that and four other categories were announced Tuesday in Seattle, the final destination on the second annual cross-country road tour that brought Brian Cox and Mike Shubic through Walla Walla and five other towns in the quest to find the best off-the-beaten-path town for foodies.
Known as the "Road Bros," Cox and Shubic tasted their way through Lewiston, N.Y.; Bloomington, Ind.; Burnsville, Minn.; Charlottesville, Va.; Santa Fe; and Walla Walla. The communities were finalists for the title after being nominated online.
In his online posting about the winners, Shubic said choosing the winner was difficult.
"...We were treated like local celebrities and shown the best that each town we visited had to offer with respect to 'Best Food,'" he wrote. "Like people, each town was a bit different, some slightly excelled in one category over another, but ultimately a winner had to be selected.
"There is no question the 'winner' in each category will receive more recognition, but the publicity each town has received, and will continue to receive, certainly has made it all worthwhile."
A win for Walla Walla would have been a follow-up to last year's honor as "Friendliest Small Town." That award this year went to Murry, Ky.
Winners and points of interest in more than 20 categories between Washington, D.C. and Washington state will be recognized on bestoftheroad.com, written about by USA Today and featured in the 2014 Rand McNally Road Atlas.
Though the winner gets bragging rights, the publicity garnered by the finalist communities is also a prize.
The contest is also a competition among the two-person traveling teams who are each assigned a category and must document their trips through video, photos and blog entries as a chronicle of their adventures. The winning travel team was married couple Nikki and Dusty Green, known as "Two for the Road." Their prize was $10,000.
Tourism Walla Walla Executive Director Michelle Liberty said being part of the process continued to solidify Walla Walla's place as a destination for foodies, even if it wasn't seen as the overall winner.
"We had already been identified as a food town prior to the contest," she said. "I think we're doing great on that score."
The community could still be included in the Best of the Road recap hosted by Bert Kreischer on the Travel Channel on July 25. That program is set to air at 5 p.m.
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8321.