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Our picks for the sometimes less obvious winners.
Best Way to Ingratiate Yourself at a Potluck (2012)
61 Sherwood Drive, Salinas
It’s finally happened. Those seemingly cool people you want to get to know have invited you. It’s an afternoon thing, a potluck, they say, so bring something to share with the group. That something—the one thing that will make you the most popular kid —is available at an aging little drive-in on the outskirts of Salinas’ notorious Chinatown. The young woman behind the counter will hand it to you in a foil-lined paper bag. Don’t open it, don’t even think of it. One nibble will lead to another, and then another, and by the time you make it to the potluck, your offering will be gone. Crispy on the outside, meltingly tender on the inside, take a pair of forks, shred up the salty, succulent meat, stuff it into the warm corn tortillas you’ve also bought and start handing it out to your new best friends. For less than $20, you can walk away with about two pounds of meat, a few dozen tortillas, a soda-cup full of fiery salsa and enough cilantro and chopped onion for everyone. Not only is it the best deal in town, it may be the best fistful of Michoacan-inspired pork north of the border. (Or as one local fan put it, if the feds could get away with it, they’d probably classify these as a Schedule III drug.)