Food For THought

Jorge Casas, of Casas de Humos Barbecue, makes swoonworthy brisket, but is no slouch when it comes to burgers and succulent, piled-high pulled pork sandos too. But to know where to find the good grub, you have to follow Casas de Humos on social media.

Earlier this year, on a pre-pandemic late Saturday morning in Salinas, a line formed down about half the 200 block of Main Street and wrapped around the corner, west on Gabilan Street. The destination for the three or four dozen people standing in that line: The Beerded Bean. The reason for waiting in that line (other than The Beerded Bean’s really good coffee and super friendly service): donuts. Not just any donuts, but Hole Foods Vegan Donuts.

Baked, not fried, and vegan.

It was a scene straight out of New York, where locals will take almost any excuse they can get to wait in line for food (consider Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo, where people line up multiple times for a chance to get one of Ansel’s freshly fried cronuts – a croissant-donut hybrid that, with all those flakey, sugary, buttery layers, is most definitely not vegan.)

But unlike Ansel, you had to be in-the-know to know where to find your Hole Foods Vegan Donuts. They’re a cottage-licensed pop-up that partners with bricks-and-mortar businesses to bring in the crowds.

Here’s a fast (and by no means comprehensive) list of some places you should keep your eyes on (via Instagram), for pop-ups and more, in Monterey County.

Hole Foods Vegan Donuts

Hole Foods just finished a series of pop-ups in July, at Other Brother Beer Co. in Seaside for July Fourth, then at XL Public House in Old Town Salinas on the following Saturday and then at Fruition Brewing in Watsonville on July 19. (Beer and donuts? Who knew.) Among the flavors on offer: churro, strawberry, mango, Oreo and Mexican hot chocolate. Most of their pop-ups are first-come, first-serve, so expect a line, but they occasionally change things up and do pre-order only. Watch their whereabouts on Instagram @vegandonuts831.

Birria Los Laureles

The quesabirrias (fried tacos with cheese and birria, or stewed and shredded goat or beef) look astounding. They probably taste even better, especially if you don’t cheap out and spend the extra few dollars for the consome on the side – you grab a taco, dunk it in the consome and enjoy the combo of crunchy, salty, cheesy and drippy. But to find that out, you have to pre-order for one of their pop-ups. Birria Los Laureles just celebrated its 2,000th follower on Instagram with a big giveaway: 30 quesabirrias, three large containers of consome and a churro cheesecake from Lupe Marquez at Lupe’s Sweet Creations. Follow the taco trail @birrialoslaureles. Look for Lupe’s Sweet Creations @lupes_sweecreations.

Casas de Humo Barbecue

The undisputed pop-up king of Monterey County? Maybe so. Casas, just in the past few months, has done burger pop-ups in South County at the Fourth Street Taphouse in Gonzales, pop-ups in Salinas and even a massive barbecue giveaway of sandwiches and chips in honor of Chef-Owner Jorge Casas’ birthday. The portions are large and the brisket is juicy and smoky and as close to perfection as beef gets, but check out the grilled sausage and ribs too with one of their boxes to-go, which includes a variety of meat and sides like beans and potato salad. Whenever Casas pops up at a local bakery, as they did on July 19 with Guadalajara Bakery on East Market Street in Salinas, count on receiving fresh-baked goods with your order. This time, it was conchitas. Check them out @casasdehumobarbecue, and throw some love at Guadalajara Bakery @guadalajarabkrysalinas.

Secret Bakery

This one is not a pop-up, although you can find them popping up at local farmers markets or via pre-order pickup. Secret Bakery brings an astounding array of baked goods to the Saturday morning farmers market in Oldtown Salinas: Cherry-chocolate rye; croissants in traditional, almond or chocolate; traditional fruit-filled pastries; sourdough rounds; honey wheat loaves; double fermented Scottish oat; baguettes and boules and more. The morning buns, sugary and crisp on the outside with that perfect soft center, are glorious. Snag a bag of sourdough biscuits for the pups in your life and that way nobody in the family misses out on the carby goodness. Dream of toast @secretbakeryshh or order online at secretbakeryshh.com

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