It's a genuine pleasure holding a paper tray of street stall food aloft as you weave through Old Town's blocked off streets during the Friday Night Market, the singer from a local band crooning along. It's feels downright neighborly, combing through the art and handiwork of the vendors, saying hello to familiar faces. Then one of those faces sails past with something that looks and smells amazing and where did they get that? Humboldt Made's weekly get togethers continue through the end of this month, which is plenty of time to sample all you want, especially if you have some advance intel.
There are a number of reliable street corner and farmers market standbys in regular attendance. Nicaraguan Food ("History of a Nacatamal," Sept. 2, 2021) and Pupuseria San Miguel ("The Pupusa Hustle," April 21) offer dueling takes on the soft, filled and grilled pupusa, while the black Los Giles taco truck looms with its objectively perfect tortas and burritos. The Oyster Lady stall is in attendance with dill and garlic buttered Pacifics off the grill, and there are Kumamotos to be had with miso or Champagne garlic butter from North Bay Shellfish.
If you haven't been able to catch them elsewhere, the ladies of Frybread Love are a worthy stop with their Indian tacos and whatever sweet specials move them that day ("Sharing the Frybread Love," May 6, 2021). Pizza Gago's oven is furiously turning out pies with toppings like lobster mushrooms, sausage, mozzarella, Manchego cheese and Calabrian chile oil. If you've just come from chopping wood or childcare and are truly famished, the Taste of Bim truck has a two-hander of a Caribbean chicken curry bowl that will satisfy.
But there are some new and newish stalls not to be missed. Pick up a beverage to keep you steady while waiting in line — Familia has your caffeine fix, the adorable Pony Keg horse trailer is on hand with beer, wine and cider, and all streets lead to the Six Rivers Brewery tent in the center of everything, also with beer, wine and cider. If you're lucky, the folks from the long-anticipated S.I.P. may be around with boba tea and perhaps a Spam-musubi. Now you're ready to explore some relative newcomers.
Unlike the flour pastry empanadas you already love, these South American snacks have a crispy yellow corn crust. The beef or chicken filling, stew-thick with potato and spices, is hot so be patient and dip it in the accompanying tangy salsa.
Mango habanero wings, five for $10
Pork eggrolls, five for $12
Wings and eggrolls go together like wings and eggrolls. I refuse to explain that to anyone who has yet to enjoy them as a pairing. Yang's are fried well, like bar wings, and the sweet and spicy glaze on them gives your lips a buzz but not enough fire to end your grazing. The flaky layers of the eggroll break open with audible crunch to reveal the classic pork filling.
Campechano huarache, $14
Through the netting, you can watch as the masa base of your platter-sized huarache is flipped on the flat-top before it's topped with crumbly queso fresco, paper-thin grilled asada and bright orange chorizo. A sprinkling of cilantro and it's over to you. The fresh cheese counters especially well with the chorizo, which will not go with your shirt. You should find a place to sit.
Rax on Rax
Wings, three for $5
Mac and cheese, $5
Is there never enough sauce on your wings? There is now. Both the OG Barbecue and the mustard-spiked Carolina Gold Sauce wings — the specialty of the house — are downright dripping with the glossy stuff. The cheddar-heavy baked mac and cheese is less saucy but homey and satisfying.
Cinnamon, powdered or plain mini doughnuts, 12 for $7
Here I repeat important life advice: If you have an opportunity for a hot doughnut, take it. These are light and springy, the experience heightened by watching them flip in the tiny fryer before they get the dusting of your choice. If you're wondering if you can get this little setup to come to you, Mmmh Donuts does indeed cater.
Food with Hoy
The smashburger has lately taken over the burger conversation and with good reason. While it's not as Instagram friendly as towering behemoths dripping with cheese and toppings, the flavor is tops. These patties, pressed flat on the grill for perfect browning, topped with cheese, steamed under a cover and stacked up two to a bun, deliver taste instead of hype.
Share your tips about What's Good with Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her), arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.Editor's note: This story has been updated to correctly list the fillings of Las Colombianas' empanadas.