I was born and raised in Salinas. As a kid growing up on the East-Side, all I knew was that our town was bad and that it was dangerous. There were gang shootings all the time. Many of my classmates had cousins or siblings gunned down in front of their own homes. It was the norm. When I turned 18, I was so relieved to be leaving and starting a new life in a big city.
Ironically, after almost 4 years away with sporadic visits here and there, I started to miss my hometown. I wrote research papers about Salinas, the gang violence, and began to see that my town wasn’t the problem, but instead, one of the issues was the way it was being portrayed in the media, and by those of power in more affluent communities and respected positions.
Fast forward a few years, moving back to Salinas was tough because I like the hustle and bustle and constant chaos of the city. But coming back, I saw a shift in this city. People were standing up for what was right. People were fighting back and regaining their communities. Like any city, there are challenges. Our city still has a long way to go, but I am so proud to say that I love Salinas.
Salinas has seen inhabitants like the Native American tribes, the Spanish, and now a large population of the city reflects that same heritage. As stated on the city’s website, “Today, "The Salad Bowl of the World" fuels a $2 billion agriculture industry which supplies 80% of the country's lettuce and artichokes, along with many other crops.” And Salinas’ current success is built upon the backs of our hard-working families. Many of us that are rebuilding this city know this first hand.
Growing up here, you don’t realize how valuable the history of this town is, until you encounter modern successes and analyze just how far we’ve come as a community.
And to truly get a feel of the old and the new coming together to revive a town’s energy, you have to stop by Oldtown Salinas. When I was younger, my family and I never really frequented Oldtown. When we did, it was strange. It felt like we were in some other place far from Salinas. Today, it’s one of my favorite places to shop, hang out, and create content!
Our first stop on our day trip was at a local shop that is a mixture of different things that include a record store and art gallery! It was so cool to see the creativity Salinas holds right up close and as soon as we started the day!
It was mid-morning and we needed some energy for this fun-filled day ahead. We stopped by arguably the most popular spot in Salinas, The Beerded Bean. The Beerded Bean is a lively and equally chill coffee shop by day and a vibrant brewery and live music venue by night!
Joey and I have been here several times before and we love it! It’s a fairly new establishment, but my current favorite is the Matcha Latte. Joey can’t get enough of the Mexican Mocha. What’s also great is that they sometimes hold pop-ups with a local vegan pastry vendors, and support other local businesses in the area whether it be through social media or by actually selling their product. If you’re ever in Salinas, even just passing through, you MUST stop by The Beerded Bean!
With our bellies content, we crossed the street and headed towards Downtown Book & Sound. Now, we had just visited the record store which we later learned is the “Sound” half of Downtown Book & Sound. The Book part is just as awesome, but definitely more my style. They offer a huge selection of both new & used books. They have books in every genre you can think of, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. I can already tell that this may be my new happy place!
Now, I know in our last day trip to Gilroy, we stopped by an antique store. But guess what, we did it again (I told you, I love antique stores)! It's just fun to browse through old fashions, home decor, and collectibles.
Just outside the antique store on Gabilan and Main Street was the Oldtown Salinas Marketplace, also known as the Farmer's Market. The Marketplace features many local vendors that sell everything from produce, to hummus, to art and jewelry. Joey and I were enamored with one of the booths that sold hand knitted Baby Yodas!
Just up Main Street, passing the multi colored horse mural and Maya Cinemas, is the National Steinbeck Center. This museum and nonprofit "honors Nobel prize winning author John Steinbeck." (Fun fact: I had my Quinceanera party here.)
The National Steinbeck Center is a fun place to visit with kids or if you just want to learn more about John Steinbeck and the history of the Salinas Valley. I don't visit often, but every time I do, I'm always inspired to dive into the Grapes of Wrath or Travels with Charley.
What I think is most beautiful about Oldtown Salinas is that it is comprised of local business and local entrepreneurs. It's even inspiring sometimes to see fellow natives accomplishing their big city dreams here in this semi-small town.
Sushi Daruma is decorated with so many symbols of Japan (including Totoro). The staff is super hospitable and helpful. They helped us narrow down our orders (we wanted everything!) to try the edamame and gyoza appetizers. For our main dishes, we chose the California rolls, Sushi, and Chicken Teriyaki. We scarfed it all down with some hot tea. It was so delicious! We loved it so much, we've had dinner there every Saturday for the past month! So obviously, I highly recommend it.
Salinas is home. I love that it is evolving to become an epicenter of the Central Coast, and definitely the place to be for anyone living in town.
Have you visited Salinas yet? Do you have questions about where to go or need further recommendations? Feel free to message me! I'd love to help out!
Thanks for reading!
-The B of V