Need to get away? Here are weekly tips on places to visit for a few days outside the Sacramento area.
For much of this country’s history, whenever a distant part of the world convulsed with war or political strife, people fleeing that unrest would invariably show up in the streets and schools of American towns, eager to rebuild their lives and bring over family stuck back home.
Sparked by the Vietnam War, millions of refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam made their way to San Jose, Sacramento and other cities. Decades before that, religious violence in Eastern Europe sent Jewish refugees fleeing to the U.S.
President Donald Trump’s suspension of all refugee admissions for 120 days has sparked a national debate about that policy. For the curious traveler, at least, our refugee tradition has introduced Americans to cultures – and mostly food – that otherwise might have stayed unknown.
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For instance, parts of the Silicon Valley suburb of Fremont are now informally called Little Kabul, with the influx of refugees following the Soviet invasion of the Central Asian country and the subsequent rise of the Taliban. Many Afghans have also arrived over the past 15 years with Special Immigrant Visas, including an influx to Sacramento, after serving with the U.S. military as translators, advisers and in other capacities.
The Salang Pass Restaurant (37462 Fremont Blvd., 510-795-9200) has emerged as a meeting point for much of the South Bay community, as well as for non-Afghans curious to try Afghanistan’s dumplings, lamb dishes and other specialties. The Maiwand Market (2915 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, 408-985-0988) also is a popular place to pick up Afghan and Pakistani products such as freshly made naan bread.
In the Central Valley, Hmong, Mien and other refugees hailing mainly from the Southeast Asian country of Laos have settled in cities such as Merced and Fresno and brought their foods and festivals with them. One spot for pho, papaya salad and other specialties is Houa Khong Restaurant (85 E. 13th St., Merced, 209-722-5541), a family-style joint run out of what looks like a private house. All sorts of festivals and dinners are also held around the Central Valley, including a Mien-organized Valentine’s Day party in Oroville on Feb. 11.
One of the biggest refugee waves of the 1980s started in Central America, where Salvadorans fled years of civil war. Many Americans know Salvadoran culture and cuisine through pupusas, a fried, savory pad of corn meal usually filled with cheese, seasoned meats, beans or loroco, a boiled, slightly bitter flower.
Good pupusa options in Northern California include Cafe Platano (834 W. 11th St., Tracy, 209-834-2125), Las Brumas Salvadoran Food (913 W. 10th St., Antioch, 925-732-3265) and La Santaneca (3781 Mission St., San Francisco, 415-648-1034).
Other refugee communities include Tibetans in the upper East Bay, Russians and Ukrainians in Berkeley and Sacramento and, of course, the vibrant Vietnamese neighborhoods of San Jose. That history is all there to explore as Americans weigh the country’s future.
Antique book fair
What: Browse nearly 200 booksellers from around the world at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Oakland. Unique first-edition pieces include medieval bibles and manuscripts, Harvey Milk’s first campaign poster and a book from Abraham Lincoln’s law library.
When: 3 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
Where: Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland
Cost: $10 to $23
Wine and chocolate
What: Sip handcrafted wines from more than 50 wineries during the Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend. Guests who find the “Golden Ticket” in their chocolate will win prizes.
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, and Sunday, Feb. 12
Where: Various wineries in Lodi, Galt, Acampo and Manteca
Cost: $65; free for designated drivers 21 and older
Cruisin’ around the world
What: The No Reservations Travel Club of Sacramento invites community members to a presentation by Linda Krugman on her travels in Taiwan and New Zealand.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7
Where: Arden-Dimmick Library Community Room, 891 Watt Ave.