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Orange County BBQ Spot Promises 1,500 Free Meals for Unemployed Restaurant Workers

Heritage Barbecue’s give-back campaign goes down this Sunday as a drive-thru

A man in a white hat and red checkered shirt tends to a fire inside of a barbecue pit.
Heritage Barbecue
John Troxell
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

A prominent Orange County barbecue operator is promising to make 1,500 pulled pork sandwiches, for free, for any newly out-of-work restaurant employee in the county. Heritage Barbecue has long been one of the county’s most well-regarded pop-ups, doing Texas-style brisket, ribs, links, and pulled pork at various breweries and events while awaiting the construction of their standalone restaurant in San Juan Capistrano. But now, facing the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, owners Brenda and Daniel Castillo say they’re just going to try to cook for as many people as they can.

This Sunday at Craft House at 34094 Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point, the Castillos will be on hand to smoke up some 350 pounds of pork, which has been donated by West Coast Prime Meats. Bread is being donated by Dean Kim of OC Baking Company. Other volunteer cooks include Blake Mellgren of Craft House, Josh Lozano of Toast Costa Mesa, Ralph Montes of Taco Maria, and Trevor Kotchek, formerly of Sgt. Pepperoni’s.

“As chefs, how can we help each other?,” says Castillo in a phone call. “It’s about feeding each other, that’s how we show love to our friends and our co-workers. It’s what we know how to do.”

The weekend Craft House event starts at 11 a.m., and there will be a limit of two sandwiches per car, regardless of the number of people inside. Castillo tells Eater that he actually had to get special approval for the drive-thru, given the recent no-gathering order that went into effect in Orange County this week. He’s expecting big lines, and says he won’t turn away anyone else who needs a meal, regardless of whether or not they worked in restaurants specifically.

Restaurants around greater Los Angeles continue to adapt to new delivery and takeout mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic, including turning to feeding out-of-school LAUSD students for free. The Mozzaplex on Melrose is transforming nightly into a similar free meal setup for out-of-work restaurant employees, using funds donated from Maker’s Mark and the non-profit Lee Initiative.