Filipinotown (Los Angeles), California
Apparently, no one went over the food truck rule book with Filipino upstarts Dollar Hits. For starters, the mobile kitchen isn’t – you can always find them on the middle of a block on L.A.’s Temple Street in Filipinotown in front of a small strip mall and a stone’s throw between hipster Echo Park and the eastern fringes of food-centric Koreatown. The business side of Dollar Hits appears to take place in the omnipresent nondescript white van parked in front of the matching canteen. If you can’t find the truck by sight, fear not – the sound of Pinoy pop music and proprietor Elvie Chan on the megaphone-quality mic will indicate the truck’s location better than your TomTom.
Chan (along with her sisters Nely and Josie) launched the business in 2014 with a unique concept: provide comforting Filipino street food at a price that can’t be touched by the gourmet wagons saturating Los Angeles’ streets. The bulk of the menu is comprised of traditional bites on wooden skewers; each one (with three or four pieces) runs a tidy little dollar each, proving that Dollar Hits is not just a catchy name. The trick here is that the skewers are partially cooked – patrons flaunt their charcoal mastery by finishing the items over grills on the sidewalk. It’s a community affair – friends are made, and street cred is built when the onlookers watch you neatly polish off that $2 balut. Items are ordered off a checklist, and your selection is given to you in a foil casserole pan.
The skewers are a thing of beauty, with organs and various bits of a variety of animals marinated and ready for the hibachi – bright orange fluffy kwek-kwek (battered hard-boiled quail eggs), the aptly named Betamax (gelatinous cubes of congealed pork blood), (Isaw) coiled chicken and sliced pork intestines, and chewy, savory Adidas (chicken feet). There’s a spicy, vinegar-based sauce and a sweet sauce for dipping, and the knowledgeable staff will recommend which skewer gets dunked in each. In addition to the skewers, there’s a plethora of other Filipino comfort food such as the aforementioned balut, lumpia, and a thick and almost clear arozcaldo (rice porridge) with onion and toasted garlic, the perfect dish for a brisk Los Angeles evening.
While soda and bottled water is available, the better way to go is with the bottomless Styrofoam cup of melon juice. Iced down in big plastic vats like agua fresca, the juice isn’t overly sweet, and the bits of pulp are a sweet finish to the drink. Lines can be long (which limits space on the grills) and parking can be tricky (unless you luck out and find a spot in the strip mall after the other businesses are closed), but there isn’t a better bargain to be had anywhere in the city of Los Angeles, where you can eat like the King of Filipinotown for a sawbuck.
After several visits, I haven’t found a questionable item on the menu, so if you bring some cash and an appetite, the hits just keep on coming.
VIDEO: Watch Val slave over a hot grill at Dollar Hits in Los Angeles on Trippy Food on YouTube
NOTE: The cost for the food was provided by Dollar Hits, which did not influence the content provided in this article.