Dining Out: Food trucks serve up help

What do you get when you mix five food trucks with a handful of Crescenta Valley High School alumni seasoned liberally with admiration for 100 or so teachers at their old high school? You get a Thursday night hot spot in La Crescenta.

Every Thursday evening on the street in front of the Ralph's parking lot, a line of food trucks serving grilled, fried and stacked yummies creates a walled-in outdoor food court of sorts. It's the perfect place to meet up with friends or grab a no-cleaning-needed dinner. The weekly event is the brainchild of nonprofit group Small Change for Big Change, a well-meaning collective of CV High alumni who want to let their former teachers know how much they've influenced their lives. Part of each Thursday's proceeds go to support SCBC programs like providing classroom supplies, coordinating letters of appreciation, and bestowing teacher-of-the-year awards. So now instead of giving teachers snacks, you can eat the snacks and give them money instead.

There's a bit of a party atmosphere at the truck line-up. Each week hosts different food trucks, though you will find repeats. Phantom Food Truck, purveyor of the wacky Peking duck taco, has been here a few times. The adorable owner, Scarlett Yen, informed me that you have to sign up for a spot in advance. Yen stands in front of her truck, instead of inside, greeting customers and explaining the Asian fusion fare. I got two delicious tacos — the heady Peking duck with slivers of cool cucumber, and the hoisin-infused JuDu pork belly taco — for $9. Next door at Belly Bombz, they're dishing out plates of chicken wings with your choice of sauces, from mild (like soy caramel) to blazing hot (like Sriracha lime) for $8. The wings are good but the Bomb Dust fries with their smoky, spicy, nose-tickling, dry rub are incredible.

These truck owners are, for the most part, masters of the fusion snack. For instance, the Bun Truck offers a totally unique Korean-Mediterranean mix. Instead of pita or tortilla, their “tacos” are wrapped in bao dough, that pillowy, sweetish dough found at dim sum places. In the Kalbi and Dweji buns ($3 each), you'll find either marinated sirloin with tempura onions, mixed greens and aioli, or spicy pork, scallions, greens and tsatziki. Fun and delicious.

If you want something a little lighter, try the chicken and sun-dried tomato panini at the Holy Aioli truck ($7.50). My son declared the lamb gyro from George's Greek the best ever ($8). Based on the one bite he allowed me, I have to agree. It must be the chipotle aioli. Aioli seems to be a theme at the food trucks. So are French fries. Besides the Bomb Dusted ones mentioned above, there are truffle fries at Holy Aioli, duck fat fries with pork belly at Phantom, or gyro-feta fries at George's. Fries in a cardboard boat are perfect for holding while walking around and sharing with friends, which is good because there are few places to sit, only a couple of temporary tables.

I think the longest line was at GetShaved shaved ice, and for good reason. Huge mounds of fluffy ice are flavored with not only interesting syrups, tropical and otherwise, but often sweetened condensed milk. The whole thing can be placed atop a scoop of ice cream.

I must admit these fried, spicy and rich foods are a little gut-busting and kind of expensive, but they taste great. Plus, think of the students benefiting from teacher Erik Messal's new digital projector courtesy of Small Change for Big Change. Or imagine the pride felt by educator Tina Singh when she won their Teacher Award of Excellence. Or think of the raised spirits on a tough day during SCBC's Counselor Appreciation Week. It's food for thoughtfulness.

What: Small Change for Big Change Thursday Night Food Trucks

Where: 2675 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta

When: Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

More info: 818-275-1456, scbcnow.org

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LISA DUPUY writes dining reviews for the Los Angeles Times Community News. She can be reached at LDupuy@aol.com.

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