It’s 8:30 on a chilly Wednesday night, and the streets perpendicular to a colorful food truck are filled with cars in both directions. The truck, Grill ’em All, makes regular appearances in North Hollywood; its prep kitchen is only a few blocks away. I stand in line with my roommates. A couple dozen locals are scattered in the parking lot this truck calls home tonight.
North Hollywood, not known for its hot dog stands or other street food, now gives residents a reason to go outside and socialize with neighbors. On a desolate stretch of Burbank Boulevard, the faint light coming from the truck signifies food that’s fast but good. The truck itself is painted black and purple, with illustrations of wizards frying burgers and fries. When I walk up to the window to order, I hear metal music blasting; a remnant of the chefs’ alternate lives as band members. The chef and co-founder taking orders, Ryan Harkins, is greeting friendly faces and recommending burgers to new and old customers. The man in front of me can’t decide if he wants to order his old standby, the “Molly Hatchet,” or try a new item. After a long pause, the customer decides to order a “Waste ’em All.”
As a vegetarian, I don’t have many options for dinner from this burger truck. The epicurean menu includes toppings such as beer-soaked onions and seared fennel smoked sausage gravy. Customers have to pay a fee of $1 to make a burger vegetarian, and vegetarian patties are not homemade, but why complain? I order the “Samoa Joe” burger, a tropical indulgence to distract me from the fact that I’m wearing a trench coat and scarf. It has cheddar, beer-soaked onions, BBQ and pineapple inside a toasted bun.
Customers sit on the street corner or in the nearby bar-in-transition, The Other Door. It’s the site of the former Moonshine, but the owners of popular eastside fixture Verdugo are renovating it to become a new neighborhood haunt. Although it’s not officially in business yet, its doors are open to customers. Unlike Hollywood and other populated, thriving areas of Los Angeles, North Hollywood has ample parking, making it a reliable destination for mobile food—and a partnership with a bar brings business to both parties.
I first experienced the novelty of mobile food when the FrySmith truck appeared in front of Bar One last year. I ordered vegetarian chili fries, brought them inside, and ordered house-made sangria at the bar. It was convenient to enjoy a meal at a wine bar. Often, it is the other way around: Customers crave a late-night snack after a bar crawl or a long night drinking with friends. Devoid of greasy diners, a neighborhood benefits from the temporary addition of a food truck. And it looks like we can expect more food trucks as North Hollywood’s scene takes shape this year.
Later this month, gastro pub The Federal will open its doors in the Arts District. Gastronomes can expect wild turkey meatballs, ribs and more than 20 types of beer on tap. In the late fall, an art-house theater will open, allowing residents the luxury of walking to view a film. North Hollywood, in the Arts District and on Burbank Boulevard, is evolving, and it’s only a matter of time before more trucks roll in.
Grill ’em All is scheduled to return to The Other Door’s parking lot every Wednesday night, and outside The Federal on Lankershim Boulevard on Jan. 15.