Dollar Hits: Filipino Restaurant
here are few things that bind L.A.’s Filipino American community together like the skewered grilled meat that is grilled on charcoal grills that line the parking area of a small strip mall located on Temple Street.
The name is derived from its affordable cost of $1 per Skewer, the restaurant Dollar Hits anchors the strip mall located in the historic Filipinotown located in a predominantly working-class community that is fighting the process of gentrification. Many who go at Dollar Hits are seeking familiar flavors of home, and others Filipinos from America U.S., like me are looking to make connections with a part of the world they’ve never known about.
On the Friday evening in July, the most recent visit, hundreds of patrons had crowded the store just as they did the rest of the Central L.A. neighborhood.
Although it’s usually busy during weekend, this restaurant attracted a lot of new customers following the fact that Netflix released the new season of their docuseries “Street Food,” and Dollar Hits was highlighted in the very first episode. After making its name on the internet through the use of social media content as well as food-related bloggers in YouTube in the past few years and a few months, the Dollar Hits along with its owner were now captivated by the cinematography style of larger camera crews as well as budgets.
I squeezed my way through the outdoor seating which was reminiscent of the popular in cities like Manila with rows of folding tables as well as plastic stools that let families and friends sat intimately with strangers — and I snuck into an unintentional line that spilled out of the restaurant’s entrance.
I was able to meet the first timer and a man who travelled over two hours to Bakersfield with his children and wife as they were unable to eat the street food that is available in Manila as well as another Anaheim woman who recently returned from a visit to family members in The Philippine region of Pampanga. She told me she was there to satisfy a hankering and longing to return home.
“I live in Santa Clarita, and there’s not much out there,” said Trystan Santos, a first-timer who was was raised in Quezon City and moved to the U.S. nine years ago following high school. He said he first came across Dollar Hits through TikTok videos and later Netflix.
“I’m trying to find a place that would actually remind me of home … a place that would actually get my taste,” Santos stated, sitting before the grill, where flames burned the skewers of his most-loved meats: deep-fried eggs from quail (qwek Qwek) and the pig’s intestinal tract (isaw).
Others were first-timers from more costly L.A. ZIP codes, for instance, Pablo Rivas, who had been to Brentwood following the Netflix episode, looking forward to their restaurant’s “novelty” and trying “something new.” John and James Weiss, brothers from the Westwood area, claimed that they liked the barbecue chicken best and then made an absurd joke about going to the area to help gentrify it by asking me “Is that the vibes you got?”
It began in the form of a food stand within that same strip mall back in Dollar Hits quickly grew into food truck, and eventually a brick and mortar and later, it bought its current premises from a different Filipino restaurant.
“I am overwhelmed and I am blessed and grateful,” declared Elvira Chan who is the owner and founder of Dollar Hits, as I was sitting next to her while we were listening to a few of her relatives who are all registered nurses singing a cover from Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” from a stage they had made. The family of her mother was present to celebrate the official opening of the company’s New York location, which is set to open later this month.
Dollar Hits increased during the rapid changes and gentrification within its neighborhood and accelerated during the decade, when the historic Filipinotown’s location close to Echo Park and Silver Lake was a prime target for future construction.
Although the growth at Dollar Hits mirrors the boom of development in Historic Filipinotown, its effect on the local community couldn’t be more distinct. While real estate developers push the majority of middle-class Filipinos as well as Latino residents from the city, locations such as Dollar Hits continue to feed the community and bring more Filipinos into the area.
Doreen Fernandez is an Filipino food historian from the Philippines, has suggested that the concept for street-food within the Philippines is built on the interdependence between fishing and agricultural communities, that relied upon each other to cultivate, plow and reap fields. They also relied on each other to harvest rice, or fix fishing nets. The same way families lived in homes shared with their neighbors.
“The homes extended to the streets, where could be found the space in which to sit and chat with neighbors, to play games, to dry [harvested rice], to mend fishnets … to eat and celebrate,” Fernandez wrote in her memoir “Tikim.”
Like many other individuals of this Filipino diaspora the writings of Fernandez helped me understand my family’s personal heritage of food and cultural traditions in the context of.
My mother lived and was raised in the small town in the agricultural region of Namuac was able to share similar stories of holidays when neighbors were able to leave their doors open to each other while they made their way from home to their homes, stopping to dine at tables with dishes made from the harvests of recent days.
Dollar Hits was born out of this tradition of street food. Due to its proprietor’s cheerful hospitality, the business continues to expand. In our conversation, Chan would stand up and get her microphone in order to perform her now famous rounds of walking from table to table asking guests what country they came from and then saying with a loud, “All the way from the Netherlands! Welcome, Netherlands!” or “Thank you for coming, Virginia!”
However, as important as locations such as Dollar Hits are to immigrants and diasporic communities not invincible to the threat of displacement, either through gentrification or harsh law enforcement targeting market vendors on the streets.
Just a few blocks to the east on Temple Street sits another Filipino restaurant, Chibogs, which used to host kamayan meals and karaoke night. Developers will tear down Chibogs, as well as the entire Luzon Plaza strip mall. The new location would be an residential complex featuring mostly luxurious units.
“It’s a very valuable location, so they could easily sell it to a developer just like Luzon Plaza,” said Joe Bernardo of the Dollar Hits strip mall. It is situated next to a high-end apartment complex, which was constructed in the year 2017. Bernardo is an associate professor, whose work covers Filipino American history in Los Angeles and is an organizer that is part of a group that opposes gentrification within the neighborhood.
“The Filipino part of Historic Filipinotown will only survive if the people own the property and are willing to build it for the community,” Bernardo added.
When I informed Chan about the demise Chibogs’ fate, she became serious and spoke of the kindness of its owners , who supplied Chan with tables, chairs as well as other tools when Dollar Hits was first established.
Chan claimed that the same thing wouldn’t be the case with Dollar Hits.
She stated that within five years, she would like to purchase the entire strip-mall from its current owner. The plan she has is for this strip mall which also includes other businesses owned by Filipinos such as Temple Seafood Market and a Filipino bakery: She’ll never make any changes.