By Michael J. ARVIZU
It’s an invasion of the yummy kind in Sunland-Tujunga.
Every Wednesday since 2012, Food Truck Night in this neighborhood west of La Crescenta has hosted gourmet food trucks from all over southern California. The licensed trucks set up shop along Foothill Boulevard in Sunland between Oro Vista and McVine avenues, offering hungry guests a sample from a variety of cuisines.
One can’t help but stare at the collection of colorfully decorated trucks as they position themselves for the dinnertime rush. The food trucks, residents say, give hungry guests an opportunity to sample foods they wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to taste.
“I think the variety is what is good,” said Tujunga resident Rowena Miller. “You go to a restaurant and you don’t get all of these varieties. You go to McDonald’s and you’re going to get McDonald’s. You’re not going to get the same quality of tacos at Jack in the Box that you get here.”
For a fee of $30, a food truck can park on the north side of the boulevard for the duration of the event. Guests can go up and down the boulevard and sample as much or as little as they want from the licensed food trucks.
“We invited the food trucks to our community because we wanted to bring more commerce to our town and more knowledge of where and what Sunland-Tujunga is,” said Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce 1st Vice President Phil Tabbi.
A classic car show, organized by La Cañada-based Early Rodders, usually accompanies Food Truck Night and is held in the parking lot of the Sunland offices of Century 21 Crest Real Estate.
“We actually saw it here a couple of weeks ago,” said Los Angeles Fire Dept. firefighter David Barnes of Station 24 in Sunland as he was grabbing dinner. “Today was kind of a busy day so we didn’t get a chance to go shopping, so hey we’ll go try the Food Truck Night.”
And while Food Truck Night offers residents more choices of food to sample, food truck owners see the weekly event as an opportunity to advertise their business and cuisine.
“I’ve had people ask me if I’m coming back next week, so that’s a good positive,” said Tom McNulty of Santa Clarita, owner of the Keep on Grubbin’ food truck. “[Food Truck Night] is an opportunity for us to get out here and show what we do. We’re doing good, quality food on these trucks now. It’s a lot of fun.”
Ventura resident Deb Dawson sells pies out of an old funeral hearse. She dubs her business “Desserts to Die For.” Her pies are homemade and use fresh and organic ingredients taken directly from the fields that surround her hometown. A pair of plastic skeletons greets customers as they walk up to her station.
Food Truck night, Dawson said, gives her an opportunity to share her pies with the community while at the same time promoting her business, although as the newest face of the event, she admits having a hard time establishing a customer base.
“I didn’t know what a dog-eat-dog world the food truck thing was,” Dawson said, who also works as a dessert caterer. Dawson said she nevertheless enjoys the experience.
“You get to meet people,” she said.
Arturo Peña, a father of two and former contractor, came to Sunland to sell his Mexican food out of a truck in front of a local pet grooming store and Bank of America Branch, respectively, and sometimes ran afoul of local authorities who sought to shut down his unlicensed operation.
Later, when Pena obtained the necessary documents to legally sell his food and was able to participate in Food Truck Night, his reputation, he said, took off when guests to Food Truck Night began to sing his praises about his delicious food and encouraged him to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“It was a challenge and a very big risk, but everybody supported me,” Pena said, who feels his six-month-old restaurant complements Food Truck Night by being another dining choice for guests to consider. “Many people don’t like to eat here; they like to eat outside. Many people don’t like [to eat] outside; they like to eat here.”