Note: This week on Street Food Profiles we scoot to Los Angeles where our new West Coast correspondent Esther Hahn chats with the Dosa Truck and tries some of the namesake South Indian sourdough crepe. —The Mgmt.
What's on the menu? Dosas (South Indian sourdough crepes made from lentil and rice flour and stuffed with various fillings—most commonly potatoes), as well as samosas, masala fries, and mango lassis.
Location/hours? Los Angeles—mainly the Silverlake area but also other central pockets of the city like Hollywood. The truck's weekends are usually dedicated to special events around town. On the streets from around 11 a.m. to 8 or 9 at night.
How long has DOSA Truck been on the streets? Since mid-July of 2009.
How has Twitter affected business? Without a set schedule, Twitter keeps all DOSA Truck enthusiasts in the loop with the truck's whereabouts. It's also a great tool for updating followers with the daily specials.
Why a mobile business over brick-and-mortar? Leena, a self-described entrepreneur, began developing the DOSA Truck idea five years ago. Although she toyed with the idea of a storefront in Silverlake, she saw the opportunity to bring a sense of community to the sprawling city of L.A. through her mobile street food.
Who are DOSA Truck's typical customers? Silverlake regulars—an artsy and eclectic crowd. Also, vegetarians and vegans. (Dosas are built-in vegetarian since the South Indian diet is free of all meats.)
Describe a typical day: Leena built the DOSAtruck on her foundational belief that corners should never be cut. Therefore, she spends early mornings at the markets, especially specialty ones, and prepping everything from scratch—including the spice blends. She also personally deals with her purveyors, even enjoying a 20-year relationship with her "Samosa Man." She's on the streets with her truck about 85% of the time, sharing time with two of her hired cooks.
What's Leena's background? Hailing from Brooklyn, Leena grew up on dosas, amongst other exciting, ethnic eats. Although her career path went in the direction of product design, she always felt a gravitational pull to the kitchen. After a stint in an Angeleno tamale shop, Leena combined her entrepreneurial spirit with her foodie nature and dove head first into street vending.
What makes the DOSA Truck's food so special? High-quality items combined with thoroughly developed (from scratch) flavors make these dosas exceptionally noteworthy.
How would Leena define "street food"? At first thought, Leena describes "street food" as "affordable, accessible, community-based food that is served on the streets." But after a pause—lost in thought—she follows up with developing the idea of "street food" as a connector within a social infrastructure.
The best street food city and why: Portland for the variety and the freshness.
Leena's comfort food after a long day? Pizza, cheese blintzes, cold cereal.
Advice for an aspiring vendor? To have a real vision, be passionate, and plan, plan, plan (for big expenses)!