A few Saturday nights back, I was hiking up Pine from downtown, set on getting home before I was blown or washed away by the very exciting weather. As I passed the Baltic Room on my way to Melrose, I was lured across the street by cheery white Christmas lights and loud music with a heavy bass beat. This turned out to be the siren song of Leilani’s Lumpia Land, the street eatery that occupies the trailer parked in the lot at 1208 Pine, right next to Pho Tai. The spell was soon joined by the charms of a sturdy awning and the delicious smells of something with the unlikely sounding name of lumpia. Then I saw something almost unheard of on Capitol Hill — the price tag was one dollar. I was sold.
Lumpia are like tasty fried eggrolls that are longer, skinnier, not greasy, and ungodly good with sweet chili sauce. As I ate I talked with Jesse Pablo, the friendly owner of the newest addition to Capitol Hill’s street food collection. His family’s from Guam, where lumpia are everywhere. Wikipedia and Guampedia tell me that lumpia came to Guam from the Phillipines and that they are a variant on the Chinese eggroll. Two key differences are that Pablo wraps his lumpia with filo dough, and he’s expanded his filling options past pork and vegetables. On the night I stopped by the menu options were chicken or veggie, but Pablo says he’s going to add more options over time.
Pablo also elaborated on his business strategy. One buck for one lumpia is no accident. As Pablo says, “People are willing to try a taste for a dollar.” According to Yelp reviews and my own experience, they’re also going to be willing to buy half a dozen more at the price once they finish their first one.
Pabo had been trying to open Leilani’s in Columbia City:
I am interested in leasing the space to open and establish a small ethnic eatery that represents my culture of Guam called Leilani’s Lumpia Land, and a non-profit café that supports the local Columbia City community and other charitable causes.
Primarily, I want to focus the discussion around the non-profit café concept in mind. This café plans on serving coffee based beverages using strictly hemp milk, and a food offering that is strictly vegan and hemp based. Lastly, the café plans on retailing branded merchandise, and other hemp products for sale.
CC’s loss, is the Hill’s gain.
Pablo said that he chose this pricing because he wants to keep his food accessible to everyone, whether it be the clubbers, starving artists, or homeless folks. In the future he would like to mimic the hours of Dick’s Drive-In.
For now, Leilani’s Lumpia Land will be open 12:30 PM to 2:30 AM, seven days a week.
“It’s just me for right now, but I hope to be able to bring in some more people soon,” says Pablo. “Keep coming by, and you’ll get to watch a business develop right before your eyes.”