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Hill street food: The luscious allure of Leilani’s Lumpia Land

Images: Jon Polka for CHS

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.

Jesse Pablo (Image: Jon Polka for CHS)

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.”

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9 thoughts on “Hill street food: The luscious allure of Leilani’s Lumpia Land

  1. I stumbled upon this lumpia wagon a few weeks ago + being Filipino had to try it! It is similar to Filipino lumpia Bihon but shorter + with not enough filling. A bunch of Bauhaus people agreed + said he should either increase the filling or charge $1 for 2 piece of these. I think Jesse is awesome + I plan to support his business and tell him my opinion next time I’m in the area!

  2. I hate to say that anything that costs a dollar is too expensive, but that’s too expensive for what you’re getting. Especially considering you’re buying it from a truck. i think $1.50 for two would be just about right.

  3. i’m sorry, but too many people are willing to buy an extra shot of espresso from starbucks for fifty cents. would you rather be supporting “a truck” and getting five lumpias for five dollars, or a corporate business with 4 shops covering a span of one block for one drink? i think one dollar to start is pretty reasonable. i’ll take the lumpia

  4. I remember when he tried to start this down in Columbia City. I’m glad he got it going. What a great guy, who deserves your dollar, your two dollars or whatever small amount of money he’s charging. Like the other poster said, you’ll spend four dollars for a cup of milk and espresso…

  5. I couldn’t agree more! I’m 100 percent willing to pay morevthen a buck to support a small business. Cheers to the owner and good luck to you!

  6. It’s about time someone took the initiative to sell my favorite
    appetizer. I have been making them for my family for years. It’s alot of work. But very rewarding to know you make your family and
    friends happy by serving them. So good luck to you and your future
    endavors. I will stop by if I’m in the area. Sue