Takin' It To The Streets

Hawaiian Street Food Hits Venice Beach

Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

“I didn’t want to do tacos. Everybody’s doing tacos,” says Pacific Time owner Ryan Ross manning his cart on Windward. The Venice resident continues over the low rattle of a generator, “I’m Irish, so what I was going to do, Irish tacos? Really? Instead we decided to focus on just a few items that are always made very well. In Southeast Asia, there’s street food everywhere so, as travelers, we looked there.” Veering from the food truck road, Ross and his partner, chef Alex Guzauski, are merging the flavors of Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam with Hawaiian far for an eating experience guaranteed to end food truck ennui. What makes it such a breath of fresh air?

Unlike many of the attempts from today’s trendy four-wheel fusionists, the food is excellent and soulful, with passionate treatment of ingredients rather than merely cashing in on concept. Kalua pork, cooked for six hours in a custom-made caja china that simulates traditional pit-cooking, is amassed in Hawaiian rolls for popular sliders that bear sweet ‘n sour bbq sauce, crispy Maui onions, and charred pineapple that plays a part “kind of like liquor” in the sandwich, according to Ross. Guzauski also prepares a massive five-dollar “beach banh” mi with the Kalua pork, tofu, or chicken served on a fresh Bay Cities roll that Ross says are a bee-atch to get everyday since the deli is so busy. Our favorite might have been the butter lettuce cups stuffed with wood-charred chicken bearing the slight taste of toasted coconut, with crushed peanuts and ginger. There’s also pacific coast shrimp ceviche with red chili and seasonal grilled sweet corn, plus fresh coconuts cut on the spot for a drink.

Kalua pork sliders and Venice lettuce cups

Ross is also trying to avoid the pitfalls of some of his free-wheeling counterparts. He tells Grub Street, “I only come out once the restaurants right here are finished. I’m not trying to take anyone’s business away. I stay real cool with the neighboring businesses, ‘cuz without them, I wouldn’t have anybody here.” Having just passed his first L.A. health inspection, a process Ross doesn’t wish on anyone, Pacific Time already blends in well with the beach and looks stable in its location for now.

Beach Banh

A lack of beach-side restaurants was recently being bemoaned by L.A. critics, something Spacecraft seems to have taken notice of as it constructs Windward just a few feet from Ross’ cart. But forgetting The Lobsters and Windwards for a moment, it would be radical to see real cart-bound street food like Pacific Time revive the Venice boardwalk at night, turning it from “night of the living junkie hookers” to a bustling scene on the sand more like Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach or one of many Mexican malecons. A market of street food stands could be a food-centric draw to rival Abbot-Kinney art walks.

Co-owner Ryan Ross

Pacific Time, with its tiny Tiki stand blaring vintage dancehall, lights occasionally flickering, and the glowing embers of a grill, establishes a perfect atmospheric model for such low-priced, high-quality options that would appeal to the neighborhood and not ruffle too many feathers.

Pacific Time, at Windward just east of Speedway and the beach, typically opens at 9:00 P.M. and stays until 3:00 A.M. Wednesday through Saturday.

Hawaiian Street Food Hits Venice Beach