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Tue, Aug

Leimert Park Block Party showcases amazing Black-owned food trucks

Black-owned food tucks line 43rd Street in Leimert Park. Photos by Jason Lewis

Food

The Billionaire Burger Boyz and Happy Ice L.A. bring this festival-type event to South Los Angeles every second Friday night of the month, 6pm-10pm.  

Customers are excited to get Italian shaved ice from Happy Ice L.A.
 

By Blake Carter

The food truck industry is booming.  But like many industries, it seemed to skip over South Los Angeles.  Head north into Hollywood, or west near the beach cities, and it’s easy to find food trucks lining major streets, either during lunch hour or food-truck events.

Many Black owned food trucks participate in those events, and have become popular in those communities, but something was missing for some of them.

“We were going around the city doing all of these food truck events, and in the “White” areas, we didn’t feel like it was our place,” said Billionaire Burger Boyz’s Derrick Bivens.  

Bivens, also known as “Chef Soulo,” and his partners David Lee, also known as “Smoke House Lee,” and Jennifer Johnson, met up with the owner of Happy Ice L.A., which makes Italian ice frozen desserts, to discuss bringing a food truck event to South Los Angeles.

“We started thinking, where can you go in South Central L.A. and find a food truck event?” Bivens said.  “Nowhere.  It hasn’t been done, ever.  We thought that if we do this, the people would show up.  We got with (Los Angeles City Council President) Herb Wesson in District Ten, and they helped us get it going.  It’s been rolling ever since.”

After deciding to hold the food truck event on the second Friday of the month and naming it the “Leimert Park Block Party,” they contacted other Black-owned food trucks, put the word out on social media, and many people showed up.

“People love it,” Bivens said.  “The atmosphere is peaceful, and it gives Leimert Park a different vibe.  It’s beautifying Leimert Park.  It’s a place that you can go and feel safe.”

This is more than just a food truck event.  Like the title says, it’s a block party.  Kids are playing basketball in the middle of Degnan Boulevard, there’s a hula hoop competition, and 93.5 KDAY is playing the popular songs as the crowd is having a great time.

Children compete in a hula hoop competition as Billionaire Burger Boyz’s David “Smoke House” Lee is the judge.
 

While this is a community celebration, Bivens sees the bigger picture.

“It’s really about community building, and building that area up,” he said.  “Because when the train comes in, the gentrification starts.  I rather us gentrify it than somebody else.”

This event is also erasing the stigma that many people in South Los Angeles have viewed food trucks over the years.

“A lot of our customers said that they would never eat at food trucks because they thought that they were nasty places,” Bivens said.  “Now the culture is changing, because everybody is looking for food trucks instead of storefronts or franchises.”

That is good for the Billionaire Burger Boyz, because Bivens says that business is booming.  He and his partners have become social media sensations by posting photos of their creations.

“We have these crazy over-the-top burgers that you can’t get anywhere else,” he said.  “Nowhere else can you get a burger that has lobster on it.  Nowhere else can you get jambalaya fries.”

 

The Billionaire Burger Boyz are looking to expand, possibly into a permanent home.  They have looked at one location on the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Vernon Avenue.  

“With the train coming, it would be good for business, good for the community, and also we’re trying to inspire other chefs in the area to bring their restaurants to the area,” Bivens said.  “We can create a restaurant row over there.”

The Billionaire Burger Boyz’s food truck is always on the move.  Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to find out where they will be on a daily and nightly basis. 

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