My college roommate Edriza's finest contribution to our kitchenette was a clunky deep fryer. Doughnut holes, shoestring fries and the occasional failed experiment—beer-battered avocado wedges, chocolate-stuffed churros—all owed their brief, oily existences to the boxy appliance.
So did lumpia. The Filipino spring rolls were our fried food of choice. After three-minute dips in hot, bubbling oil, the pastries—now golden brown and crisp—bobbed to the surface and were lovingly fished out. Un-fried lumpia are obviously much healthier, but nothing beats the resounding crunch and crackle of the deep-fried kind.
At Olga's Food Place in Linda Vista (2314 Morley St.), you can snag four lumpia shanghai for just $1. The slender, freshly fried delights arrive with a sweet-and-sour sauce. Snap off a stubby end to discover the filling: a savory mishmash of pork, minced onions and carrots.
Since 2002, husband-and-wife owners Rocky and Olga have been preparing Filipino dishes like chicken adobo and pinakbet and pritong talong in what appears to be their own home. The squat, white building is saved from anonymity by a sky-blue awning and a sign that reads "Filipino Lumpia" in shiny red letters.
Indeed, the moment I entered the hole-in-the-wall, a smiling, mustachioed Rocky asked me how many lumpia I wanted. Although the morsels appear to be the eatery's main attraction, a steam table revealed several other gastronomical delights.
Ginisang mungg, or sautéed mung bean, beefsteak and a noodle dish called pansit are only some of the several non-lumpia options. Order the combo plate and youíre in for a deal: Two sides are joined by a scoop of steamed rice and a heap of noodles for $6. Rocky added a drumstick from the chicken adobo tray to my overflowing plate. My friend's platter was truly a sight to see—piled high with chunky potatoes and strips of chicken and beef picadillo.
You can sit inside or take your food to go. We opted for the small dining area, which is actually a modified living room replete with cushy chairs and a few wall decorations. The owners' friends and family streamed in and out of the eatery during our meal, creating an environment that was lively and abuzz with conversation. This unique element often made us feel like we were two intruders whoíd creeped into a random living room in the hopes of finding dinner.
Of course, my visit to Olga's was much more premeditated than that. A friend's lumpia-centered praise had introduced me to the mom-and-pop joint. But I found the other dishes rich and flavorful, too. The picadillo, for instance, was a standout dish involving ground beef, carrots, potatoes and onions. Eat it over the fluffy steamed rice for a nice balance of flavors. Marinated in lemon and soy sauce, the beefsteak is another solid choice, although the strips of meat could have been a little more tender. The basic Filipino noodle dish pansit was light and tasty, combining rice noodles with a medley of sautéed vegetables.
But the crispy lumpia still come out on top, and I'll be back again to noisily crunch and crackle my way through a plateful of the deep-fried goodies.