All Aboard the Kogi Truck

14Apr09

Whether you live on the east or west coast, every foodyi has heard about the Kogi Truck, the Korean–Mexican taco truck roaming the streets of Los Angeles. Even non-foodyis have come across the Kogi (pronounced with a hard g) Truck in blogs and articles that herald it for being one of the few businesses that have figured out a way to utilize that peculiar social networking tool called Twitter. Forming a mass following at every truck stop, Kogi Truck is the brainchild of a Generation Yer- A multi-cultural, tech-savvy machine that can’t sit still but can sling out some serious tacos all with a bit of fun and flair.

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Every Korean-American must have slapped themselves on their forehead wondering why they didn’t think of starting a Korean taco truck themselves, especially since Koreans are all about their marinated meats. Slap that on a tortilla with some kimchi coleslaw-million dollar idea! Does that mean we’re only months away from seeing tandoori meat tacos with chutney? Or shrimp tempura tacos with pickled daikon radish?? Ahh…the possibilities are endless.

My two priorities when going back to LA were to hang out with my mom and therefore eat loads of Korean food, and to preserve all the Mexican food I could in my stomach before returning to New York. So I kind of had a personal obligation to see what all this Kogi Truck hype was about.

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After following the Kogi Truck Twitter feed for the first few days, I unfortunately decided to visit the truck at the worst place/time ever: The University of California Lost in Asia at 7 PM. I should have known better than to drag my family to the corner between frat house X and co-op Y, only to wait an hour with chatty groups of 19 year-old freshmen before we would get to order food.

img_0347I can tell you that I enjoyed the beef and pork tacos more than the chicken tacos, for obvious reasons. But aside from the choice of meats, the marinade and toppings were the same. The marinade was sweet and salty with ingredients borrowed from both Korean and Mexican cuisines. I really liked the Kimchi coleslaw made with chopped cabbage, romaine lettuce, kimchi, and familiar Asian ingredients such as green onions, sesame seeds, sesame oil and chili sauce. I’m never really a fan of someone who tampers with my Mexican food, but I have to make an exception for Chef Roy’s efforts; the Asian flavors weren’t overpowering at all and subtle enough for you to enjoy it first and foremost as a taco, Asian flavors second. It made sense for the meat and slaw to be in a tortilla and eaten as a taco, and didn’t feel forced.

img_0361Perfectly portioned to fit snug in one hand, the burrito is filled with the same marinated meats and slaw, and from what I remember, I think cheese and re-fried beans. Apparently they sometimes have breakfast burritos?? Oh man, I need to go back.

img_0359This isn’t the prettiest picture of a slider, I know. But after waiting an hour with two grumpy brothers and an impatient mother, we ended up taking our $50 worth of food into our Toyota Camry and eating it off arm rests and shaky laps. So that’s why the slider looks like it’s been through a tornado, a tornado of grumbling fury.

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The Kogi Kimchi Quesadilla was too salty for me. Most likely because it was filled with two preserved foods with a lot of salt, grilled kimchi and cheese.

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I’ve never felt a food spoke to me as personally as the food that comes out of this truck. If the Kogi Truck made their way to NY, I think I might reconsider never going back to LA.

As much as the food was delicious, I think the most exciting part of the Kogi Truck is that they’ve managed to draw an entourage of eaters that are willing to literally cross city limits at any given notice for $2 tacos. With real-time updates on their Twitter feed every few hours, customers are forced to frequently check their website or Twitter feed to find out where their trucks are. You can always get their food at Alibi Room, a bar/restaurant in Culver City, but it kind of takes the excitement away from playing hookey from work to fulfill your lunchtime cravings.

What’s even more surprisingly, is that this trend comes in the midst of another trend- the revival of America’s obsession with food. Although, I think the consequences of today’s food obsession are different from those of the past.  With the power of knowledge and access to information at everyone’s fingertips thanks to the WWW, we’ve become a generation of demanding smart-asses that feel entitled to anything and everything we so desire. In the realm of food, authority has slowly melted off the fingertips of restaurants and food professionals. And just as God and Adam touched fingers, the power to critique food has been transferred over (although unwillingly) to the food-obsessed masses. Just ask any restaurant whose 4 stars they’d rather have: 729 Yelp-ers or 1 Frank Bruni from the NY Times?

Customers have “always been right” in the restaurant industry. But no longer are they waiting for direction from the critics and restaurants, but cutting line and submitting comments in their self-made suggestion box.

This is the power of the masses. We’ve all dubbed ourselves unofficial food critics that, for once, seem to have more power to sway than these “professionals.” We’ve found them out, and have realized our taste buds can actually taste exactly the same thing they can! (I can continue rambling on the pros and cons of trusting the wisdom of the few vs. the many, but I realize this post has already far exceeded your short attention span)

Kogi Truck is an example of a business model that took advantage of this anarchy against food elitism, and literally joined the union of lawless eaters and delivered unto them a compromise. If you’re going to talk behind our back and pick at everything we do, then please add me as a friend and post that shit on my wall!! We’re joining you at your table, along with your boss, your elementary school friends, and everyone else you want to avoid on your social network until you accept us as your friend, your equal, and your provider of delicious $2 tacos a la carte.

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3 Responses to “All Aboard the Kogi Truck”

  1. 1 Rachel

    I have Kogi angst. I tried to take Billy there, and it was there when we arrived at 10:30pm but gone by the time we parked. Where was the line? Where was the kimchi? What gives?

  2. 2 smelly

    Super yummy great post!! But yeah, it’s so weird. Whenever I take Billy anywhere, that anywhere is gone when we get there, too!!!

  3. 3 Rachel

    sarina and i went! great success!


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