BASED OUT OF: Los Angeles, CA
The first time that I really heard about Chef Roy Choi was when I saw he was attached to producing a 2014 movie project called Chef, starring Jon Favreau. But it wasn’t until five years later when The Chef Show premiered on Netflix that I got the opportunity to become more familiar with his background. (Shameless plug: both the movie and the Netflix show are great watches, with a high likelihood of giving you food envy.)
Over the weekend that I was out in LA for business travel, my friend Kevin made the suggestion that we should try to go and find the Kogi BBQ food truck. Founded back in 2008, Kogi is considered one of the pioneers that ignited the popularity of food trucks that we know today. Kevin had checked out the Kogi truck schedule, and we managed to get really lucky. One of their trucks happened to be parked relatively nearby in Pasadena while we were over in Glendale, so Kevin, his girlfriend Emma, and I piled into a car to make the short drive over.
Just by the sheer number of stickers that you could see tacked up on the outside, it was clear that this particular food truck in their fleet of five trucks had been around for quite some time. After looking through their menu, it was clear that the truck was probably most well-known for either the tacos or burritos. But their “Favorites” menu did also feature a variety of other options as well, including quesadillas, burgers, and mulitas if you were in the mood for something different.
I knew that their Short Rib Taco was definitely on my list of things to try, so the hard part was just deciding what else to get. But ultimately, it ended up being tacos all the way, with a sampling of the different Kogi BBQ options. Short rib, spicy pork, and chicken sounded like a nice spread to survey the taco variety.
The best way that I can probably describe what’s on the plate: Mexican street food with a fusion of Korean flavor. The combination of the two cuisines is very harmonious, with the sweet and spicy flavor profiles working really well together. Each one of the tacos was served with crisply-griddled corn tortillas, which was definitely bonus points in my book. The chili soy slaw the tacos are dressed with also helps provide a slight edge with each bite. Every one of the meats was tender, juicy, and packed with flavor; these tacos certainly lived up to my expectations.
If I had to choose my favorite out of the three, it’d be a really close tie between the short rib and the spicy pork. But I think the spicy pork would just barely edge out the short rib because of the spicy element on top of the sweet and umami flavors already with the taco. But honestly, you really can’t go wrong with any of those taco choices. They are really packed full of flavor and priced well for what you get. Check out the Kogi truck schedule to see if one will be stopping by in your neighborhood, because these tacos are definitely worth seeking out.
Let’s now take a look at the Kogi BBQ Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Spicy Pork Taco (pictured middle) **
Blend of pork butt, belly, and shoulder with a sweet & spicy gochujang marinade, topped with chili soy slaw and served on two griddled corn tortillas.
** Short Rib Taco (pictured bottom) **
Double caramelized Korean barbecue short rib, topped with a salsa roja made from Korean and Mexican chili peppers, cilantro-lime relish, and chili soy slaw. Served on two griddled corn tortillas.
And finally, here are my rankings for Kogi BBQ:
Food: 4.75 / 5
The fusion between Mexican and Korean flavors is dynamite, and that notion is validated with each bite of a taco. I’ve always been a corn tortilla guy when it comes to tacos, and when they served them real crispy from the griddle, I knew it was my kind of spot. Even if you’re not feeling tacos or burritos, there were also a slew of other options to choose from as well.
There’s a rotating set of locations that the trucks will stop by at in the LA area, so the ambiance might just vary depending on where you catch the truck as well as the time of day (or night) it is.
Service: 4.25 / 5
As to be expected from a food truck, they operated very efficiently, getting our orders out in no time. I think we ended up getting lucky, since I’ve heard sometimes there could be quite the line when the truck shows up. There were probably only a handful of people there for food when we stopped by.
Price: 4.75 / 5
For the quality of the food that you get, and also the fact that this type of flavor combination you might not find in many places, I was happy to pay the $8 for my trio of tacos.