There I was, minding my own business at the stoplight at Briggs and Foothill, when a huge Kogi BBQ truck rolled by. I followed in hot pursuit thinking, “What are the originators of hipster food truck dining doing in our sleepy little La Crescenta?”
I was amazed to see that the truck pulled up to a line of 25 or so people, all waiting patiently for who-knows-how-long. What a coup — this company has its customers waiting for them! Turns out the Kogi truck visits La Crescenta about once a month and visits a couple of locations in Glendale about once a week. Check their website. Twitter users can also get updates. Be aware that you’ll need an hour or so of free time to stand in line, and that you’ll be sitting on a curb or taking the food to your home or office to enjoy. So the question is, is the food worth the hassle?
Three members of my family say yes, and one says no. I’m on the yes side because a) it’s cheap and b) I don’t know where else to procure the unusual flavors found at this Mexican-Korean fusion food truck. I would say Kogi is famous for a couple of things — its Korean short rib taco and its kimchee quesadilla.
The taco looks like any respectable street taco, with two small tortillas and a wedge of lime on the side, but when you bite into it, the sweetness of the ribs, marinated in sugar and soy (like the Korean beef, bulgogi), mixes with the paper-thin cabbage slices, green onions and lime for a sweet/salty sensation that only improves with the addition of one of their two hot sauces. (You have to ask for them on the side.)
The kimchee quesadilla ($5) is a revelation. I’m pretty sure you have to be a fan of kimchee for this one, which I am.
But imagine the fermented cabbage dish mixed with tangy cheese and grilled in a nicely browned, barbecue-scented tortilla with sesame seeds on top, and you’ve got something incredible and easily portable. Portability is a concern here when you order numerous items, like many people do. The brown cardboard trays and self-serve foil tops are flimsy and awkward, and the lack of counter space exacerbates the problem.
Each day a Chef’s Special ($3 to $7) is offered. I noticed that many people in line put their trust in the chef and order it. So I went for the sweet chili chicken and banana quesadilla. The banana was not overwhelming, and the overall sensation was that same hot/sweet/salty combo that ignites almost every taste bud on the tongue.
The one person in my family who would not wait 45 minutes in line to get more Kogi BBQ was my daughter, who complained of feeling a little gross afterward. I did too, but it went away. No, this feeding frenzy is not for the weak of stomach and would be best after a night on the town.
But, unlike the hundreds of wonderful small mom-and-pop restaurants in town, you can only get Kogi BBQ on Kogi BBQ’s terms. This usually means Wednesdays at either the intersection of Brand Boulevard and Chevy Chase Drive or near Disney Studios in Glendale. But that could easily change. So if you’re sincerely interested, check out their website.
Infobox What: Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go food truckWhere and When: Various times and locations; schedule updated each Monday at kogibbq.comPrices: Tacos $2; burritos, quesadillas, hot dogs, sliders $5; chef’s specials $3 to $7, drinks $1.50; cash only