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Korean reviews Southern California street food

Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go: The Twitter Chronicles

Kogi BBQ‘s now-famous Korean taco trucks have eluded me on my last three trips home to SoCal, but this weekend, I was determined to hunt one down. Kogi has two trucks, Roja and Verde, and I met up with Roja yesterday at 9th and Hope in Downtown LA.

Let me just say upfront that I think Kogi’s food is great. We really liked everything we had, especially the Kogi Sliders and the Kogi Dog. But our first Kogi experience was a logistical disaster. It took two hours from the time we got in line to the time we got our food and left and they ran out of kalbi right before my order was fulfilled, so we missed out on their signature meat.

Since Kogi relies on their twitter account (@kogibbq) to keep their devoted followers updated about their whereabouts, it’s appropriate that this review contain my tweets about my first Kogi experience (follow me @inuyaki).

Watch how things progress by checking the timestamps of each tweet. (Timestamps from the Tweetie iPhone app.)

12:15pm Line for @kogibbq isn’t too bad right now (9th and Hope in Downtown LA) http://twitpic.com/4cnnw

kogi1.jpg

12:17pm mic_dee @inuyaki d00d! aare they quick to serve at least?
12:18pm 3ND14P3 @inuyaki O_O that line “isn’t too bad?” ?? LOL Wow. I hope it’s moving quickly
12:20pm The @kogibbq line isn’t moving yet because they haven’t started serving. Will see how fast it goes when they start.

A few minutes after this tweet they started taking orders.

12:43pm LadyDucayne @inuyaki is the kogi anticipation still going strong? What’s ur place in line? red or green?
12:52pm @LadyDucayne I think it’s roja. Line is moving slow but steady. I’m actually hungry right now. :)
12:55pm @LadyDucayne I think we’re about 25 people back.

1:18pm The @kogibbq line is moving so slow. I wasn’t hungry when i got here but now I’m starving

1:28pm The people that wait 4 @kogibbq at night are either dedicated or crazy. Don’t know if I would do this again unless I was near the front.
1:31pm LadyDucayne @inuyaki both times I have been first in line. I like kogi, but not enough to wait in line for more than ten minutes…
1:36pm 90 minutes later…Finally near the front :) http://twitpic.com/4cu8t

kogi2.jpg

1:50pm A tow truck just showed up. Minor panic. Dudes just wanted food. http://twitpic.com/4cvfi

kogi3.jpg

1:51pm hsiawen @inuyaki bastards better not have gotten cutsies

A couple minutes later we placed our order: 1 kalbi burrito, 2 kalbi tacos, 1 spicy pork taco, 1 chicken taco, 1 tofu taco, 1 order Kogi Sliders, 1 Kogi Dog, 1 brownie with Chinese spiced nuts. I ordered the Kogi Dog because they said they didn’t have enough kimchi to make the Kogi Kimchi Quesadilla. I should have known we were in trouble then.

1:59pm They just ran out of short ribs…for my order and beyond. Not very happy now, just give me my food please! @kogibbq

They also announced that they were putting a limit of one burrito or three tacos per customer. There were probably a hundred people behind me at that point.

2:03pm So @kogibbq was expecting a regular lunch crowd and weren’t prepared for all the people that showed up, which led to logistical failure

I think the people at the front of the line were buying lunch for their respective offices and depleted Kogi’s supplies right off the bat. My wife said she saw people leaving with bags of food. If this is true, it explains why the line moved so slowly and why they ran out of kalbi.

At this point, I stopped tweeting because I was focused on getting my order completed. We were supposed to be at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles at 2:30pm to donate blood platelets for my friend’s daughter, and I was getting annoyed because I didn’t want to be late. Donating platelets is by appointment only because the process takes a couple of hours, but apparently, so does Kogi.

They called me to the window to ask what other meat I wanted since they were out of short ribs. I got the spicy pork instead and changed the burrito order to a second brownie. I thought that I might as well get another dessert out of this. I told the guy expediting orders that I needed go to the doctors and that I needed to leave ASAP.

The tow truck guys were seen leaving with food five minutes after they arrived.

2:06pm @hsiawen they did get cutsies
2:08pm hsiawen @inuyaki that’s BS that means they got your ribs!!!

Actually, the guy in front of me, who almost got out of line because it was taking too long, got the last of it. He only had to substitute spicy pork for part of his order.

But were the tow truck guys the reason I didn’t get short ribs? We’ll never know. Damn you, tow truck guys!

A couple minutes later, we had half our order and were waiting on Kogi Sliders and a Kogi Dog. The guy in the party that ordered after me got his complete order, which included a Kogi Dog and Kogi Sliders, before I did, which was really annoying. I reminded the expediter that I had an appointment.

At around 2:15 were in the car and on our way to CHLA, two hours after we arrived. I snapped a couple quick pics of the food before leaving the area, and we ate our food while driving over to CHLA. The Kogi Dog was especially challenging to consume…good thing I don’t drive stick.

Kogi DogKogi Dog
Kogi SlidersKogi Sliders

We got to the CHLA blood donation center about 10 minutes late. The last three tweets are from when I was in the chair giving blood.

3:01pm While I’m a little bitter about my @kogibbq experience, the food was really good. Had to sub kalbi with spicy pork
3:05pm kogibbq @inuyaki – hopefuLLy the experience was both bitter and sweet. or at the very least, meat. MEATY…! ::drools::
3:22pm @kogibbq kogi dog was great and i liked the spicy pork. brownie with spiced nuts were nice. just sad you guys ran out of kalbi.

If you’re still reading, I commend you for sticking with this epic ordeal. :) Like I said, I think Kogi’s food is great, but I feel like the experience is incomplete because I didn’t get to try the kalbi. I’m also sure they’ll learn from these logistical snafus as they and their fanbase continues to grow. Some people might not give Kogi another shot if they endured a similar experience, but I think what Kogi is doing is worthy of a return visit. It all comes down to planning and understanding, a responsibility that belongs to both Kogi and their customers.

Personally, I won’t wait more than 30 minutes for Kogi again, so I’ll have to do my homework and be more diligent the next time I seek them out. I hope Kogi does the same so that they’re prepared to get bumrushed every time their trucks open for business.

INFORMATION
Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go
Web Site
Twitter

Categories
bacon hot dog recipes street food

The Bacon Hot Dog

Memorial Weekend is one of the most patriotic American holidays, so when we decided to have some friends over yesterday, I decided that I wanted to make bacon hot dogs. My friends don’t normally eat street food, so I thought I’d bring street food to them, and seriously, what’s more American than bacon and hot dogs? Truth be told, the bacon hot dog has its roots as street food in Mexico, but it also has a strong cult-like following in California. You can even get arrested for selling bacon hot dogs in L.A. as I’ve discussed here and here.


Bacon Hot Dogs

We normally have Niman Ranch thick-cut bacon in the fridge, but I got a tip from a friend that cheap bacon works better for this purpose because it’s thinner and easier to wrap around the hot dog. It also doesn’t add extra girth to the hot dog that would prevent the bun from closing.

I ended up using Oscar Meyer bun-length hot dogs and Bar S bacon. Next time, I’m going to try a different brand of bacon because the Bar S bacon didn’t have a very strong flavor. Otherwise, it was very easy to wrap the bacon around the hot dog. Simply wrap the bacon around itself at the end of the hot dog to hold it in place and then move down diagonally until the rest of the hot dog is covered. The process reminded me of regripping my tennis rackets back in the day.


Bacon Hot Dogs

I also had some meat glue (i.e. Activa TG-RM or transglutaminase) on hand, so I made a slurry and I brushed it on the hot dogs before wrapping them with bacon and refrigerating them to let the “glue” set. If you have access to some Activa, by all means use it.

Categories
Mexican musings Southern California street food

L.A. Adds Taco Trucks to War against Street Food

Save the Taco TrucksPicture from lataco.com

First, the bacon hot dog carts, and now taco trucks? What the hell is going on in L.A.?

Chowhound’s C. Thi Nguyen had an Op-Ed piece published in the L.A. Times a couple weeks ago detailing the new regulations passed by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors that would basically put taco trucks in unincorporated parts of L.A. County out of business.

From the article:

On Wednesday, the supervisors passed a harsh set of regulations for unincorporated county areas. Parking a taco truck in one spot for longer than an hour is now punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, or six months in jail, or both. Developers and restaurant owners, particularly in East L.A., are pushing for tougher enforcement too. These changes, say some truck owners, will probably put them out of business.

$1,000 or six months in jail? Not surprising when Downtown L.A. food cart owner Elizabeth Palacios spend 45 days in jail for selling a bacon hot dog.

Nguyen says:

This is a cultural disaster. Forget the Getty — it’s the taco trucks, and their crowds, that are the true culture of L.A. Attacking the trucks is like New York going after its hot dog stands or Memphis banning barbecue pits.

What’s the motivation for these new rules? Competition.

Ron Mukai, an East L.A. developer, says the trucks are unfair competition, edging out the “legitimate brick-and-mortar businesses.” But the county’s 14,000 registered catering trucks seem just as legitimate as restaurants — they’re just providing a different service. Restaurants provide meals, and a table to eat them at, and walls to eat them within. Taco trucks provide food, pure and simple. They charge less because they’re selling less.

If I’m looking for food on the run, I’m not looking for a sit-down restaurant. I want something good, fast, and cheap, and if that happens to be the neighborhood taco truck, I’ll be first in line. It’s a lot better option than fast food.

But class is also at the heart of this issue. Nguyen puts it best:

…these new regulations don’t just attack taco trucks, they hurt eaters, especially poor eaters. In a lot of places in town, it’s the only meal you can get for three or four bucks. And in some places, it’s a great meal for three or four bucks.

I’m not really sold on the effectiveness of online petitions, but if you want to sign one or are interested in more information about this fight, go to www.saveourtacotrucks.org.

Let this Cinco de Mayo be about FREEDOM!

Categories
bacon Best of Inuyaki hot dog musings Southern California street food

The Los Angeles Bacon Hot Dog War

I had my very first bacon dog right on Hollywood Blvd. I walked out of a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and this amazing smell overcame me, and I said, “Goddamn! What smells so good?” This guy on the stairs pointed me toward this woman selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs from a sidewalk cart. Let’s just say that I bought and devoured one immediately.


Bacon Hot Dog Cart

Folks in San Francisco may want to claim the bacon dog cart (above) as their own because they’re pretty popular with weekend drunks leaving bars and clubs after 10pm in the Mission District. The truth is, bacon-wrapped hot dogs really belong to L.A., and you can get them from lunchtime till the wee hours of the morning (if you know where to look).

But things are not good for the bacon hot dog cart vendors in La-La Land. The L.A. Weekly recently chronicled the plight of hot dog vendors in L.A., who are now forbidden from using bacon AND grilling their hot dogs. (Boiling and steaming are the only acceptable cooking methods.)

Sound ridiculous?

They’ve actually jailed hot dog vendors like Elizabeth Palacios, who is featured in the article, for selling grilled bacon hot dogs. Palacios once served 45 days for health code violations, a sentence she said was orchestrated to “make an example” of her.

From the article:

“Honestly, I can tell you, I’ve been a working person all my life, I’ve worked since I was 9 years old,” Palacios says. “I don’t like being bothered, I don’t like being arrested. Never in my life had I been to jail, and they threw me in jail for violating the laws of the health department.”

There’s also a racial element to this story as the City of Los Angeles tries to revitalize and gentrify the downtown area and likely considers it in their best interests to “clean up” downtown for future investment and development.

“They told me, ‘The mayor wants to make this area like New York, Times Square,’ but I told them, ‘Who told him we want that? The people who come here are not like that.’ Ninety-nine percent of the people here are mexicanos. Here, you don’t really see americanos. One or two,” she says. “Why are they coming now to get us out of here? Why the abuse? Why the abuse?”

What’s worse is that while licensed hot dog vendors see the business suffer due to the restrictions, fees, and threats placed on them by overzealous city health inspectors, police and gangs, they have to watch their customers flock to the illegal bacon hot dog carts that have flourished since the ban, serving a customer base that probably doesn’t care where they come from…they just want their bacon dogs.

Will there ever be justice for the L.A.’s bacon hot dog vendors?

UPDATE: Drew Carey joins the fight.