Kogi BBQ: Taking Over Southern California

Innovative food truck feeds Fullerton's bar goers

Kogi BBQ's food truck has been visiting Fullerton regularly for about two years now. The brainchild of Mark Manguera, Kogi BBQ's business is remarkable for a variety of reasons. First, Kogi BBQ is beloved by both the general populace of L.A. and surroundings as well as lauded by gourmet food critics. Its co-founder Roy Choi was the first food truck chef to be awarded the honour of "Chef of the Year" by Food and Wine magazine. Kogi BBQ also gained attention for its use of Twitter and other social media to spread the word. Their main marketing trick, however, remains a solid word-of-mouth campaign which is only possible because, ultimately, their product has an impeccable reputation. So what is Kogi BBQ?

Taco trucks, being a vessel for Mexican culinary culture, are ubiquitous in Southern California. Mark Manguera, a second-generation Filipino-American, married into a Korean family, whereupon he became acquainted with Korean barbecue. He got the idea to fuse these two staples of South Californian cuisine and found his culinary mastermind in the well-pedigreed chef Roy Choi, a Korean-born but Los Angeles-raised culinarian with cooking experience from, amongst others, famed New York eatery Le Bernardin.

The beginnings were slow, and the most mundane of all gastronomical start-up problems arose: the truck would be parked but people weren't buying the product which they knew nothing about. This led the Kogi team to take matters into their hands, a strategy that proved successful: they started handing out free tacos to food bloggers (another indication of their technological savvy). Their food was delicious enough to prompt an enthusiastic response and led to immediate renown. Twitter is their main method of communicating their daily locations (there are currently five trucks serving the L.A. and surrounding areas); regular blogs can be read on their website. With a product so innovative and successful, they would put out the information and their fans would follow, re-tweeting and forming lines around the block in front of the trucks.

Now, let's talk about the food. It is essential to mention here that the author of this article is nearly vegetarian, yet was blown away by KOGI BBQ's burritos and quesadillas. The main items on the menu are the traditional Mexican staples: tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Kimchi, a big ingredient in Korean cuisine, makes frequent appearances, and the meat in any of the food is barbecued the Korean way after being marinated in a typical sauce made up of ingredients such as soy sauce, ginger, sugar and onions. Cabbage romaine slaw and the different sauces, which include citrus jalapeño salsa verde, salsa roja and salsa naranja, provide beautiful color as well as incredibly zesty flavour are added and, depending on which traditional American (burger, sliders) or Mexican (tacos, burritos, quesadillas) framework is being created for all the above mentioned deliciousness. Jack and/or cheddar cheeses and caramelized onions play a part, too. We sampled the classic short rib burrito as well as one of the ever-rotating specials, the Pacman Quesadilla, which contains all three meats (spicy pork, short rib, chicken), Jack and cheddar cheese, sesame mayo and all three sauces. Not only did it look beautiful; it made me want to drop everything each subsequent time I knew the Kogi truck was parked in Fullerton, throw money at the personnel and roll around in a glorious mixture of meat, sauces, cheese, and AWESOMENESS. For lack of better descriptions, I would advise everyone to just go try it and be amazed.

Recently, the Kogi truck has been parked in front of Sunset Lounge on either Tuesdays or Thursdays from 9:30 to 11 p.m.

For Kogi's schedule, which that is updated weekly, go to www.kogibbq.com or follow them on Twitter (@kogibbq). Items range from $2.29 to $8.

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