Saturday, January 30, 2016

Kogi BBQ

When I was a kid, the best place to eat in my hometown was a little restaurant called Ellis Dairy Dee. They made incredible hamburgers that came with a side golden crisp crinkle cut fries and you could choose from an amazing assortment of shakes, sundaes and cones for dessert. It was the perfect spot to feed my developing junk food jones. And I wasn’t the only person in town who thought so. That place was always hopping. Everyone went to the Dairy Dee.

Well, at least all us locals did. I doubt they got many out-of-town customers. If you were just passing through you probably wouldn’t have even considered stopping there. Ellis Dairy Dee was in a tiny, old cinder block building painted an odd maroon color and it sat on a parking lot where weeds constantly fought their way up through the cracked asphalt. The place looked like an invitation to food poisoning but, boy, were looks deceiving.

Most towns have a spot or two like that and I was lucky enough to discover one in Los Angeles right after my wife and I made the move. Three thousand miles from home and unsure whether or not packing everything into our car and trekking out west was a mistake, the Kogi BBQ truck was a godsend and a testament to the power of junk food.

Kogi, by-the-way, is actually a fleet of five trucks that roam the LA area dispensing Korean-Mexican fusion food to anyone who finds one and is willing to brave the usually long-ass lines. They offer, for example Kimchi Quesadillas, Spicy Pork Tacos, and (one of my favorites) Short Rib Burritos.

The short ribs are marinated in a sweet-but-vinegary sauce, charred on the grill and then chopped and mixed with some hash browns, fluffy scrambled eggs, a combo of cheddar and jack shredded cheese, lettuce and cabbage, then sauced and spiced with Korean chili-soy vinaigrette and Kogi’s chili salsa roja. Damn, it’s tasty!

Kogi founder, chef Roy Choi, has been featured in Food & Wine magazine and he won a Bon Appetit Award (whatever the hell that is) but none of that fancy crap is obvious from the beat up, rundown trucks from which he dispenses his magical creations. They’re rolling holes-in-the-wall.

To quote Han Solo: "She may not look like much but she's got it where it counts, kid."
A couple of weeks after our big cross country move, extremely homesick and ready to pack it all in and head back east, my wife and I stumbled upon a Kogi truck parked down the street from our tiny apartment. The menu might have been totally differently but Kogi BBQ was just like Ellis Dairy Dee – A local hole that featured amazing food you couldn’t get anywhere else. Kogi made a very alien place feel slightly less alien and helped us hold on a little longer. Sometimes junk food isn’t junk and it isn’t just food. It’s home.

No comments:

Post a Comment