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Kogi - Good food, but is it worth the wait? [pics]

A couple of months ago, the Kogi truck was to be parked in front of The Doheny and if you RSVP you get to check out that exclusive private club also. I've been wanting to check out The Doheny and give Kogi a real try, so I RSVPed through DigLounge.

When we got there we had to line up to get a stamp from The Doheny, which was supposedly needed to order food from Kogi. The Doheny line took about 30 minutes. Then we lined up for Kogi ... for almost another hour. When this guy 2 places ahead of me started ordering, he started talking to Caroline about he just came to LA ... the guy right in front of me commented about how this is what's so great about Kogi - how they talk to their customers. (OK, I do think talking to your customers is very cool. But ... I've been starving in the cold for 1 1/2 hours *cough*)

Finally we get to order! They were unfortunately out of the Kogi sliders :/ so I opted for the hot dog among other things instead. Of course, we had to get some of the kalbi tacos:
OK. This Kogi sauce is pretty darn good - not that spicy but quite flavorful. The meat was also noticeably better than what I had in front of The Brig a few months back. One is definitely not enough.

We also got the Kogi hot dog and tofu taco that they were offering that night:

Since the sauces are the same, I won't say much more about them. Of course, I like the kalbi taco the best. I'm a meat eater all the way. I guess at this point I wished there was more 'variety' not just with the meat but the sauce as well. But on the other hand, hey, it's a taco truck?

Kogi also usually offers a vegetarian item. This time it's a vegetarian taco with pomegranates.
It was a bit too tart for my taste - I'd stick with my kalbi tacos.

So. Kogi. Yes, yes, I like it. I like it quite a bit. I mean, if they were at UCLA back when I was going to school there, I would've gone every day. But an hour-plus line? I don't know man, I wouldn't want to wait an hour and more for them. I get cra~nky when I'm hungry! :P

I think because of all the hype, the line is too long for what this truck is meant to be - a place to get some good bites after a long night of drinking - not a place to wait in front of for an hour in the cold LA smog ...
Hopefully with their new truck addition, the lines will be much shorter next time I hit them up ...

Photos: http://tinyurl.com/acnhaq

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  1. The wait for this food is approaching "Pink's Time" (g). I think that Kogi and Pink's both have hit upon a pretty smart business model. Keep the customer waiting in line for an hour + and they will inevitably buy more food than they ordinarily would.

    If the hoopla dies down (ala Pinkberry) and the wait approaches 5 minutes I will aim to try it out. Thanks for your report, burumun.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      I was about to say "Pink" shtick is what comes to mind.

      And now that I think of it, I have a couple bridges available for sale as well. Only minor detail, there's a long waiting list. I'll publish details one of these days.

      1. re: RicRios

        According to Einstein (who was overheard while waiting in line at Pink's) - as you get near the edge of the giant "Pink" hole, time appears to speed up for those who are approaching the ordering rim - while for the observers at the far end of the "Pink" hole line, time is actually seen as "slowing" down. My paper with all the math will be published via Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study some time later this year. ;-D>

        1. re: Servorg

          ROFL!!! Einstein + Robin Williams = Servorg

          1. re: Servorg

            Servog, no disrespect intended, however this is taking the thread off base. Pinks is not Kogi. As to Kogi I was happy to hear about the Alabi room however I plan to take in the truck experience . I think the sense of community of waiting in line sounds kinda fun a least for one time. So for those whom been to a truck have you a reccomendation or two? The Sliders and Kalbi seem to be on my short list. I guess that I should look at their ( Kogi's ) website and see when they will make it to the westside again. I missed the night they were at the Brig in Venice..

            1. re: Foodandwine

              Go with the Tacos, the sliders were disapointing because they use 'Meh' Bread. I liked the Pork and Chicken the best. The Kalbi was quite over sauced... I don't think the Truck does Fries... but the fries were AWESOME at the Alibi room...

              --Dommy!

              --Dommy!

              1. re: Dommy

                HI Dommy,

                I haven't tried the sliders but I hear they use sweet Hawaiian rolls. Is that what they used? Sounds a bit too delicate to support even a slider properly.

                I also think that the consistency might not be there with Kogi. At the truck I found the kalbi to be good, the pork to be very good, but the chicken wasn't happening that night. It was kind of dry and the tofu actually had more flavor, if you can believe that.

                I do think that the best part of the experience is seeing who turns out to the truck. It's as random a cross-section of the city as I've ever seen at a food venue. Pretty cool to watch.

                The Brig location does not usually have much of a line when I've been there.

          2. re: RicRios

            Good, but def not worth the wait.

            This is where Kogi's differs from Pinks.

            1. re: RicRios

              After reading the posts down below I've decided to release some info to the general public. It's $100 to get into the mailing list for the upcoming Golden Gate auction. Please send CC ( only VISA & MC, senza promotions please, sorry no Amex nor Disc ) to: info@LetMeSellYouMyHype.org

          3. The Alibi room has a pretty good system... They take orders in batches and then whip them out. Our wait was no longer than 20 minutes (which was made even easier with booze...)

            --Dommy!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Dommy

              That's good to know. Aye, if there was booze in my hand, the wait would've been less painful methinks. But no, I was supposed to get food first, then go in the doheny, boo :<

              So with their new truck and the Alibi room, the wait should decrease. Then see if their popularity holds up?
              Or will it be like Pinkberry? Once it's franchised all over the place, the hype's died down significantly.

              1. re: burumun

                Well worth the wait. If you wait one hour after the truck arrives, the line isn't as bad. Twice I have been lucky enough to walk right up to the window and order. The longest I waited is one hour.

            2. you know, i see where you're going with the wait and all, but once you meet chef roy, you will feel the same way i do.
              he is one of the most humble men doing god's work here in LA.
              i've hoped for so long that there would be more interesting street food in LA, and then there was kogi.
              this guy's first job out of culinary school was working in eric ripert's kitchen... he's no joke.
              he's really passionate about his food and his city; as a lifelong angeleno, i appreciate where he's coming from and will support his vision as much as possible.

              2 Replies
              1. re: alkylyou

                I see where you're coming from... But what exactly is his vision?

                I also heard the East LA people were waiting in line for 3 hours and didn't get any food because they ran out. This shouldn't be his long term vision, should it?

                But I am glad they've added the second truck, and now the Alibi room. Should make it easier for people to get their food.

                1. re: burumun

                  basically, chef roy said that kogi was his love song to los angeles and his childhood.
                  he grew up on korean food, but gained a deep appreciation for mexican food because of the nature of los angeles.
                  he moved away for some time and missed it all and decided to make it when he came back.
                  another thing that i have to say is that i've never waited for more than 30 minutes at the brig.
                  the east side is a mystery to me.

              2. I'm obsessed with Kogi, though I've only managed to go twice. I was actually there the opening weekend and there was no line. My second visit, I wasn't so lucky, though I did totally get my pic in seriouseats thanks to it (for my fame, see: http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/02/a-...). I was drunk the first time, sober the second, and I will say it was deliciousness all around. There is a ton of hype around this place, but the hype comes from really good food. The first time I tried it, there was no hype (I know this is totally getting to "I liked Radiohead before they got popular" levels, but bear with me) but I was so dazzled by the food that I was compelled to visit their website, yelp, etc. It's food that makes you obsess.

                3 Replies
                1. re: junipersong

                  fyi...you may want to repost your link, didn't work for me.

                2. "cold LA smog?"

                  wow, really? do i detect some nocal hate?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                    I accidentally found the Kogi truck last week after going to a show at a club called El Cid on Sunset around 11:40pm. Leaving the club I was pleased to find the truck and the line wasn't too bad. Maybe 15 people and I got my food maybe 10-15 minutes later. They ran out of tofu so they used mushroom. I also got a taco with the Korean short rib meat. It was late so that probably helped, but people kept showing up while they were trying to close up it was a little past midnight.

                    1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                      Hahaha no I'm a SoCal lover all the way. Otherwise I wouldn't call LA "cold"
                      I mean, NorCal is freeee~zing. Anyway.

                      1. re: burumun

                        Ok...just checking lol

                        I enjoy your blog btw

                    2. I showed up at a site where their truck was parked and supposed to open at 9pm. At 9:30pm, they announced (with about 20-25 people waiting) that they weren't going to open and that they were moving to the location of their other truck on Sunset because there were more people there. Half the groupies ran quickly to their cars and raced off to the location and the other half just stood confused.

                      I drove by their truck a few nights later and there were easily over 75 people in line which is ridiculous but I guess they rely on the ignorance and patience of youth as most of the people were college-aged kids.

                      In any case, this smells of hype machine and gimmick to me as the truck is a moving target all night long based on where they can get the most business. No food (IMHO) is worth watiing in line that long for. Too many other great places in town that deserve the business and are more reasonable with their customers.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mrshankly

                        "No food (IMHO) is worth watiing in line that long for. Too many other great places in town that deserve the business and are more reasonable with their customers."
                        -- Mr. Shankly

                        I agree. Well, mostly. I'm sure there *could* be food good enough to wait an hour for. It's just not Kogi.

                        1. re: mrshankly

                          You've got to be kidding me...Is this a freaking taco truck or the Jonas Brothers? Freaking joke

                        2. Went to the Alibi Room last night to get some Kogi and drinks. On my own, I had 2 of the taco combos (3 tacos per order, I tried all 3 meats and tofu) and shared the salad and fries with some friends. Everything was ok - I don't think I'd make a special trip for the food, though.

                          The tacos were disappointing because the flavor of the meat didn't come through. They were all overwhelmed by this sweet and spicy slaw on top. All 6 of the tacos were like that, so I figure it's just the way they do it. Maybe I'll pick off some of the slaw next time. The spicy fries were good but way saltier than they needed to be, especially since they came with 2 kinds of ketchup (one with sriracha and one w/o I think) and an aioli. Friends tried the sliders and breakfast burrito, had good things to say about both items. Maybe try those next time as well.

                          Between 8:30 and 10:30 it was kind of crazy trying to put in an order and find a place at the bar to sit, but afterward it started clearing out and was more comfortable. Parking's not bad, but it's not a very well lit area.

                          http://www.alibiroomla.com/menu.php

                          -----
                          Alibi Room
                          12236 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                          1. Finally got to try Kogi last night at The Brig in Venice. The wait was about 40 minutes and once you place your order, the food comes quickly. I had the spicy pork taco and the short rib burrito. The burrito was ok, didn't realize there would be potatoes in it, I think I would have liked it as a taco better. Loved the spicy pork taco and could definitely taste the flavors of the meat in this as opposed to what some of the prior posts have said. Maybe I will try it at the Alibi Room next time, as I would like to try the fries. Was it worth the wait? Yes and no. Yes b/c I've been waiting too long to try it and it was good. No, b/c it was cold and once you are done, if you don't have anything else to do in that area, the drive home is long (from Long Beach). So, if they would come out to Long Beach or its vicinity, then I would be much happier.

                            1. Finally at Kogi at a truly asian inspired Alibi Room last night...

                              Ummmm are the tacos always so heavily sauced? And should I have asked for a fork to eat all the crap that fell out of the taco while I was eating it? Had kalbi sliders which were good...But seriously, Im beginning to think this is nothing but a bunch of hype

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                                Yeah, now I ask for it without the salsa. Just the meat with the lettuce/cabbage in their Korean sauce and sesame seeds. Much better IMHO.

                                --burumun
                                http://gourmetpigs.net

                              2. A 45-minute wait for stale tortillas and lukewarm meats? No, not worth it.......
                                They were supposed to be in Eagle Rock on Saturday night from 8:30 to 10:00........
                                many waited..........we checked their twitter feed on our iphones to see if they were gonna be late..........no msg............finally decided to stop waiting around 10:00.......
                                checked in the morning and their was a retroactive post indicating Eagle Rock was cancelled.........
                                A few people, upset that they waited and were not updated via Kogi's twitter left msgs. of dismay on the Kogi site..............'Chef Roy', responds with, “Eagle Rock, if you ever threaten my team again then we will not bother and will not go back.” Not sure why he takes people expressing their disappointment w/them not announcing via twitter that they would not show up at all as threatening. Alice of Kogi also chimed in with, “You can get mad at the mom, but take one extra minute and really think to yourself — is the mom not beating herself up". Great PR Kogi..........
                                Screw the Kogi people, their crappy tortilla-brand choice and their so-so 'tacos' . They can take a flying leap.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: slowrider

                                  Total hype machine/twitter phenomenon. DEFINITELY not worth the ridiculous drive people are making and not worth the wait/ time for okay tacos (tried all of them already). So many other good dining options out there then to wait, only to be disappointed like that. Now they have competition with La Taquiza.

                                  1. re: slowrider

                                    I just read the comments over at their blog and I really don't get the attitude their staff is putting out there. The "chef roy" response was so dramatic. He made it sound like someone threatened to beat up his team or something. Kogi is mad that people are mad that they didn't show up? That's a strange business model.

                                    I'm not trying to stir up drama or anything. I think these kinds of issues with service are important to know when dealing with a business in the service industry.

                                    1. re: slowrider

                                      Ah, yes... Kogi finally shows its true hype-inflated colors. I thought I was the exception in getting the brush off from their staff the night I waited for the truck and got stood up (and an email to the owner not answered)... but I guess their true arrogance and incompetence is starting to show. The latest news is that they'll be incorporating Filipino food on their menu. I don't see how when they always run out of food or leave their customers hanging on a sidewalk while roaming around for the biggest school of groupies... nobody's ever going to get a chance to taste it!!! Thankfully, there'll be a few more taco trucks for sale and for cheap to real taco truck owners in about 6 months... they just have to scrape off four letters and they're in business.

                                      1. re: slowrider

                                        I've wanted to try Kogi for awhile, but the timing has never worked out right. (seriously guys - can't even come to at least Studio City or Sherman Oaks once in a while?)

                                        Thought I finally had my opportunity at SMC last Thursday. They were supposed to be there from 3-6, I gave up after waiting a half hour. (had to drive back to Northridge - yes, in that traffic) Later saw on Twitter that they arrived at 4 (?) I suppose it's my own fault for not owning a web-enabled phone/handheld yet, but still - this is beginning to sound really ridiculous.

                                        1. re: Pumpkin_Head

                                          Stopped by Yuri on Melrose tonight to try them for the first time - the tofu tacos were great!
                                          Staff could not have been nicer - I will definitely be checking out the Alibi as well as any truck stops near me!

                                          1. re: shebop

                                            You can't please everybody all the time. Been to the truck 6 times at different locations and the Alibi room once. Staff has always been friendly. Food has always been a 10. It almost worst then drugs. I also wish they come to the San Fernando Valley, but don't mind driving for there great food at cheap prices.

                                            1. re: magic man

                                              I just happened to go their web site this afternoon and noticed that they were going to be around CSUN tonight around 8 pm. I thought cool since they were in the Valley I would give it a try. I drove all the way around CSUN around 8:30 and didn't see them anywhere. I went home and signed up with Twitter just so that I could get their tweets about where they were going to be. It turns out that they were going to be on Reseda just north of Devonshire around 9. I jumped back into my car and drove over there. The line was at least 100 people long but I got in it anyway. After about 10 minutes and barely moving I decided that an hour wait for some tacos just wasn't worth it. Maybe next time I will find out where they will be and get there earlier. Hopefully they will come to the Valley again. They were mentioned in Sunset magazine that I received today and KTTV did a story about them this week. That should keep the hype up for a while longer.

                                      2. I don't think their food is that great and I think it's totally not worth the wait. Their tacos are mediocre at best, the meats weren't too flavorful. The burrito was not good at all being that the potatoes soaked up any flavor there was, not to mention the bitterness of the char from the grill. Their kim chi quesadilla is aweful, it sounds like what it's called; good apart terrible together.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: phant0omx

                                          Agreed. All the tacos taste the same...the burrito lacks much flavor and I've had better meat....uhhh everywhere. If Chef Roy love Korean and Mexican food as he claims I suggest he get each one right before trying to mix them.

                                        2. I have been three times and I say with resounding definitiveness that it is worth every moment of wait time. I think it's fantastic and special. And the wait, much like Pink's, is part of the experience. I firmly believe our food experiences are also grounded in culture, and this madness is part of the Kogi culture. I can't wait to have it again.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: lotta_cox

                                            You had me until you mentioned Pink's. I think I'll pass.

                                            1. re: mrshankly

                                              I hate Pink's. However the wait IS part of the experience.

                                              1. re: lotta_cox

                                                Of course it is, after waiting an hour in the cold, ANYTHING will taste good

                                          2. Finally went last week when they were outside the Alibi Room for lunch at 12p.m. We got there at 12:10 and there seemed to be a short line, but it took us 45 minutes to get to the window. There were at least 100 behind us. We talked to people in line. Got our order 2 short rib tacos and 2 chicken tacos. The guy we were standing with also had a pork one. Our opinion is that it is not worth it, too heavily sauced, too much sesame flavor, and we were expecting some kimchi, hot just cabbage. Consensus was that the chicken taco was the best. Too much hype, have no desire to go back.

                                            Rather go to El Chato on Olympic and La Brea, great carne asada, clean and the people are really nice.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: paprkutr

                                              Yes! I love El Chato. I recently fell in love with their Quesadillas (I always just ordered tacos). Oh, and their Al Pastor is fantastic.

                                              But on topic, I think that Kogi is pretty good (I had them when they first started), but a little overpriced. And it is way overhyped, but I guess that's an LA thing. Cool concept though. I would have been p!ssed if it took me 45min to get our food there (we ordered and got ours in maybe 2min).

                                            2. i was the biggest defender of kogi as i like the food a lot, however i don't feel like i want to go back after reading the piece on foodsheewrote.blogspot.com.
                                              of course, it could be ANY ethnic fusion taco truck, but come on.
                                              MAD disappointed.
                                              i mean i understand why the girl is bummed on her job, but you can't take it out on someone like that and still have a job in PR.
                                              *edit:
                                              i hear they also started charging tax. WTF?!?!?
                                              tax at a taco truck?
                                              major jokes.

                                              1. I waited in line last night in Northridge for 3 hours to try a Kogi taco. It was so not worth the wait. The food was cold and uninspiring. We had the short rib taco. Pebble sized cold meat with slaw and with what tasted like asian salad dressing.
                                                I work in catering and I have never seen it take so long to feed people. What are they doing in those trucks? Do they not come prepared to feed the crowds.
                                                Never again!

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: TChappy40

                                                  wow...i feel really sorry--wish you could have had those 3 hours of your life back. but at least you now know for yourself what an overblown and overrated hype machine this really is.

                                                  1. re: TChappy40

                                                    They used to work at Pink's, TChappy40.