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What's the big deal with the KOGI TRUCK? Long lines, but is it worth it?

f
foodluvver Aug 15, 2009 02:04 PM

I've seen video of the lines, and I have to admit the menu looks good, but wondering if it's really worth hunting down a truck...

  1. estnyboer Aug 26, 2009 11:07 PM

    people are always ready for a new fast food.

    1. l
      la tache burger Aug 17, 2009 02:39 PM

      take away the hype and the lines and ... it's really good

      2 Replies
      1. re: la tache burger
        wilafur Aug 17, 2009 02:44 PM

        take away the hype and the lines and ... it's really just ok at best.

        1. re: wilafur
          carln Aug 17, 2009 04:12 PM

          Just take it all away...

      2. carln Aug 17, 2009 11:17 AM

        I chalk their success up to their marketing skills. I tried their beef and their pork tacos last week and really dont know what all the fuss is about. The salad on the tacos was too sweet and i was largely unimpressed. I dont know that i would eat from them again, whether there is a line or not.

        1. Chris O Aug 17, 2009 09:11 AM

          I happened upon it on Friday night, way out in Altadena. The food is really good, I want to be clear about that. The sliders were especially delicious. But the wait was 90 minutes, and...I mean, Space Mountain ain't worth 90 minutes. A 30 minute wait is reasonable, but standing in line for 90 minutes is just insane. Not the fault of the Kogi establishment, mind you, but it's pretty gruelling. Then again, the food probably tastes a lot better after you've gone through that kind of ordeal.

          13 Replies
          1. re: Chris O
            Akitist Aug 17, 2009 10:33 AM

            With all their Twittering I'd say that the Kogi folk are pretty well responsible for the long lines.

            1. re: Chris O
              n
              ns1 Aug 17, 2009 12:43 PM

              The food is really good because after you wait 90 minutes, you are f'n starving.

              1. re: ns1
                m
                mdpilam Aug 17, 2009 11:46 PM

                Ha... I just thought about something. A Taco truck - or maybe even one of the imitator Korean BBQ Taco trucks - should follow Kogi's tweet's and show up across the street, so that everyone waiting in line for an hour can have a choice: wait in line for an hour+ and get some good food, or go across the street and wait less than 5 minutes for some good food.

                1. re: ns1
                  o
                  odub Aug 18, 2009 08:00 AM

                  Atkitist + Carln: You can twitter until your thumbs are worn down - that doesn't bring people out. Ultimately, Kogi has long lines because *word of mouth* is big on it. It's not the truck's twittering - it's everyone else's. Seriously - what "marketing skills" are we talking about here? Does anyone see Kogi commercials? Bus ads? Billboards?

                  The main "skill" is simply that Kogi was *first to market* with a new concept and word of mouth did the rest (national press did not hurt either). It's not because Kogi are marketing geniuses; I would challenge anyone to demonstrate exactly what Kogi has done to market themselves extensively.

                  NS1: I do agree - if you're waiting 45+ minutes for practically any meal, your hunger pangs will improve the taste of whatever you end up eating.

                  1. re: odub
                    n
                    ns1 Aug 18, 2009 12:54 PM

                    No arguments here. If I could make a killing selling mediocre products to legions of people I would.

                    1. re: ns1
                      r
                      RicRios Aug 18, 2009 01:21 PM

                      Kogi is one more link in a very long chain. French Laundry is another one.

                    2. re: odub
                      carln Aug 19, 2009 07:48 AM

                      THey were the first to use Twitter to tell people where they were going to be. Now that everyone is doing that, it doesnt seem so groundbreaking, but it put them on the map.
                      Look, im not telling you not to eat Kogi. I personally think it sucks and dont get what the fuss is about, but if you want to stand in line to eat bad Korean food, be my guest.

                      1. re: odub
                        carln Aug 19, 2009 07:51 AM

                        Also, if they had paid for bus adds and billboards, that really wouldnt be "marketing genius", that would just be having a lot of money. Doing it without spending lots of money and by thinking outside the box, is the genius part.

                        1. re: carln
                          o
                          odub Aug 20, 2009 12:53 AM

                          Carln: I agree that the ingenuity is figuring out how to make use of technology in ways that others hadn't exploited to the same degree. But ultimately - and maybe we're just splitting hairs here - it's not a particular "skill" that we're talking about here. It's about being first to market.

                          But more importantly, the question comes back to: "why are there such long lines?" And that's about the power of word of mouth. It's not because Kogi does extensive promotion, it really doesn't at all. Just trace "the Kogi story" since last January - most of how they broke had to do with places like Chowhound or food bloggers telling friends and their friends, "hey, you check this place out yet?" That's how I heard about it in February.

                          Then J-Gold picked up on it. Then the LA Times did. Then the NY Times did. All within 30-45 days of one another. If you look at what Kogi was doing during all that, it was very very little by way of conventional marketing and a Twitter feed and website isn't exactly a hardcore marketing press.

                          People (and I'm not saying you, specifically) are quick to want to dismiss Kogi because they don't like the food and you know what? That's fair to a point. No one is obligated to enjoy a particular meal/food item simply because others do. But people want to act like it's some kind of voodoo magic that an eatery becomes popular rather than accepting a simple truth - maybe you personally don't like the food but others do. And they like it enough to tell their friends, who try it and then tell their friends, etc.

                          It's social networking 101. It's very simple and happens all the time. There's no magic, no subterfuge to it. Kogi made a product and created an experience that people like and those were the seeds to grow it into a phenom.

                          1. re: odub
                            c
                            condiment Aug 20, 2009 07:54 AM

                            I'd say there was significant skill - Kogi is indie as hell, but the people involved came out of extremely non-indie backgrounds. This was not your little sister twieeting her lemonade stand. As the executive chef at huge hotels, Roy Choi was very good at feeding large amounts of people quickly. Mark and Caroline ran huge corporate food and beverage operations. Mike is a social-networking guru. Alice wrote her masters thesis on food blogs. I don't they ever thought of this as more than a hobby at first, but when their idea caught the public imagination, they were prepared for stunning growth.

                            It seemed nuts at the time to employ three social-media people on what seemed like

                            1. re: condiment
                              o
                              odub Aug 20, 2009 09:33 AM

                              Condiment: You raise good points but the core debate here comes back to the OP's query - "what the big deal with the Kogi Truck?" And I think there's a segment of people who are unwilling to acknowledge a simple possibility - Kogi - for myriad reasons - appeals to people. Partially, it's the food. Partially, it's the cultural cache that has become attached to it. Kogi's creators, of course, play a role in that.

                              But the Kogi phenom is largely one of audience response, networking and the power of word of mouth. And that is something that transcends social media training insofar as you can be the best trained social node ever...but that alone doesn't get people in queue. You have to be doing something else than using Web 2.0.

                              Whether you love Kogi or not, I just find it dismissive to act as if their success is the result of some kind of manipulation of the public when, really, their success is only possible because the public thought what they were doing was cool and everything spun from there.

                              At the very least, it's a symbiotic relationship between maker and consumer - that's how almost every other "hot" restaurant works but people act as if Kogi found some magic path that bypassed the basic, tried-and-true efficacy of peer-to-peer/word of mouth networking. That diffusion of a new idea is something sociologists have studied for years (Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" essentially summarizes much of that research) and it's a simple, some might say even elegant, social system by which new ideas are able to travel throughout a community. Marketing skill helps but you still need people beyond the creators to help.

                              You need Chowhounders. You need food bloggers. You need food writers. A healthy dash of Newsweek and NY Times coverage helps too. Did Mark, Roy, Caroline or Alice manage to engineer all that? Or did they, like thousands of restauranteers, roll the dice with the best skill they had and hope things went their way?

                              1. re: odub
                                c
                                condiment Aug 20, 2009 12:48 PM

                                Unless I've been misreading you, you've been saying: Lightning struck. Kogi got lucky.

                                What I was saying was: These were not stumblebums. (Although the crucial piling on of the MSM, which started before the twitter feed had even 200 subscribers, was probably accidental. I don't think press releases had even occurred to them.)

                                The concepts are not mutually exclusive.

                                But if ``manipulation of the public'' includes really, really good food, that's okay by me every time.

                                1. re: condiment
                                  o
                                  odub Aug 20, 2009 04:12 PM

                                  Condiment: Kogi WAS lucky but in acknowledgement of your point, they were also lucky by their own creation insofar as their model - mobile + twitter updates + hip, fusion food - was far more likely to attract attention than, say, a conventional taco truck using twitter.

                                  So there's no question in my mind that Kogi contributed to their own cache simply by doing something different and innovative. BUT, to go back to the OP's point, the reason why there are long lines is because Kogi's *consumers* have generated enough organic "hype" (or whatever you want to call it) to hook other people.

                                  As I was suggesting, if you were to really look at the history of Kogi and what it was able to do, I will guarantee that you'll find classic diffusion theory at work, which is to say, you have a small cadre of initial discoverers (i.e. "early adopters") who latch onto a new product and they generate enough word of mouth - through blogging and social networking and simple peer-to-peer recommendation - to snowball past the proverbial tipping point.

                                  People go to Kogi because, quite simply, they've heard about Kogi - from a friend, from a news report, from a blog, etc. And one reason why anyone's heard about Kogi is because enough people actually think the food is - you know - good.

                                  Doesn't mean everyone is obliged to agree. I don't think there's any universal constants in the word of culinary taste (actually, I have yet to hear anyone criticize Langer's pastrami sandwich but I'm sure they are out there). But I find the attitude of, "well, Kogi's food sucks so their success must be due to something else" to be a wholly ignorant statement that overlooks what should be quite obvious: enough people think the food is good to have bothered to talk about Kogi at all. It's not because the truck's marketing acumen was laser sharp or they had a massive promotional budget.

                                  The great, practically democratic, story with Kogi is that they took a great idea, executed it well enough to convince early adopters and now they are reaping the windfall. Hate the food - that's one's right. But folks shouldn't try to act as if their success is some bizarre accident or mistake.

                  2. Dommy Aug 15, 2009 08:41 PM

                    No, it's not worth the wait... that is why we went to Alibi room, very little wait even when the bar was crazy busy and we got to eat them with great beer and had Kogi fries (actually our favorite item...)

                    --Dommy!

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: Dommy
                      ipsedixit Aug 16, 2009 12:37 AM

                      Or, you could just get a take-out order of galbi from Soowon or Chosun Galbee and some tortillas from Top Valu or Los 5 Puntos and make your own korean tacos.

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        PurpleTeeth Aug 16, 2009 09:02 AM

                        I like the way you think ipsedixit!

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          o
                          odub Aug 16, 2009 01:43 PM

                          Where can you go for the cabbage slaw though?

                          1. re: odub
                            t
                            taiwanesesmalleats Aug 16, 2009 05:11 PM

                            My roommate actually tried to reverse engineer the slaw. His product wasn't the same, but it was darn tasty. You're definitely better off getting some raw meat to grill at home from a Korean market.

                            1. re: odub
                              a_and_w Aug 17, 2009 04:31 PM

                              Isn't it just white kimchee? You can probably find it at any Korean grocery.

                              1. re: a_and_w
                                o
                                odub Aug 18, 2009 08:03 AM

                                It's not kimchee.

                                1. re: odub
                                  t
                                  taiwanesesmalleats Aug 18, 2009 03:00 PM

                                  It's a slaw made from fresh cabbage so no, not kimchee.

                                  1. re: taiwanesesmalleats
                                    a_and_w Aug 18, 2009 07:02 PM

                                    Huh? Kimchee can be made with fresh cabbage. My Korean aunt just made some this weekend.

                                    1. re: a_and_w
                                      t
                                      taiwanesesmalleats Aug 20, 2009 10:59 AM

                                      Sorry, I know kimchee can be made with fresh cabbage. I was merely trying to point out that it isn't what most people assume to be kimchee. I was just trying to say that it was a slaw/salad mixture made with fresh vegetables, not a pickled version.

                                      1. re: taiwanesesmalleats
                                        a_and_w Aug 20, 2009 11:07 AM

                                        Gotcha -- thanks for the clarification. Looks like you and odub are 100% correct.

                                        1. re: a_and_w
                                          t
                                          taiwanesesmalleats Aug 20, 2009 12:02 PM

                                          It's cool. As good as the internet is as a resource, some things are always lost in translation.

                                  2. re: odub
                                    a_and_w Aug 18, 2009 07:02 PM

                                    Not saying you're wrong, odub, but what makes you so sure?

                                    1. re: a_and_w
                                      o
                                      odub Aug 20, 2009 12:42 AM

                                      It's just not kimchee in any way, shape or form that I'm familiar with. Provided, I haven't eaten through every Korean restaurant in Los Angeles but I've been to enough over the years to know the difference between kimchee and a cabbage slaw with soy vinagrette (which is what Kogi uses).

                                      1. re: odub
                                        a_and_w Aug 20, 2009 08:31 AM

                                        I'll take your word for it, but Kimchee is a pretty diverse food that includes simple fresh slaws like you describe. Most non-Koreans are only familiar with the fermented version that's commonly served in restaurants.

                                        1. re: a_and_w
                                          o
                                          odub Aug 20, 2009 09:20 AM

                                          I absolutely believe you but 1) they don't describe it as kimchi. They describe it as "julienne romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in Korean chili-soy vinaigrette". Given that they serve dishes with kimchi - such as their kimchi quesadilla - it doesn't make intuitive sense that their tacos are topped with a kimichi-that-they-choose-to-call-something-other-than-kimchi. 2) Based on most people's impressions of what kimchi looks and tastes like, the "julienne romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in Korean chili-soy vinaigrette" conforms to neither.

                                          That said, if you're telling me I can go into a K-Town market and find this stuff, readymade...that'd be great for any DIY Kogi taco maker.

                                          1. re: odub
                                            a_and_w Aug 20, 2009 09:45 AM

                                            Points well taken. Unfortunately, the stuff I have in mind at K-Town markets is strictly kimchee and most likely fermented, even if white.

                                            1. re: a_and_w
                                              o
                                              odub Aug 20, 2009 11:17 AM

                                              It's all good - before I had the taco and tasted their slaw, I assumed it was kimchee too since that would have been the easy assumption given the whole fusion concept.

                          2. c
                            cvc Aug 15, 2009 08:04 PM

                            Here's my rather lengthy post on this topic but I must point out that the day is not over and I've already run into the truck twice. First, after our wonderful lunch at Lemonade we found it parked in the Brigg Bar parking lot on Abbot Kinney and my friend having not tried it loved her beef short rib taco for $2 (there was another truck in the lot selling Indian food but everyone there seemed to be for Kogi); and about an hour ago it was parked next to the Bank of America on Pico near Overland in WLA. I stopped at the ATM to pay for a steak burger with cheese, an order of well done fries and a piece of chocolate cream pie from the Apple Pan two blocks away which a twenty covered nicely with a $3.50 tip.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/604605

                            1. b
                              bsquared2 Aug 15, 2009 05:33 PM

                              It's good, but not worth waiting more than 15 mins. At this point it is more of a trendy thing than a culinary thing. But I give them points for kick starting the whole "truck" thing that has probably jumped the shark at this point. I really started to lose interest after I heard about the sushi truck.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bsquared2
                                o
                                odub Aug 15, 2009 05:36 PM

                                *laugh* Yeah, somehow "sushi" + "truck" does not compute. I would absolutely debate the concept that haute mobile cuisine has jumped the shark though. LA will ALWAYS be in debt to the taco truck and while I doubt the market will support the dozen-plus post-Kogi trucks out there, I think what they've done is nudge the paradigm on food consumption and distribution. We're at the very beginning of that cusp, hardly anywhere near its zenith (or nadir if you prefer).

                                And I would echo Condiment's point. If you've never been to Kogi, the line is indeed a feature. I don't think it's a feature really worth enjoying past the first time (unless you're taking another Kogi newbie with you) but so far, no Kogi newbie has complained about waiting in line on the food for their first experience.

                              2. c
                                condiment Aug 15, 2009 05:25 PM

                                If the crowd amuses you, the crowd amuses and you're having a good time, which for me is usually the case, then the experience is worth every minute. And the food, especially the daily specials, can be great. If to you the line is something to be endured, you're going to be pissed off by the time you get to the front, and you won't enjoy it: give it a skip. Or try Roy's food with less stress at the Alibi Room in Culver City. The line isn't a bug, it's a feature.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: condiment
                                  c
                                  cls Aug 15, 2009 07:40 PM

                                  +1 condiment.
                                  The experience is a big part of it. The food is good, although much is the same just different bread / wrap. If you have never been, go, but go soon, the experience won't be the same soon simply because the moment has passed.

                                  1. re: cls
                                    o
                                    odub Aug 15, 2009 07:51 PM

                                    I thought that but after seeing 50 people lining up in Little Tokyo for the truck the other day, looks like those 15 minutes have gotten a time extension.

                                2. m
                                  mdpilam Aug 15, 2009 04:22 PM

                                  I wouldn't wait for over 10 min. If you want to try something that is very similar, w/o the lines, go to the Calbi BBQ truck.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mdpilam
                                    o
                                    odub Aug 15, 2009 05:18 PM

                                    It's worth doing the line - ONCE.

                                  2. p
                                    paprkutr Aug 15, 2009 03:54 PM

                                    NO. We waited almost 50 minutes, not worth it. I didn't even think the food was that great. Heavy on the soy.

                                    1. m
                                      Muskrat Aug 15, 2009 03:54 PM

                                      The people in line seem to think it's worth the wait.

                                      1. t
                                        TChappy40 Aug 15, 2009 03:51 PM

                                        No,No No!. I wouldn't wait more than 5 minutes for the Kogi truck. It's good but not great and not worth the time.

                                        1. SmokeyDoke Aug 15, 2009 03:36 PM

                                          No.

                                          1. p
                                            Pumpkin_Head Aug 15, 2009 03:21 PM

                                            Line wait varies by time/location. Last time I went was a week ago when they were near Sepulveda and Roscoe in the afternoon - around 12:30, less than 10 people in line.

                                            I personally wouldn't wait a long time unless they were a very short distance or one happens to be in the area - they make a regular stop about 3 miles from my house, and that's the only time I may go and get in line early.

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