Kogi BBQ Truck: My Knight on Shining Rubber Wheels

Allow me to profess my new love for the Kogi BBQ truck, the knight on shining rubber wheels, in a punk-rock sticker-collage suit of armor, that saved me from my repetitive lunchtime routine of going to the same sandwich shop over and over for at least a year.

There’s always a line at Kogi BBQ (Naranja) Wednesdays at Von Karman Ave, Irvine.

The Kogi truck is apparently a Big Deal in the LA area, but it was only about 4 weeks ago that I finally made my way to one. I’m a little late to this game. For those that don’t know, Kogi has 3 trucks (Verde, Roja, and Naranja) serving their mind-blowing menu Tuesday – Saturday at a variety of locations, alternating daily. It turns out that every Wednesday at lunch time, one of their 3 trucks parks itself just a short drive from my office. My first visit there was one of those bitter sweet experiences of “What have I been doing with my life up to this point??”, only replace “life” with “lunch hour” I guess. I have been back to Kogi every Wednesday since then, because It’s. That. Good. Now I have a new repetitive lunch routine, and I am ok with it.

For my first trip, it was recommended/requested that I get a burrito, but I couldn’t just go to a taco truck without ordering actual tacos, so I opted for Combo #2: any $7 item (burrito) + 1 taco + drink. I chose a short rib burrito ($7) and spicy pork taco ($2.50) and a can of my longest running abusive relationship partner, Coca Cola ($2).

A fusion of our familiar Mexican staple and Korean BBQ, the taco is constructed with double-layered soft corn tortilla, a layer of shredded pork in chili-based BBQ sauce, generously topped with finely chopped lettuce that had been tossed in a unique, somewhat-spicy vinegar-based (I think?) dressing. It was SO delicious I was literally angry with myself for a few seconds that I hadn’t tried it sooner. And then a little sad that every moment of my life would not be filled with this amazing flavor. The burrito was a plump bundle of similar deliciousness, containing chopped short ribs, veggies, and slightly out-of-place shredded yellow cheddar. I’m typically a big cheese-lover, but in this case, I felt the sharp cheesiness clashed with the sweet chili flavor of the Korean-style short ribs and its other dressings. The short ribs themselves were well-done, well seasoned, and tasted amazing. No for real. AMAZING. (This is how much I care about your opinions on “well-done”.)

This Kogi Truck is plastered in a variety of stickers, covering most of the service side and back end.
This Kogi Truck is plastered in a variety of stickers, covering most of the service side and back end.

Trip Number 2 was an order of Combo #1 (3 tacos + drink): the short rib taco, chicken taco, and spicy pork taco (again). All three tacos were served with the same seasoned lettuce topping, offering similar but subtly different flavors. The short ribs were, again, delicious, and much preferred without cheese. The spicy pork did not disappoint, and was just as mind-blowingly delicious as the first time. If chicken tacos are your thing, I highly recommend these, as they were nearly as amazing as the spicy pork. By my next trip, I’ve locked onto spicy pork and short rib tacos as favorites, and finally ditch the idea of buying a can of coke for $2 (because the vending machine at work sells the same can for 75 cents. LOLWHUT?). I am now ready to jump into the menu item that had piqued my curiosity from the very beginning: The Calamari Taco.

Left to Right: Calamari Taco, Spicy Pork Taco, Short Rib Taco
Left to Right: Calamari Taco, Spicy Pork Taco, Short Rib Taco

Holy shit, you guys. This might be the best taco I’ve ever eaten. Or at least in the top 5. The calamari taco ($4) consists of those familiar calamari rings (no tentacles though *sadface*) and topped with a red tomato-based sauce that looked like marinara, but instead had some otherworldly goodness that should only exist in dreams and definitely doesn’t exist in any Italian restaurant. This is now my second-favorite way to eat calamari. It was cooked perfectly, to just the right soft & chewy not-even-close-to-rubbery texture, just like a calamari fillet grilled by a skilled hibachi chef (my FIRST-favorite way to eat calamari). If this is the last flavor I ever taste, assuming death quickly follows, I think I’d probably be OK with that.

The Kogi menu also offers several other non-taco items (The Kogi Dog, The Packman burger, Sliders, several Quesadillas, and some desserts), which I thought about trying, but since this blog is about tacos, I’ll leave that for some other non-taco-obsessed real food reviewers to write about. The important thing is, the Kogi BBQ taco truck has fucking amazing tacos, not to be underestimated or overlooked by society, but to be revered for their excellent quality, astonishing flavor, and unique (but not uncommon) style. If a truck like Kogi were on every corner of the United States, the world would be a better place.