KOGI Twitter Your Tacos

Posted on 18. Apr, 2009 by in Lifestyle

words by Caroline Schweich

Ever had an amazing idea at four in the morning after a night of partying? Have you ever actually remembered that idea when you wake up the next day? And now, the million-dollar question: Did you turn that idea into a business reality that went beyond your wildest expectations within a month? Most of us can answer yes to the first question. Yes to question #2 shows you have remarkable resistance. And if you can honestly say yes to the million-dollar question, then you, along with Kogi co-founder Mark Manguera, may have already made your million or you’re on your way.
A few months ago, Mark came home from a night of clubbing inebriated, hungry, and broke. With $10 in his pocket, he headed out to the local taco truck at 4am and as he was munching away thought, “Wouldn’t this be amazing with Korean barbecue?” Mark’s love of Korean barbecue started with his wife and business partner Caroline Shin, who is Korean (and also happens to be Food and Beverage Director at the Four Seasons). Yet Mark isn’t too fond of the traditional Korean barbecue restaurant experience and he asks, “Why pay 40 bucks and smell like smoke for something you can cook yourself?”
And so the Korean barbecue taco truck was born. The team behind the concept: Mark of course, along with wife Caroline, sister-in-law Alice Shin and good friend and Chef Roy Choi (ex Chef at Rock Sugar). They launched just after Thanksgiving, with all of Mark’s savings (just under $5,000) and a donated taco truck. “Kogi” (actually a Korean national dish which means “meat”) has taken off like wildfire. The food is good, it’s cheap (between $3 and $7) and it’s mobile. As Mark says, “This taco symbolizes L.A. in one bite!” It’s got the flavor of Korean barbecue and the portability of a taco.
The Kogi truck started parking in front of nightclubs all over L.A. as hungry, late-night partiers stumbled out to sample Kogi’s delicacies: Korean short ribs, spicy barbecue chicken, spicy pork, and even tofu tacos (after all, this is L.A.) . Soon truck diners were twittering and texting their friends to let them know the truck’s location. The result: long lines and great sales. “Kogi and social media cannot be separated,” says Roy Choi. After two months, they needed a second truck (launched in February), more routes, and longer hours. Soon after, nightclub owner David Reiss invited Kogi into his kitchen at the Alibi Room in Culver City and now Kogi has a brick and mortar location too. These days, the Alibi Room – a nightclub lounge that never saw business before 10pm – is packed at 6:30 every night for Kogi Barbecue happy hour.
So what’s next? Definitely more trucks—possibly many more trucks. Who ever thought the words viral and taco would compliment each other so wonderfully? Like taco and barbecue…

To find out where the truck is now:
For bricks and mortar tacos,
visit The Alibi Room:
12236 Washington Blvd. L.A. 90066

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