Who hasn’t sidled up to a grease truck on a late Saturday night or bought a tasty falafel-filled pita from a New York City food cart? But there is a new phenomenon under foot.
Taco trucks are actually nothing new to Los Angeles, but lately they seem to be everywhere. And their customers are no longer just construction workers or other blue collar Joes. Now, thanks to the social media craze, a truck called Kogi BBQ is causing quite a feeding frenzy. Lines of LA hipsters stretch around the block. People show up from all over just to try one of their Korean-slash-Mexican fusion creations. But what caused it to go from a bit of a buzz to an all out taco tizzy? Twitter, of course. Launched in November, Kogi tweets (under @kogibbq) their trucks’ whereabouts throughout the day and their loyal followers come running. If you Tweet it, they will come.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the operation has become a “social networking juggernaut,” drawing between 300 and 800 people at each stop, with waits of up to two hours. Traditional trucks always parked in the same spot. These new trucks give the air of exclusivity because you have to be in the know to find out where to find them any give day.
My friend Mark and I decided to run down the Kogi truck one afternoon. I found their weekly posting of whereabouts on their site. Then I cross-referenced it with updated Tweets they were making every few hours on Twitter. There was going to be a truck just around the corner at lunch time. Sweet! We were golden.
We walked over and found no less than 5 imitator trucks dishing out slop to the LA citizenry. But where was our Kogi? Nowhere to be found. And since we are not so connected and didn’t have a Blackberry or iPhone – we were in a social media black-out. We asked some other Kogi cravers the obvious question and no one knew where the heck it was. So, we ate some imitation tacos which were good at $2 a pop, but still not the fusion flavor I had heard so much about.
Okay, cut to two days later. This was it. We were going to track down a truck and shove some tacos down our gullets if it was the last thing we did. We drove to a Best Buy parking lot and… there it was.
Actually there they were – two gleaming white Kogi trucks churning out the coveted chow and pumping out some reggaeton (kind of a Latino hip-hop/reggae mash-up) to a small lunch mob that had gathered.
I asked for the special – the Blackjack Quesadilla. Mmm, crafty Kogi goodness. It was a crunchy well done tortilla filled with some damn yummy caramelized onions, spicy pork, gooey cheese, and topped with a sesame sauce with just enough kick to make my lips tingle. It was good, but I think it was the whole manufactured ‘coolness’ of the scene that I enjoyed the most.
Or, as my friend Mark put it, “It was good food and everything, but ya know, it was just eatin’ food from a truck.”