Why I Was Bummed on Kogi Korean BBQ in Los Angeles

The Kogi Korean BBQ truck is synonymous with L.A. food truck culture (dare I say pioneer?), and over the last few years my rabid worship of truck dining had been tainted by the social-media savvy truck on the move through the City of Angels. I had never run into them or their world-famous tacos or burritos, and this saddened me deeply. Plus, Korean BBQ being the most insane cuisine known to man, I knew that I could not rest until I had sampled what may very well be the best (or at least best known) Korean BBQ truck on the West Coast.

When I saw them pull up outside Agenda yesterday, despite the insanely long, slow moving line, I knew I had no other option than to buck up and snatch the opportunity for life-changing kimchi! The line slowly shuffled forward, but despite rumblings in my tumbly I stood my ground. I knew, I just knew, that the wait would be worth it.

Happily, I'd made sure that the Visa/Mastercard sign was hanging in their ordering window, and even from wayyyyyyy in the back I could see cards being swiped. Oh happy day! The last of my cash had gone to parking, so I was in luck bearing plastic. Or was I? 

After approximately 4 million people had ordered and walked away smiling, I was close enough to the front to let the smells of spicy pork and short rib wash over me. I could see the ice-cold beverages glistening under a sheet of ice, and I already had my eye on a refreshing orange soda to wash down my forthcoming short rib burrito with kimchi. As I stepped to the front of the line after OVER AN HOUR in line (yes. I was patient!) I was greeted with a snarling man barking out "Cash only. Machine just went down."


What do you mean, no credit cards?

There was no sign out front.

There was no announcement made.

I was literally so shell-shocked that I just stared at him and said "What?"

"Cash only."

"I... I just waited in line for over an hour."... at this point my knees were getting weak. All that I had anticipated, all that I had dreamed of, was about to be snatched away from me by an unsmiling order-taker looming high above me from a sticker-covered truck. I could immediately see why the line had moved forward so abysmally slowly. Inside were a bunch of loitering cooks that obviously couldn't see the snakelike line sneaking into the convention center, or they were so used to the demand that they just didn't give a crap anymore.

He shrugged. "I can try the machine, but it won't work."

I figured at least trying would be better than me jumping through the window and causing a scene, so I handed over my card and crossed my fingers. I could feel my blood pressure rising as we waited for a beep from the machine, and the entire scenario ran through my dazed head. It's the 21st century! What business in their right mind shows up to an event without a backup plan?! Where's the courtesy "cash only" sign? Where's the communication with loyal customers?! Where's the thoughtfulness for those like me (for surely I wasn't the only one without cash!) who waited uncomplainingly patiently in the longest line in history?! And although I can be pretty feisty on the (wonderfully anonymous) internet, I never. Ever. EVER. make a scene during foodservice. I've worked too long in the industry, and despite my obvious business logic, I did understand that it's not THIS guy's fault that the machine crashed. 

What pissed me off was his attitude. His absolute nonchalance and apathy blew my mind. I had built up this vision of legendary Korean BBQ that I had been looking forward to for YEARS, did my waiting time, MADE SURE that plastic was OK, and got completely slapped down by a guy who just couldn't be bothered with a little bit of A) customer service or B) A FREAKING BACKUP PLAN. Shit happens, I get that, but this was unacceptable.

I'm happy to say this story has a happy ending. I'd been chit chatting with the group of venture capitalists behind me for the better part of the hour, and since my interaction with the truck dude actually only lasted a few seconds, they stepped right up to save the day. I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard these sweet, sweet words...

"Oh, no way that's happening. You just waited for over an hour. You're on our tab."

Seriously, even a day later I am overwhelmed with absolute gratitude for my angel investor. Not only did he spare me complete humiliation (there are few things more embarrassing than not being able to pay for something you thought you could), he fulfilled a dream I'd had that had quickly turned into a nightmare. He even leaned into the screen at the back of the truck and encouraged them to put up a "CASH ONLY" sign (which apparently was not the obvious thing to do?) and was greeted with blank stares and turned backs. 

The burrito was absolutely worth the wait. Juicy, tender, full of flavor... it was everything I had hoped for. Unfortunately, it was tainted with a very, very bad customer experience, one that I  hope no one else has to suffer through. Believe me, they aren't the only truck in the world that has suffered through issues with credit cards, but the attitude is what turned my opinion VERY quickly. I can absolutely deal with problems outside their control. It happens. But what they CAN control is how they present it to their loyal customers. And that's why I was disappointed with my first (I can't say only...) Kogi Korean BBQ truck experience.

HUGE thanks to Richard from Irvine. Seriously dude, if I ever need capital for something, I've got your card, and I promise there will be $10 in the mail to you soon. Decent people exist, hooray!