It’s day two of Kogi Taqueria's soft opening, and Roy Choi is hustling, greeting guests in line with a nod or a smile and joking with his kitchen staff as they push out orders of Korean spiced fries, Kogi dogs and carnitas tacos. When I ask how it’s going so far, he shakes his head in disbelief and says, “It’s fucking crazy. But it’s good.”
For many of Choi’s followers, Kogi Taqueria marks the beginning of a new era: We now know precisely where to go to satisfy a craving for short-rib sliders or a kimchi quesadilla without having to double-check the Kogi truck schedule online. Kogi Taqueria is the first brick-and-mortar iteration of Choi’s Kogi BBQ operation, but it’s the chef’s second entry into the Palms dining scene; he moved Chego from Overland Avenue to Chinatown in 2013. Like a re-elected mayor being welcomed back by his constituents, Choi looks and feels at right at home.
“We feel the energy — everyone is smiling from ear to ear,” Choi says. "We always said we’d be back, and we kept our word.”
Set in a street-level nook of a two-story strip mall at the corner of Palms and Overland avenues, Kogi Taqueria has a simple setup reminiscent of many a taco joint. Guests order at the counter, then wait for their number to be called while perched on a bar stool at a center island or at the counter that lines the room. Instead of a salsa bar, there are Sriracha bottles next to napkin dispensers. Instead of agua fresca or horchata, there’s Crunch Crunch Pear Juice and Sac Sac Orange inside a mini fridge next to the self-serve soda fountain.
The menu is full of Kogi staples and Alibi Room hits — the Pacman burger ($8), bright-red hot wings ($6) and blue moon mulitas (one for $4, two for $7), to name a few — but you can also go with a classic taco ($2.50) or burrito ($7). The carne asada burrito, stuffed with meat, beans, rice and salsa, reminded me of the foil-wrapped monsters I ate back in high school, handed through the window of taco trucks parked alongside the train tracks.
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After a multi-day soft opening, Kogi Taqueria officially opened this past weekend and will serve its fare Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. While the line to order hasn’t been unbearably long yet, that could change in light of a recent announcement — Choi was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list. The good news? You’re likely to spot the culinary star yourself while you ponder what to order.
Kogi Taqueria, 3500 Overland Ave., Palms; kogibbq.com.