January 28, 2011
An L.A. trend comes to Sacramento: Korean BBQ tacos

By Blair Anthony Robertson

Who would have imagined that mixing Korean barbecue and Mexican street tacos would create not only a stir but a bona fide trend?

I'm not exactly sure where the idea started - the consensus is L.A. - but now Sacramento is in on it, and food folks seem into it.

The first time I tried going tp GoGi Korean BBQ, close to its 2 p.m. closing and in the first week after it opened, the line was huge, so I bailed. The next time, we got our grub and took it home for some close analysis and tasting.

GoGi Korean BBQ has opened as a walk-up eatery at 15th and L streets, the complex that holds comfort food restaurant Cafeteria 15L (formerly Mason's) and the casual Chinese food joint Ma Jong's. It's a great idea, an excellent location but, well, pretty weak hours - 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is one of the busiest intersections in the city for foot traffic, and this place could thrive late into the evening and on weekends. I understand catering to the lunch crowd. There are thousands of workers within a couple of blocks. But this part of town is hopping at night, too.

How do I know? I'm part of that foot traffic. There are plenty of dining options within walking distance, but sometimes we just want something fast and casual. And if you can add delicious and different and affordable to the equation, you've just launched a can't-miss endeavor.

It's too soon to make a full assessment of the food, but so far I am impressed. The spicy pork tacos were quite good, with nice, tender meat, pleasant spiciness that could have been bolder, a tangy citrusy flavor note and solid crunch from the fresh red cabbage. On the downside, one could argue it was a tad greasy. Not a big deal if I'm eating it late at night after a stint at a bar, but I'm less fond of greasy food for lunch. We'll check back to see if this was an aberration or an ongoing thing.

The barbecue short ribs burrito was also a pleasure, though that delicious meat often showcased at traditional Korean BBQ restaurants gets a little lost in the crowd rolled up in a burrito.

This $5 burrito is also on the small side, but refreshingly so. I have had burritos in this town that weigh over 2 pounds (yes, I weighed them), and that is nothing but a paean to pigging out (for context, the typical sourdough loaves I bake weigh 2.2 pounds). This one will satisfy your hunger but will not make you feel like Joey Chestnut after a hot dog eating contest.

One other quibble. Yawn - the line was short, but the wait was long. Were they barbecuing my short ribs to order, or were they just a little slow spooning the food into the tortillas? All that should be worked out in the days to come. So far, GoGi looks like a winner. I'll definitely be stopping by again soon, and I'm eager to try some of the other flavor combinations.

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