Kogi BBQ + Doheny Club = One Wicked Night

Customer #1: “I can’t wait to try their carne asada!”

Customer #2: “They don’t have carne asada.  It’s all Korean barbeque.”

Customer #1: “But it’s a taco truck right?  Didn’t you say they have tacos?”

Customer #2: “Yes but they have tacos like you’ve never had before.”

What a great introduction to the unique cuisine of Kogi: Korean BBQ-To-Go.  When I heard about it from Dig Lounge, I was immediately curious.  A taco truck serving up Korean BBQ?  YES!  I’m rarely one to pass up a well made kalbi short rib.  And I figured only in my dreams would there be a day when I could have them on a warm tortilla shell.  My dreams came true last night.

It all started with a posting on Dig Lounge announcing an appearance of the Kogi Truck at the Doheny, a very (I mean very!) exclusive club in Downtown Los Angeles.  In a sort of online contest, the first 20 people to respond to the post were to receive an invitation to order grub from the Kogi truck AND visit the Doheny.  Not one to miss up an opportunity, I replied right away and was fortunate to make the list.  I didn’t understand the gravity of it all until I did a bit of research.

Kogi: Korean BBQ-To-Go

<p>Stepping Up to the Kogi Truck</p>

Stepping Up to the Kogi Truck

From the outside, the Kogi truck looks like your average, every day taco truck you might see cruising around LA.  On the inside, though, is where all similarities end.  You won’t find carne asada, bacon wrapped hot dogs, or your typical chicken quesadilla.  Instead you’ll see tender kalbi beef,  spicy pork, and hot dogs with kimchi sauerkraut.  People that have knowledge of the good eats sizzling within, follow the truck religiously.   Yes, quite literally, they follow it all over LA.  On the Kogi website, they list the locations where the truck will be stopping in the coming week.  And for the even more zealous, they have a Twitter feed for up to the minute info on where the truck is presently and where its rolling to next.  As the crowd follows the truck, the line forms and hungry BBQ lovers may wait for what seems like an eternity, fueled on by the smell of ginger and beef.

So the schedule for this night was posted as usual: “9:30PM@The Doheny – Flower & Olympic in Downtown LA”.  What made this stop so special, though, was that from 8-9:30 PM, the truck only served guests of the Doheny.  Nice.

The Doheny Club

I’ve always wondered what it must have been like to visit a speakeasy back in the ’20s.  The secret, nondescript entrance;  the flappers dancing madly in their tight dresses; and the strong, well mixed libations flowing like water in a dimly lit, smoke filled room.  The Doheny is a modern day speakeasy…ummm, minus the smoke.  The entrance is hidden.  The parking garage is only identified with a small signed marked “Private” above the black silhouette of a key.  Located inside an otherwise bland parking garage at the corner of Flower and Olympic, the entrance wouldn’t be noticeable if it weren’t for the tent-like structure in front of it.  Being hard to find isn’t what makes the club exclusive; its the membership fees that do.

As a private club, The Doheny accepts member via application.  If accepted, you’re on the hook for the first year initiation fee of $2,750 along with the membership fee of $2000.  That’s chump change if you’re among the likes of Staples Center box seat holders that frequent the club before and after Lakers games.  Or perhaps you’re an actor trying to get away from Hollywood with an off the beaten path haunt like Jaleel White (he was there headed into the club so I’m assuming he’s a member).  Either way, forty seven hundred bucks for year one and a couple grand the following years might be a difficult membership for regular folks to justify.  That made being able to eat Korean BBQ tacos inside this place…made in a truck outside the door, no less…that much more appealing.  It almost felt illegal.  That along with the fact that talking on a cell phone (texting is OK) and taking pictures are not allowed in the club made me even more curious.  Unfortunately, though, you won’t see any pictures from inside the club.

The Experience

Nicole and I arrived at the club promptly at 8, following the directions given by the club owner.  Valet was quick and easy for parking and we headed upstairs from the underground parking.  Sure enough, there was the tent where we needed to check in.  Two lines had formed; one for the tent to check in, and the other at the Kogi truck.  The truck was parked just behind the building in an alley but was accessible through a large,  garage door opening.

<p>There's the little tent!</p>

There's the little tent!

We waited in line #1 for while; 15-20 minutes.  As we neared the head of it, folks we guessed were members breezed in and out of the club or skipped the line and got wristbands from the host.  Wrist bands were the pass to ordering from the truck.  After securing our wristbands, we queued up in line #2.

Another 15 to 20 minute wait and we arrived at the window of the truck.  Like the typical taco truck, there was a ledge at waist level that held an ice chest filled with soda cans and bottled water.  Buckets of oranges and limes were to the left and a sign displaying the menu was to the right.  Above the ice chest ledge was a window where the server took orders on one side while the busy chefs called out completed orders on the other.

All beverages and tacos were priced at $2.  We ordered 4 beef tacos, 2 spicy pork, 2 chicken, 2 sliders, and 2 waters.  The hostess said it would be about 15 minutes before our order was ready so we headed into the club for drinks and to get out of the cold.  The inside was smaller than I imagined.  The entry way was decorated with a display of pricey liquors including a bottle of Glen Livet 1972; it could go for about $800 easily.  Past the liquor display was a curtained hallway with a small seating area to the right.  To the left was a small bar that elbowed around further to the left.  Around the room opposite the bar were booths or various sizes.  Past all of that was an outdoor patio with a fire place; a DJ was there mixing music on an iPod DJ system.

The bartenders were busy shaking and pouring drinks into martini glasses while the crowd gnawed away at their tacos and quesadilla.  The air was thick with the smell of ginger and soy sauce.  We ordered on of the signature drinks of the evening, the Asian Pear.  It was refreshing and a little more lemony than “peary” but was made with love; they were actually slicing fresh Asian pears by hand at the bar.  Other interesting drinks included a Ginger Margarita and an Aloe Cocktail.

I soaked up the ambiance of the exclusive hangout for a bit then rushed back out for our tacos.    Back inside, all of the tables inside were full with most of them reserved for club members.  The bar was full with drinkers and the patio was crowded with non-members and smokers.  We managed to grab the corner of a booth near an emergency exit and stood for a little while, enjoying our Kogi feast.

The tacos were very fragrant, each one dressed with onions, a savory relish, and sesame seeds.  The chicken was tender and moist, with a crispy taco.  The pork was spicy indeed…but not too spicy… but perhaps a little overcooked for my taste.  The beef was amazingly tender and my favorite of the three.  The sliders were the same as the beef tacos, just on a little bun instead of a fried tortilla.

With the first bite of the beef taco, I could understand why people would follow the Kogi truck and wait of half an hour or more to get this unique cuisine.  If you find the Kogi truck in a neighborhood near you, I suggest you get in line!  As for the Doheny Club, be sure to let me know when you join.  I can’t afford to join but I’d love to go back as your guest.

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About the Author

Michael loves grilling, rum, and has a weakness for key lime pie.

4 Responses to “Kogi BBQ + Doheny Club = One Wicked Night”

  1. Glad you had a good time! It was delicious!

  2. What is this Doheny Club? Clearly we are not with the program. Eating tacos is more important. And those beef tacos are on the list!