Main Location: St. Paul
As we slowly become aware of various new and traditional food cultures throughout the world, us Foodies sooner or later form a deep, hidden “desire.” It’s inevitable; in fact, one could theorize this is what predicates the switch between average food-lover and “Foodie” (though there are other theories and opinions and situations too). At one point or another, we will learn about one, or often MORE, culinary styles/traditions/events which we can’t help but just WANT to do. Then we search for it, try to find the most authentic form of it we can, and either enjoy our exploits or fall into silent despair at our continual inability to experience something we crave. In my opinion, I feel each Foodie may in fact be marked more by what they HAVEN’T experience yet than what they have, for this is what truly drives our continual seeking of Flavor and Tradition.
For me, one of the few antithesis’ of my un-found cravings is Gogigui: Korean BBQ. That thing where families go to restaurants with the big, domed grill in the center of the table, and special cuts of meat grilled are front of them (either by themselves or waiters) with big loads of Kimchi, maybe rice and such. I LOVE Korean flavors, but have never yet had the chance to experience this truly quality, fresh way of experiencing them (can’t even think about the last time I had Kim Chi)
So then, what do I find this past week but a little Truck called Gogi Bros, a new addition to St. Paul’s lineup who just happen to specialize in Korean BBQ. Though of course, one can’t go up and grill their own meats over a special metal dome, but we can experience the same foods and flavors as if we went (plus a few little extras).
The menu itself consistently forms two parts: snacking sides of Mandu (Potstickers), Kimchi-Riceballs, etc, while the main focus revolves around baskets of BBQ-d Meat, rice, and kimchi. Various meats can make the cut, though Galbi (Shortribs) and Bulgogi (BBQ Beef) remain constant. With that, one usually only finds 3-4 options each visit, making easy picking based on one’s required needs.
So watch out for the giant Truck-shaped Tiger with the randomly high window when roaming the streets.
Started my meal off with a box of those little Mandu. Edged with slight lines of crisp, a gently soft dumpling shell wraps around the pork and veggie filling, the flavor soft and gentle on the palette yet slightly rich. The veggie (probably scallions) offers a nice aromatic, along with an overall transforming flavor that is certainly not one-note. At the end of the day, however, I wouldn’t find the overall experience something spectacular to write home about; definitely good and tasty though.
When done right, short ribs are one of the best joys in life, thus their popularity as Galbi in Gogigui. The particular incarnation here find a simplified and well-prepared grilled version with bare marinade, highlighting the simple richness of the meat as-is. Sliced thinner than seen in many US restaurants and cooking quickly, as opposed to the long braising, these short ribs do NOT experience a softening and tenderizingness in their texture. This sadly resulted in a noticeably chewy quality, which I’m a bit 50/50 on; on the one hand, I actually enjoyed the interesting little texture. But on the other, I feel it still needed more time, a little lower temperature, as parts of it were just that bit TOO far into unpleasant, especially around the cartilage and bone. Again, a good and enjoyable item, but nothing to write home about (maybe if they did that thing where they cut a LOOOOOOOONG line of meat off of a single piece of bone; much less chewy cartilage to deal with).
As mentioned, this dish is served with rice and kimchi, the rice itself being pretty good as-is. I never got the chance to judge the kimchi, however, as it seems they had run out; which is a shame as what the dish really needs is something on the side one can drag and mix into the rice with the meat to make into a little Korean Jambalaya, get those flavors blended. In any other post, where I might have found this in the Downtown streets, this comment would stop here; they’re still just started, and things tend to run out. This particular situation, on the other hand, finds me compelled to say a bit more. Because they weren’t on the street on a random weekday.
The time I had visited was a Saturday. At a Brewery. Where there seemed to be some sort of event going on (band, little raffle, either way CROWDED in a sense people would know ahead of time). They were serving for 9 whole hours. And they ran out of Kimchi, the one ingredient that exemplifies Korean cuisine, after only TWO of those hours. This was something that simply should NOT have happened, new or not; the actual meat and rice should run out before the kimchi does.
Let’s hope they’ve clearly learned their lesson during the incident in question, and something like this doesn’t happen again.
Styrofoam to-go container based. Mandu make a fun, easily portable snack, very much in the same vein as Vellee’s Eggrolls in multiple ways (might even be as good… guess I’ll have to visit Vellee again to “test” it, oh the horror). BBQ dishes can be somewhat tedious on the go, however; especially the Galbi. The chewy cartilage, having to pick up bones to naw around, then trying to get it in with the rice can be quite a non-mobile thing. Though at the very least, it’s not messy (sticky rice tends to stay where it is).
The two main items cost $9.50 (Galbi) and $7.50 (other) respectively, with about $3.50 for a set of 5 Mandu (oh, and those Kimchi Rice balls come in at $3). Overall, I think it’s all worth the prices set (at least when one can get kimchi with their BBQ dishes…), and the Mandu serve a great cheap option for the light snacker.
About average wait.
Also, I would normally bring this up in a Service section, but for some reason I just don’t feel right taking noticeable points off it for this time; too many uncertainties (maybe it was just cuz they were at a brewery). But it took a noticeable amount of time to take each person’s order (not counting credit card thingies), with the taker often jumping back into the car for a bit either for change or doing random things. Luckily the line didn’t get long, but it’s something potential customers should be aware of for now.
The TOE: 7
The paint job isn’t exactly the best (seriously, get next to it and take a look; some of the “stripes” are actually peeling!), but there’s some appeal to that and the design is still fun and at the end of the day I’m there for the Food. Though I do wish they’d actually put their logo on the truck somewhere… it’s such a great design! Just look at one of their shirts:(Actually, ignore this thought, looks like they put it up recently! And I got a picture of it here!)
Though the novelty and intrigue at the new cuisine is there, making for a jolting exploration at a much-desired food style, its overall experience as a Food Truck is slightly lacking. Maybe it’s the simple, almost banal “school lunch” configuration of their BBQ plates; it could be the containers themselves. Possibly it’s the highly basic menu; the food is nice, but a good potsticker is no more than another potsticker. Or maybe even the lack of kimchi was a bigger tipoff to an overall understanding of the entire experience. Then again, it could be something else.
I will say, however, that though I didn’t have it, the Kimchi Rice Balls could easily make up for some of these lacking qualities as a fun, interesting Toe Ring for walking around.
Get here early if you want one of the BBQ plates; no need to risk not getting any Kimchi. Overall, I would mainly suggest these plates for taking somewhere to sit down. If you WANT to and have no issue spending the extra couple dollar, the Galbi is their signature and not too bad of a meal in general. However, I myself believe the better experience (both in palette and wallet) will actually lie in the Bulgogi and other meat dishes.
The real Value here, though, is in their small items. This is a great Truck for the wallet-minded to get a lunch snack, or for quick Sampling during Food Truck Days. Both the Mandu and Kimchi Riceballs fill a great role in this respect; though no reason to get the latter if ALSO getting a BBQ plate.