Considering that Isla Vista is largely populated by students who are broke enough to get a bit too excited about hustling the free-sample stands at Costco (maybe it’s just me), we have a reasonably diverse culinary scene. There are, for interested I.V. foodies, pho, Indian food, an array of choices for the health-conscious, and plenty of fare for those who would eat nachos for every meal, were it socially acceptable to do so.
Rather recently, I.V. acquired a food trend that has already swept Los Angeles: Kogi Korean BBQ, a fusion food inspired by Mexican tacos and burritos, but filled with Korean ingredients. Kogi, which means “meat” in Korean, has recently been made popular in L.A. by kogi trucks carting the popular dish throughout the city. It’s being offered here by I.V. eatery Kogilicious, where customers are given their choice of steak, spicy pork, spicy chicken, or tofu for the Korean tacos and burritos.
Lillian Jung, the store’s manager, set up shop in I.V. in 2007 in an attempt to lasso a different food trend, frozen yogurt. “I lived in Santa Barbara about seven or eight years ago when I went to SBCC, so I’m familiar with the area,” said Jung. “Also, my dad had restaurants in Korea, so my family has restaurant experience. Frozen yogurt was a rising thing and it was spreading, so we jumped on the bandwagon.”
Business went well enough for Jung to expand and, taking a suggestion from her father, she opened up a Korean BBQ window on the other side of the shop. Soon, the frozen yogurt shop became a sushi shop, which, in turn, gave way to the current incarnation of Jung’s I.V. venture: Korean BBQ and kogi burritos and tacos. However, Jung admits that she is dealing with a crowd that is not terribly familiar with the fusion food.
“Students are skeptical,” Jung said. “They think that we call them Korean burritos because we have a Korean BBQ window.” Being rather adventurous individuals, I.V. students do give in to their curiosity and try it. Jung is helped along by the fact that the word about kogi has spread outside the student population. For the past two years, her customers have been mostly all students, she said, “But after the taco and burrito side opened up, we noticed a change to more families and local adults.”
Kogilicious is doing business in a town and an economy where restaurants come and go, and Jung notes that it can be hard to keep afloat. “It is kind of tough, especially with meat prices running so high,” Jung said. “We consider that we are a new business, and that we can’t raise the prices; in the long run we are catering to students.”
Recently, Jung started a late night “Happy Hour” on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The Korean BBQ portion of Kogilicious closes at 11 p.m., while the taco and burrito side closes later, and is served as a special deal from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
“We thought it might be a good marketing deal for students coming out to eat after partying. It’s only been going on for three weeks, but we’ve had a good turnout. In the future, we might keep both sides open.”
In any event, Kogilicious seems open to changing whatever needs to be altered for better business—well, except for the basics. “Our customers know that our portions and quality do not change.”