Mark Manguera was enjoying a late-night snack at one of Los Angeles’ famous taco trucks when inspiration struck: What if you put the flavors of Korean cuisine in tortilla wrappings and sold them from a vehicle?
Working with his wife, Caroline Shin-Manguera, and a friend, Roy Choi, Manguera brought the concept of Korean taco truck from dream to reality last month.
With startup cash of $3,500 and a borrowed truck, the three started serving late-night diners in Hollywood, Venice and Westwood. The venture is already profitable, says Manguera.
“Some people drive from Huntington Beach and the Valley,” he said.
Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go sells short-rib, chicken, pork and tofu tacos. The proteins are marinated in Korean flavors and can be included in a breakfast burrito. Daily specials such as spicy pork hot dogs and chicken quesadilla with sesame leaf and pomegranate are also offered.
The partnership is Asian fusion. Choi, a 38-year-old Korean American, created the menu. He was most recently chef at Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen at Westfield Century City mall.
Manguera, a 30-year-old Filipino American, was food and beverage director for the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena until a recent layoff. Shin-Manguera, a 28-year-old Korean American, is catering and convention services manager for the Four Seasons Beverly Hills.
They want to add a spot at the Hollywood Farmers Market next month. The trio has big plans for the Korean taco business selling packaged food in markets and opening a storefront but they don’t want to grow too fast.
“The quality could suffer, and we want to maintain consistency,” Manguera said.