It’s easy for me to forget how little most people know about restaurants.
To say I spend the majority of my time thinking about food is an understatement. It haunts my dreams. People who say, “You should eat to live, not live to eat” are a personal affront to my existence.
But when I go to the dentist, that’s when I realize how far removed the majority of folks around us are from the restaurant industry. Sometimes at the barber, but almost always at the dentist do I end up talking about restaurants and see that look of complete bewilderment cross the faces of the people entrusted with scraping my teeth clean.
How does that relate to Gogi Go!? Well, I’ll tell you.
The people I talk to most days, either online or in-person, are aware of Gogi Go!. Most of them have eaten there at least once and a few are bonafide fanatics. Some of them even know that the concept was developed by a team including Vast executive chef Kevin Lee. And I forget, sometimes, that those people do not represent the majority.
Outside of Midtown, out in the neighborhoods and suburbs and exurbs of the metro, Gogi Go! (pronounced go-gee go, with a hard g sound on all three Gs) is relatively unknown. And while his come-up in OKC, from the short-lived Burger Rush to The Coach House to Vast, is meteoric, Lee isn’t yet a household name.
These are all things I had to remember when I had people ask me to review Gogi Go!. Because, in my head, I kept thinking, “Why? Everybody’s already been there.”
So this one’s for all the dentists and hygienists and everybody else who is looking for something amazing to eat and just hasn’t heard how crazy good Gogi Go! is yet.
I pride myself on my words, but I don’t think I can do any better describing Gogi Go! than Kevin Lee did the first time he told me about his plans.
“It’s like a Korean Chipotle.”
Chipotle as in “build your own meal from different ingredients,” by the way. Not the intestinal discomfort Chipotle. I mean, who would make that a business plan?
No, John Lee and Jason Chang, Lee’s fellow owners, know that part of Chipotle’s success was using quality grilled meats in a highly portable form factor. So why couldn’t they do the same thing with Korean barbecue?
Walk into Gogi Go! and you’ll be met with a line for ordering that leads past a giant menu on the wall. You can order some of their signature items or just build your own.
Signature items can come in a bowl or a burrito. Most people get bowls. I think most people are insane.
The bowls are fine, honestly. I’ve had them. They’re good. It’s just that a burrito is the ideal vessel for almost any messy food. Well, not soup. Don’t be stupid.
Bowls are very spread out, which is great if you like eating bits and pieces separately. I’m not that guy, at least not with food like this. I want all of it in every bite and that’s exactly what a burrito does. Even the egg, so the yolk gets all drippy and coats everything inside the burrito with luscious goodness.
Signature bowls/burritos are great because all the work is done for you. Meat, sauce, banchan. All you need to decide is if you want in a tortilla or a bowl and if you want the egg or not. (You do.)
Not to be a basic, but I really like the Gogi Go! Chicken burrito ($10) because grilled chicken is just a solid base for every other flavor included. Cucumber kimchi is spicy and refreshing. Pickled red onion has a sweet-sour crunch that bounces perfectly off the luxurious pop of butter corn. Gogi sauce is what Lee calls, “Korean southwest ranch.” So don’t pretend you don’t want that in your life.
The thing about Korean food that people who haven’t had Korean food before might not know is that it’s an intensely flavorful cuisine, but not particularly spicy-hot. You can definitely find some heat on the menu — kimchi can be fiery hot, but not always — but it’s not something to assume will happen.
If you are looking for heat, the Spicy Chicken ($11) is made just for you. They toss the grilled chicken in their spicy sauce, “The Hotness,” and pair it with pickled peppers and crushed peanuts for a sweet kick that is immediately eased with smashed avocados.
There’s also a vegetarian signature bowl called the No Gogi ($9) with tofu, avocado and most of the banchan. (Gogi translates as “meat” in Korean, btw.)
If I’m not getting chicken, I tend to go with the spicy pork ($10) and build my own. It’s the texture as much as the taste that wins me over. It’s got a kind of a steak-y chew to it that feels more substantial than the bulgogi beef ($11), which is sweeter and more tender.
In a build-your-own bowl or burrito, you can opt for steamed rice or pay a little more for some other bases. Kimchi fried rice is $2 more and japchae — thin sweet potato noodles — costs $1 more. My only problem with the kimchi fried rice is that I wanted more of that signature kimchi bite — it’s pickled cabbage, after all — but I still get it because fried rice is one of the levels on my personal hierarchy of needs.
Despite lots and lots of options, the menu is actually pretty compact. For side dishes, there’s pretty much just mandoo (3 for $4 or 5 for $5). They’re little fried dumplings and I love them. You get one with your bowl or burrito, but it’s also a nice snack if you can’t handle a full-on meal.
Is this a “full” review? I think so. But considering how many variations are available on every single menu item, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully review Gogi Go!. And that means I’ll probably need to go back for lunch this week. Next week, too. Hopefully I’ll see your dentist in there, maybe even you, too.