Archive for the ‘Berkeley’ Category

MoGo BBQ: Interview with Sam Pak, founder

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on April 7, 2010

As much as I love the Bay Area, we’ve definitely been lacking in the Korean taco department — eschewing it for things like cupcakes and Chinese tacos instead. But since I read about MoGo BBQ in SFoodie a few months back, and then later got an email from the good peoples at MoGo BBQ (Facebook, Twitter), I knew I had to find out what was up. They’re aiming to cover the entire Bay Area, from San Jose to Berkeley. Also, forgive me for the lack of posts in recent weeks. I’ve just moved to Germany!

1) Why is everyone so crazy about Korean tacos? Why are your Korean tacos the best around? What’s the one thing about Korean food that us non-Koreans don’t know about?

The reason Korean tacos have generated so much buzz, besides the fact that they’re delicious, is because they’re a uniquely Californian food. They can only exist in this kind of environment, where we have different types of ethnic communities and foods coming together. This kind of experimental fusion cuisine has normally been the domain of high-end restaurateurs. We’re kind of turning that idea on its head by making it available to the masses in a taco truck. As far as MoGo BBQ is concerned, we put a lot of love into making our food and don’t compromise when it comes to the ingredients. We even make our own kimchi. We take time to properly marinate the meat and make sure we cook it on the truck the same day. Those details are important, and they come out in the taste of our food. I think one thing that people don’t know about Korean food is that it’s one of the healthiest kinds of food you can eat. Kimchi is a huge health superfood – it strengthens immunity and fights disease. There’s really nothing it can’t do.

2) Tell me about your background in food/cooking/eating and what you did before starting the truck. What’s your favorite non-Twittering taco truck in the Bay Area?

I actually don’t have a background in the restaurant business–I just eat food and mess around in the kitchen here and there. I am a real estate investor on the side and have scaled back on that for obvious reasons. I do believe that food plays a special role in Korean cultures, and really many Asian cultures, in that food is about love and sharing. In my house, for instance, if someone cooks something, everybody shares it, even to the point of eating out of the same bowl. My mom would make something for us and say “Mogo,” meaning, “Eat this” – that’s how the name came about. It does take someone with experience and training to take that concept and those flavors to the people in terms of starting a business, and that’s where our chef, Chef Jojo, comes in. He’s been a chef at resorts in Napa for more than five years, and is really a genius with putting flavors together. He makes the food; I eat it. My favorite non-Twittering taco truck? David’s Taco Truck in Santa Clara.

3) What’s the best thing on the menu? (And don’t say “Everything.”)

The short rib burrito. I say that because it has most all the ingredients we carry on the truck: marinated meat, kimchi rice, cabbage slaw, chipotle sauce, everything. If you get the burrito, you get all of MoGo BBQ, basically. We’re also working on a new burrito that’s going to be extremely spicy, the ultimate challenge for Koreans and other spicy food eating masochists. I’m pretty sure that’ll be my favorite once we debut it. We welcome any suggestions for the name of our new ultra spicy burrito!

4) How do you determine your route? Why are you concentrating on the Peninsula/South Bay?

I grew up in the South Bay, so I wanted to bring it here first to see if all my friends would like it. At first, we targeted the local hangouts, like coffee shops and bars. Then word got out, and we started to get invited to companies like Facebook, Cisco, Moxsie, and Google. We try to hit the big festivals and events, like San Jose Bike Party, and we’re definitely going to take the MoGo BBQ truck to other areas soon. We’re going to be getting a second truck soon, and will be taking it up to San Francisco and the East Bay to expand our taco truck empire!

5) Hite or OB?

I might lose some friends over this answer–OB.

Cupkates Truck battles City of Berkeley over parking location issues

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 17, 2009

Kate McEachern updates me on the situation in an email:

In August of 2009, I was issued a permit to operate my cupcake truck in the city of Berkeley. During the permitting process, I submitted a route map and explained that I would be operating in commercial zones on public streets. A week after I opened, a code enforcement officer located me in a yellow parking zone and instructed me to park in a legal, metered space at all times—I complied. Two months later, on Friday, November 13th, the same code enforcement officer and his supervisor approached me in a legal, metered
space and informed me that—according to a city municipal code—it is illegal to vend from a metered parking space and that I was to shut down immediately or be issued a $500 citation. I showed him my permits and documentation and referenced our earlier conversation, but he insisted I close.

On Monday, I met with two departments: one who assured me my permit is still valid and I am authorized to vend in legal parking spaces, and another who told me that it is against city law to do so. The deputy city manager assured me that she would resolve the discrepancy and get back to me on Tuesday. Today, I went to meet with her and was informed that she was too busy to see me; Berkeley Police then escorted me out of the building.

I stressed to the city that I quit my job and invested my life savings building a business that the City of Berkeley permitted and endorsed just three months ago. Every day I remain closed, waiting for the city to sort
out internal miscommunications, I lose a tremendous amount of income. The city’s response to my crisis has been to continually ignore me and now to have an armed officer escort me out of city hall.

Therefore, I will be operating tomorrow according to my normal, approved route. Please check our Facebook and Twitter pages for continued updates. We’re asking supporters to contact the Mayor’s office at 510-981-7102 or email to voice their disapproval of the city’s actions.


I’m going to call the City of Berkeley to find out what’s going on from their perspective.

Update (2:11 pm, November 18):

I just got off the phone with Julie Sinai, chief of staff to Mayor Tom Bates to inquire as to the status of this dispute with Cupkates.

“According to us, we’re not in dispute,” she said.

Sinai told me that the city has an ordinance (Berkeley Municipal Code 14.48.220.b), which states: “Other street vending is permitted from vehicles which are lawfully parked upon streets which are not regulated by parking meters or other posted parking time limits.”

Therefore, she added, Cupkates is not allowed to park in an metered space. She also said that Cupkates was not cited, nor fined, but rather was given a warning to not park in such spaces.

Sinai said that they had referred the issue to the City Manager’s office.

“She claimed to me yesterday that she was out of business and could not operate but when I looked at Facebook, she’s operating,” she said.

I also spoke with Christine Daniel, the deputy city manager in question, who told me that she was “not aware” of a similar issue happening in the city’s history and that her office would resolve it “as soon as we can.” She declined to give any estimate as to how long this process would take.

As to Kate’s claim that she was escorted out of the building by police, Daniel says “she was asked to leave when the building was closing.”

Again, on its face, it would seem that Berkeley’s ordinance may be in violation of California Vehicle Code 22455. I’m checking with the city for their view.

Cupkates Truck draws ire of City of Berkeley

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 16, 2009

Santa Monica? Burlingame? Los Angeles? Now Berkeley, too?

This just in from Cupkates’ Facebook page: “We will not be operating tomorrow according to our normal schedule. The city of Berkeley is trying to suspend our permit. We will be in meetings all day, and back to our office route Wednesday.”

More soon as this story develops.