Korean tacos were the craze last year because of the Kogi truck in L.A., but if you’re looking for Korean-Mexican fusion in New York, don’t go looking for it at New York Hotdog & Coffee on Bleecker, the first American outpost of the fast food chain in Korea. The tacos there are more of a Korean person’s loose interpretation of Mexican food with Korean ingredients, but it’s still tasty, and a great spot if you’re babysitting or happen to be drunk.
The Spicy Bulgogi Taco ($2.25), bulgogi (불고기, thinly sliced barbecued beef) and onions drizzled with hot sauce on a soft flour tortilla, was pretty good. The bulgogi was of the Korean fast-food variety, but was juicier than expected. I still rather have my bulgogi wrapped in a perilla leaf with a dab of ssamjang (쌈장, spicy bean paste), but if I were with picky kids or people squeamish about Korean food, I could see this being a safe alternative.
The Dak-Kalbi Taco ($2.25), dak-galbi (닭갈비, spicy barbecued chicken) and onions on a soft flour tortilla, was less successful. The dak-galbi was hardly spicy and the sauce way too sweet. If you must have a taco, skip the Dak-Kalbi Taco and order two of the Spicy Bulgogi Tacos.
Another option is one of the many hot dogs New York Hotdog & Coffee became popular for before everyone went gaga over Korean tacos. I ordered the Kimchi Bulgogi Hotdog ($6.50), an all beef hot dog (spicy beef, soy, and chicken are also available) cradled next to a fan of Korean red curl lettuce (상추, sangchu) and topped with bulgogi and kimchi on a toasted bun. The hot dog was indeed pretty, as is everything at New York Hotdog & Coffee (the people who work there have an eye for presentation, remarkable for a fast food restaurant in the States), but I don’t think bulgogi was necessary. There’s a reason I don’t stick hot dogs in my hamburgers or eat hot dogs on top of steaks, it just doesn’t go. Sometimes, two meats aren’t better than one. Perhaps a bulgogi sausage would have been more interesting. The kimchi, however, I liked. I like kimchi on my hot dogs. (Call me crazy, but it’s delicious on pizza too.) I really miss the kimchi hot dog cart that used to be on Ludlow Street. After drinks, it used to be my go-to late night snack. Which brings up a point, you’d probably enjoy the food at New York Hotdog & Coffee more after you’ve had a few drinks. It’s that kind of food. New York Hotdog & Coffee closes at midnight Fridays and Saturdays, but if they stayed open later, I’m sure they would get a good share of stumbling obnoxious drunks.
The fries were really good though, sober or not. Although the Spicy Fries ($2.49 for a small) weren’t spicy at all, the hot oven-baked fries were crunchy with crackly little bits on the outside and soft on the inside.
The food at New York Hotdog & Coffee isn’t gourmet, or even real fusion, but it’s cheap and enjoyable in a trashy fast-food type of way. Not sure if I’ll ever be babysitting, but after a drink or two, I could see myself going back; never stumbling or obnoxious of course.