While many might say that the best part of globalization is an increased cultural understanding among vastly removed peoples, I maintain that it’s the food.
Of course, leave it to the human race to get bored with food utopia and go Frankenstein on their ethnic foods, birthing the Korean-Mexican fusion that is Tako Korean BBQ.
Like Suzy Burger, its neighbor across the freeway, Tako has set up shop in an old gas station. Unlike Suzy’s, however, Tako’s inherited location at Alhambra and T never serviced cars.
Why is this a problem? Well, when the grease monkeys moved out of their spacious garage at Suzy’s, tables moved in to replace them.
Tako, on the other hand, is just plain small.
The kitchen and counter take up much of the inside of the old gas station, and the space that’s left allows for only a few tables.
However, with two bars and several tables in front of the restaurant and by the sidewalk, Tako’s outside seating is more than adequate, if a little hot during the summer months.
Their menu’s a lot like Chipotle’s. First you choose your “style” (what the meat’s inside of or on top of). There are six styles: tacos, a burrito, a salad bowl, a rice bowl, nachos or fries. You then choose your meat, which ranges from traditional Korean fare like bulgogi (marinated beef) to more familiar flavors like pulled pork.
There are also vegetarian options aplenty. You can either go for a meat substitute with some marinated tofu or go the full vegetable route with medleys like the okaksu (stir-fried corn, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, mangoes and sesame oil.)
All of the main selections are $7.99, with an extra meat/vegetable option that’s $2.
Besides their main menu, Tako also serves smaller side dishes, like kimchi ($1) and pork belly bao ($3.50) that make up the Asian side of the menu and chips and salsa ($2).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a fusion restaurant if there weren’t dishes like bulgogi sliders ($8) and kimchi quesadillas ($5) on the menu.
I ordered the buldak (spicy chicken) burrito, while my family ordered the non-spicy marinated chicken equivalent. Like all other “styles,” the burrito comes filled with coleslaw, sour cream and Tako’s special house sauce.
The only problem with the buldak is that it’s not terribly spicy. I wished it were a little hotter, considering that buldak literally translates to “fire chicken.”
But don’t worry about it too much because Tako stocks plenty of hot sauce.
For a less spicy option, try the bulgogi (marinated beef).
I had mine served over nachos, which basically resulted in my being handed a big, gooey mess. But, man, was it good.
Nachos on the bottom, bulgogi in the middle and a mix of coleslaw, salsa, sour cream and special sauce on top.
The best thing that Tako has going for it is the sheer number of combinations. I could come back, order the exact same meat or vegetable flavor, cycle through the different styles and still be completely satisfied.
After all, might not something delicious in a burrito be equally good on a bed of fries or nachos?
The answer, my friends, is an emphatic yes.
Wrap N’ Roll Sushi
Before last week, I didn’t like sushi burritos. They were my green eggs and ham. I didn’t want them in a house; I didn’t want them with a mouse.
I just didn’t like the idea of them. I mean, sushi and guacamole—gross!
But, while the idea of them repulsed me, eventually, I caved.
The only place in town to get such a thing is at Wrap N’ Roll, on the corner of L and 18th Streets.
For the most part, the restaurant is small and plain, save for the colorful murals of Sactown landmarks that brighten the place up considerably.
The food, however, didn’t need any sprucing up.
Wrap N’ Roll’s famous Volcano Nachos ($7.95) were served in a to-go box and were topped with wonton chips, chopped tuna, green onions, red tobiko (fish eggs), nori strips, guacamole, sesame seeds, Sriracha and habañero sauce.
The Volcano Nachos really did live up to their name; they were extremely spicy.
Survival tactic for these nachos: eat tons of guacamole between bites!
With the sauces vanquished, I found that the nachos were also killer.
Thankfully, the Tempura Shrimp Burrito ($8.95) was a lot milder than the nachos.
Like a tempura sushi roll, the burrito had tempura shrimp, imitation crab, cucumbers and the fusion twist of green onions, cut cabbage, guacamole and a covering of red tempura flakes.
Unfortunately, the burrito was missing the guacamole, which was a bummer because Wrap N’ Roll’s chunky guacamole is really enjoyable. It’s also quite messy due to the red tempura flakes.
I finished my meal on a sweet note with the Grilled Salmon Burrito ($8.95).
This one was packed with tempura asparagus, pickled sunomono (shredded raw vegetables), crisp romaine lettuce, green onions, guacamole, cream cheese rolls and teriyaki sauce.
First bite in and I was hooked.
But keep in mind that you should limit yourself to one burrito and no snacks, unless sharing with friends.
Trust me, I could barely finish half a burrito, and even with two people we had a hard time finishing the nachos.
Sushi burritos were my green eggs and ham, but now I want them in the rain and now I want them on a train.
Previously published in the print edition on Sept. 16, 2014.