Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
It reminds me of hot summer Friday nights. It was always a Friday. Never any other night.
In those days, the ice cream truck didn’t play the nauseating recording of, “The Entertainer.” He’d just pull up down the street, turn on his bright inside lights, open the windows, and ring a hand bell alerting everyone in the neighborhood that it was popsicle time.
About two years ago, I blogged about childhood memories of Mitchell Street, including Graeven’s Bakery, just one block south of Mitchell on S. 8th street:
“Graeven’s would do something unheard of on Friday nights in the summer months. All week long, the bakery would close up for the day around 5:00. Then on Friday nights in the summer, when the sun was down and evening darkness had arrived, a side door to the bakery on S. 8th Street would fly open. A baker clad in long white apron and white hat, full of flour would open that door to see a long line of people waiting in the hot, humid sticky night. These people should have been home sitting in front of a fan or parked near air conditioning. Instead, crazy south siders stood in line to get a chance to walk inside a hot steamy bakery to buy the only product on sale at 9:00……………hot rolls. You stood in line hoping and praying they wouldn’t run out before it was your turn.
My mother proudly talks about how she walked home with the bag of rolls held closely across her chest to keep them warm. When Mom arrived back home, though it was ungodly hot in the house, out came the butter, and we ate rolls.”
Street food. Businesses popping and opening up at strange hours of the night to sell their wares, and people (sometimes kids) lining up in the process.
In America, everything that is cool originates in California. The latest Los Angeles trend is being called the “hippest food” in the country: Korean barbecue tacos, out of a truck.
Here’s how it works. A former chef at some high-end LA restaurants came up with the idea of cramming cooks elbow to elbow inside a truck who head out to a pre-determined street corner at some very late hour (midnight). Meanwhile, a large group of hungry folk who fit into no single category of description awaits, unaware of where the barbecue on wheels will stop.
As the wagon barrels to its destination, the word is sent out, 2009 style, via Twitter. The diners explode into action, contacting one another, and then racing to the truck stop where they wait with great anticipation.
And they wait. And they wait. And they wait.
Sometimes for two hours.
And for what?
Kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) in a tortilla.
Kogibbq is the current culinary sensation.
The glowing news reports about this food phenomenon claim there’s a lot to be excited about. In no particular order:
1) The use of current technology. Twitter is part of the appeal, the excitement about the unknown. Where will the wagon strike next? BAM! Head over to the corner of XXX and XXX, NOW!
2) The camaraderie. This isn’t a typical restaurant. This is a meeting place, a club, a fraternity, even an unusual pickup joint.
3) It’s ethnic. And ethnic is cool. Way cool.
4) It’s different.
5) The food is a blend of exciting, flavorful tastes.
Now, granted. I’m not a hip, trendy, cool Californian. I’m a middle-aged Midwesterner who lives in a neighborhood that just recently discovered The Twist.
Why would I want to get up around pre-Midnight and head downtown and stand around on a dark street corner and wait to be Twittered by some long-haired freak with multiple tattoo’s.
“Hey, dude, the wagon’s gonna be at Hollywood and Vine at 12:30. Bring your old lady. See ya there, man!”
I’m on record saying I eat anything, that I’m not fussy (Insert Fischer is overweight joke here). Y’know, I’d love some Korean barbecue beef with some spicy sauce in a taco. But kimchi in a quesadilla, after waiting two hours???
Wow (no exclamation point).
Ok. I’ve stood in the damp cool LA weather without a clue as to where that damn wagon will be, waiting for the phone in my pants to vibrate. (CAREFUL!).
I stand. I wait, I shiver. I am Twittered. (I never thought I would coin that word twice in a blog).
I rush to find the wagon. I stand in line. I get to window, I get my kimchi in a taco shell. I totally forget about beer-soaked brats (Well, not completely. I’m just saying that for effect). It’s now 2:00 in the morning. Some transvestite has just asked me what my sign is.
I walk away with my kimchi taco and I realize…….there is no place to go, no place to sit.
This kind of craze always starts out west and then moves to the unwashed dullards to the east. New York is desperately hoping for this magical truck to appear.
Call me dull, call me behind the times, call me square (Hell, I knew what Twiitter was). But what’s stopping some restaurant owner, keenly observing that people actually want Korean/Mexican food to just start serving it in the warm confines of their indoor eatery?
Believe me, I tip my hat to the entrepreneurial spirit of this venture. But I’ll take my buffalo chicken sandwich at Kopp’s, leaning on one of their indoor stands at 10:30 p.m. anytime.
For the, AHEM, full flavor of this hot new trend, watch ABC’s NIGHTLIINE report from this past week.
And here's a great piece about what it's like to work inside this famous taco truck.