This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape. It's a list to drool over.
Adding this to my list of 100 favorite dishes was a really difficult decision, a moral quandary, if you will. Not because it's not worthy. Oh no. Quite the opposite, in fact.
You see, I knew I wanted to put something from Koagie Hots on the list, because, well, everything pumped out by that little red truck is just so damn good, and I love any restaurant or food truck that endeavors to make Korean food (one of my favorites) more mainstream. The problem was what to add to the list.
As I noted in my roundup of the best fries in Houston, Koagie Hots's kimchi fries are to die for. They're loaded with homemade kimchi, spicy mayo, salty feta cheese and chopped scallions. Chef Matt Pak makes the kimchi himself from a family recipe, and it rivals any kimchi I have tasted in Korea. The fries are spicy, crisp and hearty, and they're a meal in and of themselves.
But then there's the Kimchi Koagie.
In the midst of my love affair with the kimchi fries, I discovered the kimchi koagie and fell in love anew. It's fairly similar to the fries, only with marinated rib eye instead of potatoes, and either provolone or Cheez Whiz instead of crumbled feta. It's the combination of rib eye, kimchi and Sriracha mayo that put it over the fries (in my book).
The rib eye starts out in steaks that Pak marinates in a secret family Korean sauce, though some of his employees doubt the legitimacy of the "secret family recipe" claim. No matter, because it's delicious. It's slightly spicy and acidic, and it keeps the meat juicy while it's grilled on a flat griddle and chopped up to create an even layer of meat inside the crunchy French bread roll.
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The bread is delivered daily by Slow Dough to wherever the truck might be. A generous smear of Sriracha mayo goes on the bun under the meat, a rich, bright orange sauce peeking out from under chunks of lightly shredded rib eye.
Finally, it's topped with some melty, gooey provolone cheese (or Cheez Whiz if you're feeling fancy), that delightful homemade kimchi, and some chopped green onions. For an extra kick, squeeze a bit of Sriracha on top and revel in the knowledge that, for now, Sriracha is still available.
Now you really can't go wrong with the fries or the hoagie, or even the hot dogs, at Koagie Hots, but if you're going to get anything there, be sure it's something topped with kimchi. I'm convinced that's the secret to Koagie Hots's success: homemade kimchi, from Korea, with love.
The list so far: No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga No. 55: The Juicy Lucy Burger at Lowbrow