A Hidden Korean Gem
Issue 15, Volume 109
By Lewis Woloch
The Korean food truck is an enigma: a unique, fast, and delicious lunch option far removed from the McDonalds, Subways, and Starbucks that surround Stuyvesant. The truck resides a little too far down on Greenwich Street, far enough that the average Stuyvesant student would not notice it while walking to the train station, but close enough that it is a worthwhile lunchtime commute. I’ve been eating from the Korean cart at least once a week since freshman year (I am a junior now), and it has never disappointed.
The man behind the counter, Joseph, has even remembered my order this year, never failing to confirm that I still want brown rice, barbeque chicken, and spicy mayonnaise. He works as a cashier of sorts, taking the orders and relaying them to his partner who cooks the meat. The most comforting aspect of the truck is that these two guys are always cheerful and happy to prepare food. Joseph greets me with a “Hey, brother!” every time I show up, and never forgets to wish me a good weekend or happy holidays.
Joseph is laid-back, friendly, and personable, but does not say much besides conversation related to his food. When I asked if I could interview him, he seemed a bit thrown off by my question but still responded as politely as he could. “Yeah, uh, sure… sometime,” he tentatively replied. I felt embarrassed for putting him on the spot, so I quickly changed the subject, paid for my lunch, and bid him a nice day. I realized that I needed to interview him at a less busy time, as he seemed preoccupied with the usual lunch rush.
I went back to the cart a few days later around 4:00 p.m., and this time Joseph seemed more excited about an interview.
How have the students from Stuyvesant, my high school, affected your business?
“Very good, they’re good for my business.”
Joseph was comfortable with the question, but did not seem to have much to say on the matter. I tried to get some more out of him.
What is the most popular dish for kids my age?
He said this with a big smile.
Why did you increase the price of pork dishes earlier this year?
“We had to. The pork cost more money this year.”
Why didn’t you have to raise the price of chicken too?
“Oh I can’t do that, you guys love to eat it so much!”
He seemed more comfortable with me now, and it was easy to see that he was passionate about the environment he was creating for high schoolers who loved to eat his food.
What did you do before opening this food truck?
“I was a trader; I did import and export.”
I was not expecting that answer. Joseph carried himself like a man who had worked in the food industry all his life, and his food was as good as any of the Korean restaurants I had been to.
How long have you had your truck?
“Only four years.”
Joseph ended the interview himself, thanking me before I could even thank him and asking me what my name was. I thought to myself, “Wow. I’ve never thought to ask him what his name was in all the times I’ve come here.” Only after two years did we learn each other’s names.
It was rainy and cold the day after my interview, but I had not had my fix of Korean food that week. Pulling my hood over my head, I jogged the three blocks to the truck and was greeted by the same face that had greeted me so many times before. “How [are] you doing, Lewis?” It was Lewis now, not just brother. He began to recite my last order, but I told him that I wanted to try something new today. I ordered barbecue pork with white rice instead of brown rice. He was working alone today, but my food was still ready within minutes.
“Spicy mayo, right?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied with a smile.