Before Roy Choi cultivated a Los Angeles food empire, he was a chef operating out of Kogi, a roving, sticker-plastered truck shuttling out a fusion of Korean BBQ and Mexican food in West LA.
He quickly gained fans with his short-rib tacos – hunks of barbecued beef showered with shredded lettuce and flopped into cardboard boats – along with his kimchi quesadillas and the Kogi dog, a Hebrew National hot dog slathered in slaw, cilantro-onion-lime relish and sesame mayo, and topped with a smidge of cheese.
These days, though, Choi has expanded from a few taco trucks rolling around LA to a host of restaurants. The most recent addition to his burgeoning empire is Best Friend, an ode to Los Angeles cooking and his LA story – in the middle of the Las Vegas desert.
“Vegas created King Arthur’s court – they created New York next door,” Choi says. “So, I was like: ‘Let me create LA.’”
Best Friend, simply put, is a love letter to Los Angeles. The food bleeds with the vibrancy and diversity of the City of Angels.
“Our idea was to give LA a voice,” says Diego Echavarria, Best Friend’s executive chef. “We’ve got a little bit of Asian influence, Latin American influence, American influence. We have a strong vegan/vegetarian menu, which in LA is very prominent. It really encompasses a lot of Los Angeles, and we just want to make sure everyone feels very welcomed here.”
At Best Friend, Choi brings his love of LA to Las Vegas. The liquor store (part bar, part concession stand) just outside the restaurant is filled with all the things Choi grew up eating as a kid, including Korean snacks, Mexican sodas and American candy, which can be purchased or simply admired.
Once inside the dining room, you are handed a bound menu; in it you might find elote slick with kewpie mayo and crumbly cotija, plump arancini jammed with kimchi fried rice, or corned-beef hash brimming with fishcakes, spam and ramen.
“We were told to eat with our mouths closed, don’t reach across the table and don’t start ’til everyone sits at the table,” Choi says. “Fuck that.”
Instead, at Best Friend, Choi encourages the opposite: reach across the table, talk with your mouth full and eat when the food hits the table. That’s the LA way.