Way, way back in the day when the food scene was just ramping up in the Triangle, the big foodie novelty at the time (maybe 10 years ago) was food trucks! Offering up some unusual eats that you usually wouldn’t find in sit-down restaurants, food trucks blazed the trail for a lot of the more eclectic food offerings in the Triangle. The one food truck that stood out way back then was KoKyu.
A mash-up of Mexican and Asian flavors, KoKyu would be a great option after a day of drinking at popular breweries like Big Boss and Fullsteam. And like many successful food trucks, KoKyu made the move to bricks and mortar but with a twist. Kokyu’s first storefront KoKyu Na’mean, focused on Asian-style sandwiches (banh mi) and there was little menu overlap with the food truck menu. Wut?! The food was still good but there was a bit of a hole given it was missing some of my favorite, food truck items. Fast forward another 4 years and guess what? KoKyu is opening up its second bricks and mortar restaurant and it’s going back to its roots with the newer KoKyu Southpoint!
Inside KoKyu Southpoint you’ll find a bright blue and cheery space with a modern, funky feel. Polished concrete floors, spherical paper and tin washtub lamps overhead, along with a very interesting, blue triangular table in the corner. One wall has some graffiti on it in homage to their original food truck origins and design. Given their quick-serve origins as a food truck, all of the KoKyu restaurants are counter-service to keep things moving along. There are a couple of LED panels overhead with a very simple menu consisting of wings, quesadillas, tacos, bowls, salads and sliders, maybe 20 or so items including their customer favorite: duck fat tots. Once you order you’re given a playing card on a stand as your number and the food is brought to your table. KoKyu Southpoint also has a self-serve beer wall (you’ll need a wristband to use it) along with a small refrigerated case of beers to enjoy with your meal. Don’t miss checking out their restroom which has a beautiful and colorful floral stencil on the walls!
Over the course of a couple of visits I’ve had a chance to work through the KoKyu Southpoint menu and enjoy some of my long-time favorites. The short rib sliders and duck fat tots combination is still irresistible. The sliders are served on sweet buns and loaded with braised beef, topped with quick pickles (for acid), strips of red onion and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It’s a very Asian take on braised beef and delicious. The classic KoKyu duck fat tots are super crisp, sprinkled with herbs (rosemary) and served up with a sriracha-aioli type dip for your pleasure!
Another long-time favorite is the KoKyu short-rib quesadilla stuffed with more short-rib beef and gorgonzola cheese, a melty delight! Dabbed with some spicy sauce and topped with cilantro, the quesadilla is packed with flavor and filling. The bulkogi tacos are also wonderful, served on larger 6″ tortillas and loaded with fresh lettuce, tender beef, spicy cheese sauce and thin shards of red pepper. A nice Latin-American spin on a Korean-flavored classic, dee-lish! The quality of ingredients and produce used by KoKyu is always top-notch and appreciated.
Overall as a long-time fan of KoKyu it’s been fun to see them evolve and expand over the years. They’ve stayed true to the eclectic flavors of Mexican-Asian eats and it’s really nice to have their classic dishes in a more comfortable and stylish setting. We’re talking street eats with heat and air conditioning, woo-hoo! There’s even a vintage boom box up by the counter, in homage to their food truck origins when music would be blaring out the back of their truck. So a round of applause for a Durham classic, KoKyu. Keep on keeping it on and dishing out those great casual eats for the S. Durham crowds!