Korean fusion thrives in Buffalo
Kcafe food truck caters to students' burger needs with a unique Korean twist
Few things could attract students’ attention at midnight on a Friday, but the savory scent of bacon and burgers seems to do the trick.
Kcafe, a food truck serving Korean-inspired cuisine serves hungry students every weekend.
Owner Kate Li fell into the business on accident, but she doesn’t regret her outcome. Li was 24 years old when she moved to the U.S. from China in hopes of dancing professionally, but instead found her passion for food. She now owns the up-and-coming restaurant and food truck Kcafe.
Li is loyal to UB. She parks her truck almost exclusively in locations that students can access, often parking at off-campus housing complexes like the Villas on Rensch and Twenty 91 North for dinner or late night shifts.
“The students at UB always give me the greatest support,” Li said. “I will never forget everybody in case one day I’m successful. I will always be grateful of all my patrons around UB.”
Taylor Kennard, a junior social sciences major, lives in the Villas on Rensch and loves how close the truck is, but would still make a trip if she needed to.
“It’s awesome because it’s convenient for college students especially,” Kennard said. “Their food is definitely good enough to track down and go eat.”
Li is not bothered by her customers’ late hours because serving food is something she loves.
“Kcafe to me is about the passion. I love the creation, I love to come up with different ideas because the food is a passion that drives me,” Li said. “Food is in my blood. I think it’s what I know the best.”
Li’s kind and personable demeanor sets her apart from other restaurant and food truck owners. She creates a niche market for herself.
“Kate is such a nice person and provides you with excellent service,” Kennard said. “She seems warm-hearted and very passionate about what she does.”
Students may be skeptical of Korean-fusion food, but Li describes it as the equivalent to American Chinese food.
“The whole Kcafe menu was inspired by food trucks in California,” Li said. “I was thinking about something different, something new for the neighborhood.”
Julia Verdi, a sophomore psychology and health and human service major, is a huge fan of Li’s unique burgers and fries.
“There was bacon in the actual burger. I’ve never had that before,” said Verdi. “The fries are also seasoned so well.”
Li said a Korean-inspired burger was her creation, bringing together a traditional American burger with Korean flavors. Li makes her burgers with Korean spices and lots of toppings, like onion rings and fried eggs, and grinds bacon into a traditional American ground beef burger.
“I developed this burger patty where I put bacon in it and Asian-flavored sauce, so it has a different taste to the basic ground beef,” Li said. “With different layers of sauce and my signature spicy mayo, homemade ketchup and vinaigrette, it just made it taste much better. So that’s why it got a lot of attention from students around UB.”
Logan Bennett, a senior theater major, has followed Li’s business since her sophomore year when Kcafe had a storefront. She claims Li’s burgers are the best she’s ever had. “Kate’s burgers and fries are unlike anything I’ve ever eaten, I wish I could have them every day,” Bennett said. “I’m not excited for when I graduate and leave Buffalo and can’t have them anymore.”
Li said she also gets a lot of attention for her portion sizes: a large burger loaded with toppings and a generous portion of fries with homemade ketchup.
“I was thinking about how kids are always hungry, so let’s be generous with the portions,” Li said. “People eat, people are satisfied with the food and then they can go to the gym later if they choose to.”
Li likes the flexibility of a food truck and meeting new customers at food truck festivals but doesn’t necessarily like the restrictions of carrying around limited inventory. With the winter season quickly approaching, Li plans to open a storefront in Clarence.
“As soon as I come up with a detailed idea, I want to cater small groups of meetings and events for people,” Li said. “I’m also in the process of getting a liquor license [for the restaurant]. My vision is to build a beer garden. I think beer and my burgers are a good pair.”
Kcafe’s weekly schedule and updates can be found on its Facebook page.
Lindsay Gilder is the assistant features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org