Covington’s developing dining scene can tally up another win with the addition of Chimaek. The new pub serves succulent fried chicken wings and tenders, crispy vegetable tempura, an array of tangy and savory Korean side dishes and, to round out the experience, plenty of beer and cocktails.
Owned by the same family that runs Riverside Korean Restaurant just around the block, Chimaek opened in November. The restaurant’s name is a combination of shortened words: “chi” for chicken, while “maek” is short for maekju, the Korean word for beer.
“It’s a catchphrase you would use,” Bruce Kim, Chimaek’s co-owner and chef, explains about his restaurant’s name. “Like how, here, you might ask if someone wants ‘B-dubs’ [short for BW3, Buffalo Wild Wings], which usually means you want to go out to eat wings and drink beer. You just look at someone and ask, ‘chimaek?’”
The menu at Chimaek is simple, yet effective. While there are dishes certain to please any palate, the main emphasis is on crunchy fried food to complement beer consumption. For those who are more into cocktails, Kim recommends trying something prepared with soju, a typically low-ABV distilled spirit favored at Korean tables. The bar has several ways to enjoy soju that highlights its clean taste.
For the closest approximation to a classic Korean nightlife experience, Kim recommends starting with a few orders of wings for the table with a first round of drinks. Whether this is a late-night dinner or a fourth meal to soak up an evening’s worth of frivolity, be sure to include an extra order of pickled radish. Sweet and acidic, Kim prepares it as the perfect accompaniment to salty fried chicken. It’s best to keep a good balance of food and drink to make the most of an evening and, Kim explains, lighter beers like lagers are most popular.
The vegetable tempura at Chimaek includes broccoli, cauliflower and thinly sliced sweet potato. It’s filling enough to serve as a worthwhile entree for vegetarian diners, but an order of onion rings or waffle fries drizzled with spicy mayo and teriyaki would be a welcome and shareable addition.
Dipping sauces are served on the side unless otherwise ordered for the wings and tenders.
“I always do sauce on the side,” Kim says. “If you need some sauce, it’s there, but eating it on its own is fine, too. Besides, if the sauce is on it too long, it makes the batter all soggy.”
Kim, who owns and operates the Korean eateries with his wife Yujin, moved to Cincinnati via Chicago in 2006. A truck driver for FedEx before he came here, Kim first took a restaurant job in Riverside Korean when it was still operated by the original owners. Slowly learning the different aspects of the dining industry from the ground up, Kim started as a dishwasher before getting introduced to kitchen work. In 2014, he decided to run Korean Riverside when the opportunity presented itself.
“It took me a little bit just to learn it, but thanks to my mom, I learned how to do certain recipes, certain techniques,” Kim says. “The only advantage for me is my mom’s cooking; I know what it is supposed to taste like.”
Kim and his staff launched Chimaek with evening hours to get a feel for things, with current listed hours as 4-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and staying open an extra hour Friday and Saturday (the restaurant is closed on Mondays). If demand is high enough, there’s potential for lunch service down the line.
Looking at the bar and dining room’s decor, it’s boldly colorful and modern while still capturing some old-school charm in a very inviting way — much like the food itself.
“Chicken and beer – those things go together pretty well,” Kim says. “As long as we’ve got a good establishment with a good vibe, good atmosphere and good food, I think we’ll do fine.”
Chimaek, 405 Scott St., Covington. Info: getchimaek.com.
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